Marlon King and the true prisoners of football

Marlon King waltzes back into football, lauded by his new manager as a “first class professional” who has been “working very hard” recently in order to win a contract with his new club.

The Championship as a whole will not be as forgiving as Aidy Boothroyd and the Coventry City board, meaning King will undoubtedly receive widespread abuse this season from opposing supporters.

Spare a thought for a section of the Coventry support, though. Because lifelong love of a football team means a lifetime in captivity, banged up for life with someone amazing, bewitching, frustrating and frequently soul-destroying.

We are slaves to the decisions made by our football clubs, sometimes feeling forced to defend their actions against our better judgment and sometimes railing against their direction. All the time, we know that, in reality, we cannot simply switch our allegiance without a second thought.

Like it or not, Coventry fans are stuck with Marlon King now for at least nine months. Those who feel particularly strongly are free to send back their season tickets or suspend their support for the club. This withdrawal remains a monumental decision to make, particularly at a time when their team looks likely to enjoy its best season for many years. Nevertheless, it is still an option and merits mentioning.

Most Coventry supporters will still cheer King’s goals and some will even forgive him for his previous off-field indiscretions if he performs on the pitch for the Sky Blues. But none have a choice about whether he will wear their shirt and, predictably, the club’s statement focused fully on the football side of things:

Statement released on Coventry City FC website declaring the club’s signing of Marlon King, 20th September 2010

Aidy Boothroyd said: “When I managed Marlon at Watford he was a first class professional and I fully expect that to be the case at Coventry City.

“He’s been working very hard with us in an attempt to regain his fitness. He has looked sharp in training and in a couple of reserve matches but we will have to assess very carefully when he is ready for the step into Championship football.”

Marlon King said: “I am very grateful for the chance Coventry City have given me and I look forward to working with Aidy again. I will be working hard to repeat the success we had when we last worked together.”

The vast majority of supporters of the other 23 clubs in the Championship will not care too much about how sharp Marlon King has looked in training.

They will care more about the report below, but spare a thought for those Coventry fans who are not overly enamoured with King’s arrival at the Ricoh Arena and those who, perhaps deep down, wish that their club did not view success on the pitch as a commodity so vital that it is worth jeopardising its reputation.

Daily Telegraph report, 29th October 2009

The Wigan Athletic player, who was celebrating both his wife’s pregnancy and scoring a winning goal hours earlier, was repeatedly ”cold-shouldered” by women revellers in London’s packed Soho Revue Bar last December.

When a slightly-built university student became the latest to recoil from his touch, he lost his temper and in an outburst of “completely gratuitous violence” lashed out, “smashing” her to the floor.

His single clenched fist blow was so powerful that two other revellers – one of them holding on to his arm – were also sent flying.

While bouncers moved in to restrain the muscular £5 million striker, friends rushed to the aid of his victim.

As she was helped to her feet, blood poured from her shattered nose, London’s Southwark Crown Court heard.

The 29-year-old Wigan Athletic player, from Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, claimed he was a victim of “mistaken identity”.

But after hearing overwhelming evidence from a string of witnesses, including a football coach who insisted he was the assailant, the jury decided he was lying.

He was unanimously convicted of sexually assaulting the 20-year-old and causing actual bodily harm.

Dave Whelan, the chairman of Wigan Athletic, said that the club had decided to sack King.

Whelan told Sky Sports News: “We have to follow the rules and regulations, which means we will have to give him 40 days notice that his contract will be cancelled.

“He is absolutely sacked – we will not tolerate football players who get sent to jail for 18 months. As far as we are concerned, he is finished with football at Wigan Athletic.”

Jurors were told their 10-2 majority verdicts were but the latest from a string of courtroom appearances involving 13 other offences.

Roger Daniells-Smith, prosecuting, said that since the age of 17 the Jamaica international had found himself in the dock on no less than seven previous occasions.

They feature dishonesty, drink driving and other motoring offences, and violence against women. Only one, receiving a stolen £30,000 BMW resulted in prison – 18 months reduced to nine on appeal. Apart from a couple of community penalties, he was invariably fined.

The violence solely involved women, and included common assaults on two he chased through Soho with a belt wrapped round his fist in 2003. Three years later he was convicted of threatening behaviour after slapping another woman on her bottom and head and then spitting at her when police arrived.

Had the Crown made a “bad character” application on time the jury would have been told about his previous convictions. But their bid to introduce his background was made on the first day of his trial and rejected by Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith.

King had shown no reaction as he was convicted, but sat open-mouthed, as the judge told him it was clear he had drunk “more than you should have” that evening.

“You approached those young women who wanted nothing to do with you. You touched them on their faces and, as the jury have just found by their verdict, touch the complainant on her backside in a way that amounted to a sexual assault.

“Although they and others told you politely and firmly to leave her alone you weren’t prepared to be ignored. Your response was to boast you were a multi-millionaire and to say that the complainant was not in your league.”

As King’s victim sat behind prosecution counsel, gripping her aunt’s hands, the judge continued: “Eventually and after some time you you simply lost your temper and punched her hard in the face.

“You broke her nose, and that can still just be seen, and you cut her lip.

“You are 29, you are just over six feet tall and you are a professional footballer. She is a comparatively slight woman, just over five feet tall. Thereafter you tried your best to avoid any responsibility for what you had done, and you were helped in this by the night club for whom you were such a good customer.”

They had, said the judge, allowed him to leave without calling the police, even though they pretended to do so.

“You have shown not a hint of shame at your disgraceful and arrogant behaviour.”

Referring to King’s £35,000 wage packet and the fact his contract will be revoked costing him more than £1million, the judge added: “I appreciate this will cost you an enormous amount of money, but it is difficult to be sympathetic when you were boasting about your earnings in the way you did.”

He told the player in addition to the jail sentence, he would have to register as a sex offender for seven years, pay £3,125 compensation to his victim and £1,800 prosecution costs.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

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