• Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Jude Bellingham: Oxonian picks holes in England star’s socks


Mar 30, 2024

I HAVE worked in football all of this century and I have rarely met a man who could swear like Ken Ridley.

Originally he was employed by Oxford United as a steward at the Manor and his role was to stop the paparazzi from forming in front of chairman Robert Maxwell (and thus blocking the tunnel).

From there, he made contacts with people around the dressing room, became best mates with Micky Lewis and graduated to becoming first team kit man.

Ken was a legend. His broad Geordie accent would boom around the wood-panelled corridors of the Beech Road, haranguing the youth team for messing about, chastising Paul Powell for being late.

Most kit people are oddballs – they have an eye for detail, hate shoddiness. And love precision – but Ken ruled with the perfect mix of foul mouth and kind heart.

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I thought of him this week when I watched the two England games.

Jude Bellingham is a wonderful footballer. He will play for England for another 15 years and he will star in World Cups. But if I was England manager, he would be banned from my team because he is no respecter of the kit he is wearing.

Go and look at pictures from that game last week and find images of the back of Bellingham’s legs. Each sock has two gaping great holes in it.

If you ask him, then it is to relieve pressure on the back of his calves. He takes scissors to his socks and chips out two holes to increase the elasticity and ensure maximum comfort. Hey Jude. Na na na No.

If I give you a pair of socks, then respect their integrity and purpose. And don’t even get me started on the fact you have cut off the actual foot part to wear grip socks underneath. I may as well give you a pair of 1980s legwarmers, and you can dress like Jane Fonda for the day. You are not wearing socks, that’s a thin boob tube on your finely muscled calves.

When did this madness start? When I was a lad, football socks were built to last. Indeed for many years I wore a pair handed down old gold coloured ones that my father wore for the mighty Beckley and Stanton St John (he was THAT good). They were robust. My mum once knitted me some football socks to replace them and I went out on to the pitch like a freshly kitted out God. Then it rained and I could barely lift my feet.

But the point is, I respected the colours and the kit. Kids will copy modern day superstars and soon the fields of Oxfordshire will be full of poorly fashioned football hosiery. I’m glad Ken’s not around to see it. I’d imagine that even he would be lost for (mostly rude) words.