Drive By: Chris Barker on footballers' cars

General Bunk
Do you know what I said to myself only the other week; it’s been a while since some egit of a footballer made a mess of a car...

Chris Barker has got a problem with Premier League Footballers. More specifically, Chris has a problem with the cars driven by Premier League footballers. At least, once they've got their hands on them. So he's chosen PetrolBlog to write an open letter to the footballers. In short, they need to stop.

Here's Chris...

Do you know what I said to myself only the other week; it’s been a while since some egit of a footballer made a mess of a car. They’ve finally learnt their lesson it seemed. Of course, no sooner had I had these transient thoughts, when, right on cue, I witnessed TV news footage of former Manchester City (now AC Milan striker), Mario Balotelli driving away from the club’s training ground behind the wheel of a camouflaged Bentley Continental. Not camouflaged in an acceptable manufacturer-going-to-great-lengths-to-heavily-disguise-its-latest-new-model-with-gaffa-tape way I must point out. No. More of a Chieftain tank going into battle on the mean streets of Manchester kinda way. I’ll return to this later.

Henry Ford once famously declared that; “Any customer can have a car (the seminal Ford Model T on that occasion) painted any colour that he wants, as long as it is black”. Oh, how times change. Naturally, he’d now have to swap the ‘he’ to a ‘they’ for starters - bearing in mind that gentle ladyfolk also purchase motor cars these days – and to avoid being hauled in front of the PC police. And he’d also have to take on board the subtle paintjob/design nuances often requested by the rapping fraternity. Ice-Land and MC Donald’s for example would demand a more expansive exterior finish choice on their Ford Focus 1.6L; more than just your standard FoMoCo Prohibition Black.

Rappers aside though, it’s Premier League footballers who have always been the trailblazers when it comes to demanding more than just the manufacturer’s colour palette. Much more. One footballer, who I know would give Henry a headache if he were still alive today (and if we were living in sepia tints), is Stephen Ireland. Having said that, Stephen Ireland would give discerning aftermarket tuners/automotive stylists, Mansory insomnia.

So, with this in mind, I decided to address these footballing protagonists once and for all, to hopefully highlight their wrong-doing and bring an end to genuine car fans’ suffering. Those of us who view a car as monumentally more than a mere status symbol or means of flaunting your wealth.

An Open Letter to Premier League footballers,

It’s (again) been brought to my attention that some of you have been fiddling unnecessarily with your shiny new cars. This MUST stop.

I know, I know, you work hard, you play hard, so it’s therefore your prerogative to make your car look as ridiculous as physically possible to reflect the magnitude of both your ego and your perception of your gentleman’s parts. I believe the phrase to be, ‘to go hard or go home’, inferring that if you don’t go all out at something then you might as well just pack up and head home. And I applaud such endeavours; seriously, you’ll go a long way in life with that attitude. Sky Sports punditry I would hazard a guess.

Unfortunately the problem arises when the rest of us (i.e. civilised society) are confronted with the fruits of your loins, groins and whatever other parts of your body enable you to eek out a living on Premier League football pitches. These resultant vehicular monstrosities are simply inexcusable. It’s one thing erecting a mock-Tudor mansion on the outskirts of Wilmslow, throwing a TOWIE-themed wedding for your latest vacuous female conquest or spending the best part of Joe Public’s average monthly wage on one bottle of vintage champagne in a flash bar to impress walking boob jobs. But must you really do that thing you keep doing to top end motors that rolled off the production lines already honed to restrained perfection?

