When Butlin's provided a footballer's paradise...
Byline: SPOT-ON OPINION David Prentice OUR MAN ON THE INSIDE OF MERSEYSIDE SPORT
IF ever an anecdote reveals how dramatically the lives of professional footballers have changed since I started watching football, it is contained in the pages of David Fairclough's engaging and endearing autobiography.
It involves two high-profile professional footballers, a Butlin's holiday camp and a 100-yard sprint.
And it's an illuminating and a poignant snapshot of how times have changed.
Nowadays, 19-year-old Liverpool footballers enjoy mid-season breaks in Jamaica - and are pictured enjoying downtime smoking shisha pipes or inhaling laughing gas.
In 1976, David Fairclough - the proud possessor of a recently won league title medal which his goals had helped secure - was off to Butlin's in Skegness with his mum, dad, sister and then girlfriend.
The summer of '76 was famously scorching, and the holiday proved a memorable one - especially after Davey's dad dared him to enter the weekly sports day's 100-yard sprint.
Fairclough reluctantly agreed - until he spotted a fellow footballer lining up in another heat - then Ipswich Town midfielder Brian Talbot!
Competitive spirit aroused, Fairclough won his heat, faced Talbot and about 10 others in the final, and promptly won that, too.
Davey takes up the tale.
He wrote: "The fact not one other person in the camp knew who I was is a measure of how the game has changed and how lucky we were back then to be able to live our lives without the kind of intrusion a modern footballer has to cope with."
Quite. There are plenty more revealing and entertaining tales in 'Supersub' - it couldn't really have been called anything else, could it? - in an autobiography which is certainly not sub-standard.
There's the day Fairclough travelled to Wembley for a European Cup Final, with a transfer request in his suit pocket (don't miss the Sunday ECHO for more on that).
Why Bob Paisley bombed Fairclough out in the final weeks of his Anfield career (Davey only recently discovered the reason himself ); a moonlight flit from Corsica to evade a persistent President - and why he's never been back; and lining up against Johnny Giles and Peter Beardsley in the NASL. And that's all without even mentioning St Etienne - and the stunning derby strike which sent me home from my first visit to Anfield in tears.
Supersub is published by de Coubertin Books and is available now priced PS18.99.
Accept no substitute!
David Fairclough leaps to score one of his two goals against Burnley in March 1976, before getting away for his summer holidays at Butlin's