“At least George Best had the sense to hit his women in private,” (!) writes The Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone of former Nottingham Forest scoring machine / dogging enthusiast Stan Collymore, who recently returned to the BBC’s commentary box after a considerable exile. “If there had been half a chance of spotting Motty butt naked doing the do down the local car park, he would have been off Match of the Day quicker than you can say sheepkskin coat” guffaws Hattenstone, who should be commended for not providing a mental image of Alan Brazil in a 3-way (or a one-way, for that matter).
Thankfully, the BBC believes in rehabilitation. Now he’s back as a prime-time summariser and contributing to The Monday Night Club. I’ve always had a soft spot for Stan – a dangerous thing to admit about a man with such history. After all, dogging wasn’t his first bit of form. Perhaps the most notorious incident occurred when he hit his then girlfriend, Ulrika Jonsson, in a bar. It is now impossible to write about Collymore without the prefix “woman-beater”. How often must he replay that moment in his head? It became his albatross. He had a breakdown a year later and by 30 he had retired.
It’s not coincidental that both the sickening thumping of Ulrika and his sexual antics were performed in public. There was something so self-destructive about him, as if he was forcing us to look at his worst side, demanding that we reject him.
Collymore is not the first pundit to be dropped for his sins then rehabilitated. Geoffrey Boycott was convicted of beating up his girlfriend and was pulled off the airwaves. Boycott was always a fine commentator and it was no surprise when he was welcomed back. But however much you enjoy his banter, warm human being wouldn’t be the first words that spring to mind.
I’d be happy never to hear racist Ron Atkinson’s voice again (ironically, Marcel Desailly, the footballer he dismissed as a “fucking lazy, thick nigger”, was one of the brightest of his day and has gone on to be an impressive match analyst). Rodney Marsh was removed for making a crap joke about David Beckham rejecting a move to Newcastle because of the trouble caused by the Toon Army in Asia. I don’t miss him either.
But with Collymore there’s a difference. He reminds me of the penitent whiskey priest in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory – flawed to hell but still capable of acts of grace. He really is in the last-chance saloon now. Be good to yourself this time, Stan.
Presumably, The Guardian would also like to see some 2nd and 3rd chances for sensitive, reflective woman-beaters who aren’t employed as soccer commentators, too.