At least David Beckham had, dare we say it, the taste to stop his automotive signature at, well, his and hers signatures, woven into the fabric of the bespoke leather headrests in the Beckham’s Porsche 911 Turbo cabriolet. What is wrong with you people, seriously? Have you never heard the old adage about less being generally acknowledged as more? I personally blame the likes of Kahn and Mansory for putting ideas into your heads. Yes, that grey matter found floating around within your cranium isn’t exactly fighting for space with ‘ideas’, good or bad is it? So the filtering through of this one thought you might have genuinely mistaken for a call to arms.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that once you’ve finished your day’s training, ran up another massive debt with your bookmaker and read the Beano from cover to cover, you grow easily bored. I appreciate that there’s still a few hours of daylight remaining until the lap dancing club opens, so you must fill this void with something. But sitting there with your crayons and a piece of paper ‘designing’ ways of visually improving your Bentley Continental or Aston Martin DB9 should never be the solution. May I suggest taking up Sudoku perhaps? Or if you wish to entertain something more pulse-quickening, how about ornithology. Just think of all those attractive birds you could see up close and personal were you to invest in a decent pair of binoculars and head outdoors. If it’s good enough for Bill Oddie, etc. The bearded bloke off TV? The former Goodie? Nevermind.

But, no. Instead you insist on routinely destroying some of the finest vehicles ever pieced together by using what you consider to be a still blank canvas on which to reflect your personality? You blindly think the world and his wife are casting admiring glances back when we catch a glimpse of your handiwork. I’m sorry to shatter your illusion, but that the look on our collective faces isn’t one of joy. That’s what people look like when they’ve just swallowed a little bit of their own sick. Or are trying to supress the early stages of a laugh. A laugh that will culminate in rib surgery.

C’mon lads, we know who you are. Stephen Ireland, El Hadji Diouf, Jermaine Pennant, Djibril Cisse to name but four. Pennant, haven’t you embarrassed yourself enough already? I recall that you famously ‘forgot’ that you owned a Porsche, leaving it as you did in a station car park for five months with the keys on the seat, with your memory only being jogged when you received a £400 parking fine. (That’s the searing intellect we’re faced with as we say enough is enough footballers, put down your chequebooks, walk away from the aftermarket company’s premises, leave the cars alone).

Stephen Ireland's BentleyYet Jermaine, whilst your chapter in footballing folklore was at best, based on forgetfulness, at worst, toweringly arrogance, the same couldn’t be levelled at Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland; who is plainly colour-blind. What other explanation is there for your habitual and wilful molestation of otherwise amazing cars, on not one but three separate occasions. Three that I know of, anyway. Yes. Stephen your name crops up a lot on my radar, and there’s good reason for this. You were/are the (for want of a more appropriate word that I can’t print here) ‘proud’ owner of a handful of cars that take vulgarity and excess to dizzying new heights. Who can forget your interpretation of a Range-Rover Sport, complete with fluorescent pink alloys, grille and contrasting interior that made it look like a giant Liquorice Allsort? Or indeed your unique take on an Audi R8 that saw the normally discerning supercar transformed into an oversized novelty wifi mouse, *resplendent in a contrasting white and pale blue livery. And then there was the icing on the Ireland cake. The Bentley Continental GTC that you bought for your girlfriend as some sort of gift/punishment a few years ago, which had clearly been subjected to cosmetic work that even Mickey O’Rourke would class as a bridge too far. Creating a colour-coded red and white abomination that would look out of place in Wacky Races, complete with nauseous faux-romantic messages and love hearts sewn into the headrests and to top it all off, re-working the iconic Bentley ‘B’ insignia on the bonnet to read, ‘JL’, in homage to your girlfriend’s initials, legend has it.

El Hadj Diouf EscaladeMoving on, and step forward El Hadji Diouf. Your gilded Cadillac Escalade damaged my retinas and turned my stomach in equal measure, serving as another haunting reminder as to why this practice has to be knocked on the head. Yes. You are the convivial Leeds player – popular throughout the land thanks to spitting and head-butting your way through more football clubs than even fellow culture vulture, Joey Barton – who really believed that you’d continue winning hearts and minds by choosing to cover your already flamboyant Escalade in gold plate, are you not? You’ve got form though haven’t you Diouf, as previously a little birdy tells me that you once chromed your Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Because obviously it was a little too understated and was crying out for that something extra that instantaneously would tell us the kind of person you are. In fact, put a name to it.

