Respect interview with Mike Williamson of Newcastle United FC

February 3, 2013 6:00 pm

Football. Is it a beautiful game anymore when it churns out stars that are far from respected because of bad character and morals?
According to many, it is not just a game any longer. It is also an educational tool, a means to teach those who watch and play it and are less fortunate in making it to the top-level. As individuals, they have an opportunity and some would argue, a responsibility to educate and teach the fans what the beautiful game is all about — respect for one another both on and off the pitch. To paraphrase, football is a TV show and footballers are the lead performers, normal people with extraordinary lives who are dissected and portrayed as arrogant, disloyal and greedy caricatures, lacking any ethics. This leads to critics of the game to believe footballers are generally ugly on the inside. A lot has been said about footballer’s behaviour over the last few months. Current Newcastle United defender Mike Williamson reveals why it is unfair for all footballers to be treated as one big group and not seen as individuals, and also why professional footballers should be respected.mikewilliamson

As a professional footballer, do you care what the public think of you on and off the pitch?

I think it’s a personal thing. There are lads who wouldn’t give a second thought for their image. For me personally it’s extremely important, as a father and a role model to my children that I keep a respectful image, for the sake of my family and children. This image is carried out to the public who are quick to perceive how you are seen around the community and on the football pitch. For that reason, yes I do care and it is important that I am seen as a respectful person.

Many people and critics believe all footballers are generally ugly on the inside. Is that something you would agree with?

No. I think it’s unfair to have that view on all footballers. The majority are hard-working and are focused on the best interests of the community they’re from. However unfortunately, with the good comes the bad and there are players who think the money and the limelight gives them the right to act in the way they do, which is a great shame. A lot of footballers have this belief that they are better and bigger then some harder working members of the community. It has a lot to do with growing up, a case of too much too soon. Young players are offered lucrative contracts and without any support network around them and no media training to help them, they are left to do as they please. This leads to the unfortunate side of football where players believe they have a licence to act silly and irresponsible.

So taking into consideration the above, how have you managed to keep your feet on the ground?

Personally, I have not come from a lavish background. I’m from a working class background, someone who has started from the bottom and worked his way up. I started with an apprenticeship at Torquay United, earning £45 a week for two years. Then with some hard work and commitment, I managed to secure a further contract earning a couple of hundred pounds a week. I feel I am a humble person, someone who has put the family ahead of fortune. It does not bother me as to how much I earn now or in the future. I try to have the right perspective on life, making sure I live it the right way and most importantly the respective way. I believe it has not been a difficult thing for me to keep my feet on the ground and it is something that comes naturally. I’m not the only one with my feet on the ground, there’s a lot of players with the same mindset, who prefer to stay out of the media headlights and have their family and personal life kept private.

What sacrifices do footballers have to make in life to get to where they are and where they want to be?

People have this opinion that footballers turn up at trials, get selected and then go on to live a lavish lifestyle. What people do not realise is that footballers give up a lot at such a young age, in order to pursue a successful career. Apart from losing their youth, one of the hardest sacrifices any young footballer makes is moving away from home, friends and family. I was 17, playing for Torquay United, when I found out that Southampton were interested in me and within two days of finding out, I was sat in a flat in Southampton alone. It was scary to say the least, not having my family around me for the next few years. It was difficult as there was no support network around to turn to. It’s fair to say not many young footballers are prepared for the reality, which involves being thrown in at the deep end and left to defend for yourself.

Lionel Messi once said “I don’t want to be remembered for winning trophies, but as a good person.” In your opinion which is more important to many footballers?

I think I speak for many footballers when I say, we all want to be remembered for being good people and that goes without saying. When we are no longer here anymore, the legacy of your character and the impression you leave behind on friends and family is far more important than some trophies.

What characteristics has the game of football given you?

It has given me a work ethic and has taught me that if you desire something, you have to work hard and show persistence to get to where you want to, as well as the confidence the game gives you in dealing with people and giving interviews. In terms of making you a better person, it has given me more opportunities financially and I can honestly say it has made me a good person as a whole. It provides you with an opportunity to help others who are less fortunate and the chance to put a smile on the faces of young supporters, which is priceless in itself.

What can footballers do on and off the pitch, to earn the respect from the general public and critics of the game?

Certain footballers for some reason forget that they are being watched and carry on as normal and then end up being the main headline the next day for the wrong reasons. So it comes down to how we handle ourselves on the pitch, with so many cameras and eyes focused on our every move, it’s important that we focus on this fact and that we are at all times sending out the right image. Off the pitch it is important that players give something back to their communities by spending any spare time they have, helping charities and visiting schools. At Newcastle United we are expected to spend a certain number of hours every month by doing exactly that. This has been known to assist and contribute towards players being good role models, whilst at the same time improving the footballer’s profile.Newcastle_United_Logo.svg

Do you think professional footballers in general deserve to be respected?

I think that is a difficult question to answer. I do believe the majority of players do deserve the respect. In a whole the general public only see the side that is portrayed to them through the means of the media and do not get to see for themselves the good work most players carry out behind the scenes with charities and are unfortunately not recognised for it. Unfortunately as it is the case in many aspects of life, the minority spoil it for the rest. The media have known to and will continue to jump on and scrutinise everything a high-profile player does. On the flip side, there is a lot of good that goes on in football clubs. Newcastle United is a great example for this. The club is involved in great charity work, visiting schools and helping out where possible and the players deserve some credit for the work they carry out.

If you could say anything to the general public about footballers, what would it be?

We are human beings just like you and we also have bad days and to judge us as individuals and not brand us all as the same. I’m not defending, nor condoning bad behaviour, we all read about it by some players, but it is fair for me to say that I truly believe the majority of players are good people with big hearts, who are constantly trying hard to do the right thing at all times. Like a large number of fans, we are family men with children and just because we earn a lot of money, does not mean we are in any way different when it comes to feelings. Football aside, as individuals and as professional footballers what we want and hope for, is your respect at the end of the day.


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