Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Game Is Turning Its Back on Brad Pack

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Game Is Turning Its Back on Brad Pack

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL HART

BRADLEY ALLEN is one of around 750 members of the Professional Footballers' Association wondering this summer whether their chosen profession is going to provide a living in the coming season.

The fact that about a sixth of the PFA membership shares the same concerns as Allen, 31, tells you all you need to know about the great divide in modern football.

As the minority at the David Beckham end of the scale get richer, a growing number at the tradesmen's end are facing serious hardship because of the re- structuring of football's finances following the collapse of ITV Digital.

Allen's case is typical. You may remember his 11 years with Queens Park Rangers and Charlton. As Les Ferdinand's striker partner in the 1992-93 season, he scored 11 goals in the Rangers side that finished fifth in the Premiership.

Son of Les Allen, younger brother of Clive, cousin of Paul and Martin, Bradley comes from a family steeped in football and knows better than most the rewards - and pitfalls - of the professional game. But nothing prepared him for the dramatic downturn that he and so many of his fellow professionals now face.

"I never earned the sort of money the guys in the top flight earn now but I thought as I got into my thirties, as long as I was still fit and enthusiastic, I'd be able to move down through the divisions," he said. "It's been the norm for decades.

"But it isn't the case any more. It's certainly the case now that most club chairmen prefer young players in their squads, who might command a bit more money, to those over 30. They see no return on players over 30.

"But I never envisaged the game would change as it has done. It's been the best job in the world for 15 years. I wouldn't swap that. But maybe players were spoiled and the game needed a reality check.

"I don't begrudge the big names their salaries. They have to live with pressure and scrutiny, and they have to perform at the highest level week after week. The quality of the backup is so high at the big clubs that if they don't play well they're out."

Allen had a similarly worrying summer last year. …

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