Way back when I was 19, I didn’t go on holiday - I was a student, a bit skint and took a summer job working in a glass factory putting the bevels on mirrors. Trips to London and Dublin, staying in a hostel and a mate’s house to watch Oasis at Wembley Stadium and Lansdowne Road were the height of my holiday excursions.
Many of my friends, though, did hit the various sunshine isles of Spain or Greece or wherever, because that’s what 19 year-olds do.
They go away, get sunburned, get drunk for a week or two and then come home and bore everyone with tales of how drunk and sunburned they were.
That was how it was, of course, before smartphones and twitter and facebook and wifi came along and, as a result, we all get an hourly virtual postcard of raw-skinned, alcohol-fuelled depravity on our various timelines.
And there’s a fair chance if you don’t post the pictures yourself, someone else will do it for you, as teenaged Aston Villa footballer Jack Grealish found out this week.
The exciting midfielder went from ‘fishbowls’ in the bar to the goldfish bowl of social media when snaps of him flat on his back on the road, in an apparent state of a-little-too-much-enjoyment, hit twitter, thanks to a kind girl who thought it better to take out her phone rather than give Jack a shake.
Then came the inevitable furore. The easily-outraged couldn’t wait to hammer their keyboards in disgust, with the all-too-familiar phrase, ‘he’s supposed to be a role-model’ trotted out by people who still seem to believe that a young man’s ability to kick a ball means they should be locked in the house and not let out in case they do something that the little sons of the faux furious might want to replicate.
His club released a statement saying they were aware of the pictures and that they “will be meeting with the player but any action will remain an internal matter.”
The sensible among us can only hope that ‘the action’ Aston Villa take involves him being brought into an office and told “for goodness sakes, keep your head down, son, we could do without this.”
Grealish is guilty of nothing other than being 19 years-old. A 19 year-old, blessed with a tremendous skill and certainly more than a few quid in his pocket, but 19 years-old nonetheless.
He did nothing illegal; he did nothing immoral and the only real harm done will have been to his pride and his head (and possibly his back, given he didn’t look that comfortable sleeping in the street).
Had Grealish been due to play this weekend, then he’d have a very strong case to answer, but he’s probably not due back at ‘work’ for at least another three weeks or so.
Had he been throwing chairs around and smashing up a late-night burger bar, or hoovering up white powder in a dingy toilet, or indeed getting involved in a ‘racist orgy’ as young players from another Premier League team did earlier in the closed season, then we’d all have every right to have a go at him.
As far as we’re all aware none of those things happened.
If I was an Englishman or woman, the only thing that I would be annoyed about is that he’s in the middle of an international tug-of-war for his services between the country of his birth and that of his father’s, the Republic of Ireland, all the while England’s under 21s are currently in the Czech Republic for the European Championships and boss Gareth Southgate would have likely been delighted to include him in that squad, given a chance.
At a time when we are constantly complaining that footballers are cutting themselves further adrift from real life, from the lives they had known and the lives their old mates continue to lead, it was almost refreshing to see Grealish went to Tenerife of all places, rather than Dubai or some other sunshine playground of millionaires.
Leave the kid alone.