Professional football is not the place most people naturally turn to for sagely advice on retirement or life-style advice. Football is a young man’s domain. A game where muscle memory rather than brain muscle dominates, carried out on a playing field awash with fast money, short careers and hedonistic lifestyles.
All of the top-tier clubs now provide mandatory media training for their staff – and it certainly shows during their post-match interviews as players recite a procession of stock answers from a limited portfolio:
“It was a game of 2 halves”
“We all gave 110%”
“The boys ‘done’ good!”
“We had a bad day at the office”
“it was great to score, but the most important thing was for the team to pick up the 3 points today”
I love Premier league football, but these robotic, one-dimensional exchanges mean that in most cases, the only joy the audience can take from post-match interviews come from playing cliché bingo! So when someone from the football fraternity comes out with something different, and especially something quite profound, it really does stand out from the crowd. So what exactly did Arsene Wenger mean when he recently said: “I will not retire. Retiring is for young people. For old people, retirement is dying”
Could Arsene Wenger be the ultimate pin-up Rock Star retirement case study? By our definition, a “Rock Star” has created a life that they love and they continue to get paid for doing the thing that they love, so there is therefore no need to retire; at least for as long as they can still hold a guitar or microphone (or give a Premier League team talk.)
Yet is there a danger that in carrying on too long it may actually damage or tarnish a persons long-term legacy? In Arsene’s case, only time will tell. Certainly Alex Ferguson got out whilst still at the top and before significant new money and competition that was coming into the Premiere League had time to have an impact. Aresene’s win rate is certainly falling,but there are certainly plenty examples of real life “Rock Stars” [and I use the term loosely] who actually carried on doing what they loved doing right up to the end. Lifted straight from my book, here are the Top 5 “Rock Star“ on stage deaths & post performance “passings”
1. Johnny “Guitar” Watson, American blues, soul and funk musician. Died from a heart attack whilst performing on stage in Japan in 1996 aged 61.
2. Mark Sandman, multi-talented US born, singer songwriter and musician, know best as the base guitarist and lead vocalist of the Canadian band Morphine. Died on stage of a heart attack whilst performing in Italy in 1999, aged 46.
3. Tommy Cooper, British magician and comedian. In 1984, aged 63 he suffered a fatal heart attack whilst performing live on UK National television. (People initially thought his collapse on stage was part of his comedy act.)
4. Eric Morecambe, Comedian and half of British National comedy treasure duo Morecambe and Wise. Suffered a fatal heart attack in 1984 as he left the stage having performed in a charity event in Cheltenham. Died aged 58.
5. Carrie Fisher, Actress synonymous with her role as Star Wars’ Princess Leia. She stopped breathing whilst flying home to the US after appearing on The Graham Norton show in London [shortly after completing filming of “Star Wars, the last Jedi”. Died 4 days later aged 60.