“The team that drinks together, wins together?”
To many of us, that seems an incredible and highly laughable phrase, especially in today’s world of fad diets, protein shakes and 24-hour gyms, but that’s exactly what many of the greatest footballing sides I have ever seen have done.
In years gone by it was deemed acceptable to smoke in pubs or in workplaces, hey I can still remember a time when you could smoke up the back of an aircraft. Bonkers I know. Think about that now, where you can receive a fine just for smoking in your own car. It is just a sign of the times. Can you even fathom now lighting up 32,000 feet in the air inside a pressure vessel?
The greatest Rangers team I have ever witnessed is the 92-93 treble-winning side, what a side that was, going 44 matches unbeaten in all competitions, conquering all domestically that was set before them. Only falling just short of reaching a champions league final, all the while whilst enjoying more than a few refreshments during the season. It was seen as a slight and insult if new players did not adhere to the culture of heavy drinking, you would be viewed as a leper, outcast or a weirdo. Why would you not as a professional athlete not want to drink yourself in oblivion, what harm could it do?
Yet in later years the teams greatest strength, it’s togetherness and love of social occasions undoubtedly would be a massive contributing factor in the team and those within its downfall, some more visible than others. The biggest and most famous example of this being the aborted 10 in a row campaign, the players who had failed to look after their bodies with due care for many years paying the price for all the team “bonding” sessions. Fractions in the dressing room were all too evident, the drinkers and the non-drinkers, disharmony was rife.
The English side that won the Ashes for the first time in a number of years in 2004, I’m sure shared a few nights out, or the Manchester United side that finally won the league under Fergie, they all enjoyed more than a few drinks together.
I am not criticising the culture that was in place at the time, far from it, I’m just simply pointing out how things have progressed and attitudes have changed. In my line of work (the construction industry) nothing was thought of heading for a “few” after work or during lunchtime, not going was not up for debate or an option, it was just the done thing.
Like smoking on aircrafts or seatbelts in cars, things have changed for the better, in sports players now look after their bodies all year round, some like Spurs’ Harry Kane even employing private chefs, to ensure only the finest, freshest food are consumed by them. This enables many to play at a higher level for a longer period. Just look at how the shape of a footballer has evolved over the last 20 years.
Just imagine a Diego Maradona or Paul Gascoigne who looked after themselves in a more professional manner, how many more years would we have seen of greatness? Or, were their flaws what made them great and the characters they are without a doubt?
The one critique I have of modern footballers is the lack of real characters today. Many players look and act the same, in a somewhat robotic fashion, with all the media training and personal trainers, they are no longer as relatable as before. Players are pampered in academy’s from an early age, cleaning boots or sweeping the stands is beneath them, but I think that helped create toughness and character. I agree that too often it went too far, maybe a happy medium had what is needed?
Supporters are only too happy to snap pictures of stars out and about, aiding to the disconnect that now exists, in the world of camera phones and social media players letting off steam proving all to easy a target.
Maybe we should all put our phones away and allow the players to have a few drinks or is that a ship that has sailed? Have times changed so much along with the extravagant lifestyle players now enjoy that there is simply no going back?
What I do know for certain is, that all the most successful teams all have one thing in common, character. Something the current Rangers squad badly lack, maybe they should have gone for a few team bonding sessions instead of driving all the fans to drink.
Or like smoking in planes have we seen the last of a team that drinks together, wins together?
What do you think? Get in touch.