| 7.1°C Dublin

Holidays are a minefield for players

Close

England manager Gareth Southgate with Harry Maguire during a training session in 2018

England manager Gareth Southgate with Harry Maguire during a training session in 2018

PA

England manager Gareth Southgate with Harry Maguire during a training session in 2018

Even if he wins the appeal against his conviction, Harry Maguire has already paid a heavy price for his holiday in Greece. His name is on the front page of newspapers all over the world and he's lost his place in the England squad - for now at least.

But I have a lot of sympathy for him, and the story might have a different complexion once everything that has yet to come out is revealed.

The incident has cost Maguire, as Gareth Southgate is very straight - any sort of misdemeanour and you are out of the England squad. He wants everyone focused on the job at hand with England, no distractions, so Maguire has fallen foul of that. Southgate wants no negativity around the camp and that is why Maguire has been left out.

Whether the story that's emerged from Maguire's holiday is true or not doesn't really matter now to most people. It's made news around the world because when you are captain of Manchester United you are a global figure.

Once the club season starts he will be back playing and he seems confident that his version of events will clear him.

The initial outcome, and his conviction, seems very rushed to me.

Given how quickly he was arrested, charged, and then convicted, having been allowed to leave the country, it strikes me that it was all about patting the Greek police on the back for a job well done. I don't see that he's been given the opportunity to clear his name, when we know from the past that some people want to target footballers when they are on a night out.

I think most footballers have had some sort of hassle when they are away on holiday. Whether it's fans of your own club or supporters from one of your rivals, there are always people around. And some people feel that if you are a professional footballer, you don't have the right to ever let your hair down. People always have something to say to you and it's only heightened if there is drink involved.

You might be able to handle it most of the time, if you get some stick when you're walking down the street or just in the shop. You are in work-mode a lot of the time if that happens, and if something is said to you, you can brush it off. You are restrained.

But I have seen it happen where players are on holiday, drink is taken and players get into bad situations because of things that are said. You might have one lad trying to show off to his mates by putting it up to a Premier League footballer in a bar somewhere. They think they can say anything they like.

Footballers are human and they can snap, they can react. And that's when it gets out of hand. So you need good people around you to ease the situation. It might be the player's mate saying 'let's get out of here, walk away'.

From what I have read of the Maguire situation, it was the involvement of his family that sparked it. We saw last season with the Erik Dier situation, his family were getting abuse at a game and he reacted by climbing into the stand to confront someone. It's not an ideal reaction by Dier, but he is human and so is Harry Maguire.

Target

I didn't get targeted by fans of some clubs just because I played for Manchester City. It doesn't matter who you play for, people feel they have something to say to footballers, and the more high profile your club, the bigger a target you are.

Some people will want to speak to a footballer if they see him on a night out, and that's fine ... but certain people just won't leave that player alone. A player could talk to someone for half an hour, try to walk away to go back to their family or their own friends and the person they'd been speaking to will kick off, call them a big time charlie. That's how arguments start, I have seen that happen.

So I do have sympathy for Maguire as the way it's been reported so far, it doesn't seem to have been well thought-out by the Greek police.

It seems to have started with a row over family. Maguire stood up for his brother, not as a footballer, but as a brother. These scuffles happen in holiday resorts all the time.

I find it hard to believe that he said 'don't you know who I am, I am rich'. I have seen Maguire come out after games this season where United have been poor and he has spoken well, he seems level-headed. We don't know what happened in that bar in Mykonos but he doesn't strike me the type to say 'don't you know who I am?'

I have seen it said that Maguire should have had a minder or a bodyguard with him to stop things like that from happening. That's where footballers are in an impossible position. They are accused of being aloof and out of touch with their roots but they are also expected to have bodyguards.

Believe me, as a footballer on a break at the end of a hard season, you don't want to share your holiday with a bodyguard.

You want to be with your family or your friends. You try to take people at face value, you like to think other people are honest, you don't go looking for trouble, you don't want to start a fight and you'd hope that people won't start a fight with you.

But if it gets to the stage where a footballer needs to bring a paid minder on holiday, you think, 'why bother going, I may as well stay at home'.

And footballers are as entitled to a week off as anyone. I think having a minder with you on your holiday would make you paranoid as a person. You'd be always looking over your shoulder, expecting the worst, thinking that everyone is looking at you. It means players have to be on their guard all the time they are out and that's not healthy.