But Diouf, you were not alone in thinking that chroming a Merc SLR McLaren is an acceptable practice in your parish, as it transpires that you were in fact following in the automotive design footsteps of the former Arsenal defender, William Gallas’s Merc SLR. Yes William, I’m looking at you, and your work entitled, ‘Robocop’s Penis’. Or at least, that’s what it should have been called. So, painting a mental picture here El Hadj, I’m assuming that shortly after clapping your eyes on Big Willy’s car you thought to yourself, ‘Wow. That’s pretty nice. I think I’ll have a bit of that myself’ (to the uninitiated – and in footballing parlance - this normally refers to another player’s wife or girlfriend, yet sadly on this occasion it was with reference to the wholly unnecessary ‘blinging’ of another unwitting supercar victim).

Jermaine Pennant's Chromed Aston MartinIndeed, chroming (noun, meaning the art of deliberately bastardising a luxury car to present yourself as a berk) has found favour with many of you footballers in recent times. Not least, Jermaine Pennant (again). Yes Jermaine. It was you who treated your Aston Martin DB9 to the chromed ‘look’ and ex-Tottenham winger, Jermaine Jenas who repeated the feat on your Aston too; your excuse being that by doing this you’d then be able to find it in the car park at night. Why didn’t we all think of that? Oh I know, because if we were fortunate enough to own such a car, we’re pretty confident that we’d identify it in a line-up of people carriers and practical family saloons.

Djibril Cisse's airbrushed bonnetBut on continuing, I discover that as a footballer, subtlety declaring your love for a partner/family member needn’t stop at sewing love letters into headrests and spraying rims pink. Not when you can airbrush your young daughter’s face across the bonnet of your Chrysler, Eh Mr Cisse? Although handing the airbrush to Stevie Wonder probably wasn’t the best idea in hindsight (as Queens Park Ranger’s striker, Djibril Cisse keenly observed when admiring his (then) new coachwork).

And now it filters through to me that some of football’s current crop of easily led starlets are getting in on the act too. Aren’t they Messrs Walcott and Welbeck? Indeed. Recent converts to the subtle art of car personalization, include Arsenal forward, Theo Walcott, who handed over a stock VW Touareg to master pimper, Yianni Charalambous to re-imagine. An admittedly vivid imagination, that resulted in a car more orange than Dale Winton stood alongside a giant space hopper. And Danny Welbeck, please don’t matt black wrap anything else. I repeat, don’t matt black wrap anything else. Subjecting your Audi A3 to this, is one thing (that couldn’t have happened to a more deserving recipient to my mind), but please don’t take it to another level. Don’t go anywhere near a Maserati or Ferrari with that roll of wrap will you. Promise me? To these people, and those that have gone before them, the phrase ‘sympathetically modified’ might as well be encrypted in mandarin.

Mario Balotelli's camo BentleyIn conclusion, and if any of you footballers are still toying with the idea of conveying your visions through the medium of metal, then let Mario Balotelli be a final (yet glittering) example of how stupid you too can easily look. Yes. The very same Balotelli and his comic book car that I led with at the top, and which moved me to pen this in the first place. Mario, Mario, Mario (shakes head). What on earth were you thinking at the time? You could be forgiven for handing out money to tramps in a Manchester street, throwing darts at your team mates and not knowing how to put a training bib on, but I draw the line at doing this to a Bentley. It borders on blasphemy and is inexcusable. I’m sure you could have found better ways in which to waste £160,000, other than stretching camouflage vinyl wrap around the exterior of your Continental.

Surely there’s got to be less flamboyant and expensive ways to express oneself?

I hope so, as does the watching country……

Yours, etc

There will be some who may argue that ‘no harm’s been done’ and that those I perceive to be as villains of the peace are just ‘boys being boys’. But let me tell you this. If you want to stand out from the crowd, lark about with farcical hairstyles, get meaningless tattoos. Wear loud clothes, wear no clothes at all for all I care. Speak nonsense about seagulls following trawlers, and/or enter into post-marital relations with your best mate’s missus. But don’t make a mockery of our cars, you hear?!


Follow Chris on twitter @bateman1972 and read more of his words on PetrolBlog here.

Image credits: Balotelli's Bentley © Daily Mail; Cisse's Chrysler © Who At all the Pies; El Hadj-Diouff's SUV © Automotto; Pennant's Aston © Zimbio; Ireland's Aston © PistonHeads.