Ex-Blades player’s nephew pens soccer novel

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FOOTBALL was never like this in Dick Webster’s day.

The former Sheffield United player never heard of WAGS, no one ever refused to play because they weren’t happy with the manager’s team selection and mega-bucks wages were unheard of.

Dick signed his first contract with the Blades when, at the age of 19, he was transferred to Bramall Lane from Accrington Stanley in April 1939.

He signed on the dotted line for five quid a week plus a bit of a bonus every time he turned out for the first team. Back then it was no play - no pay, simple as that.

Contrast that with Jack Bailey, a typical modern day player paid thousands to do little or nothing to earn it.

To Dick, Jack’s story would have seemed pure fiction - and that’s exactly what it is - though it seems to fit so readily into the modern game.

Jack is the main character in Bailey of the Saints, a book inspired by real life Premiership tales - and penned by Dick’s nephew David Fearnhead.

In the book, Bailey dreams of being the next big thing in the Premiership.

But six years down the line he finds himself an unfilled, £6,000-per-week bench warmer with a WAG who is ready to dump him at the first sign of a better offer. Fed up, his club loan the under performing over paid player to a club in New Zealand.

The move forces him to reassess his life and to address his selfish ways. But is it too late for Bailey to resurrect his career?

David, aged 30, uses anecdotes collected over the years during interviews with players to give the plot legs and energy.

He said: “I have a copy of Uncle Richard’s original contract, signed April 27, 1939. He was paid £5 a week with an extra £2 bonus for first team appearances.

“Football and footballers have changed - and not always for the better.”

David started his career as a sports cameraman and filmed Premier League and UEFA Cup matches.

The job took him to Sydney to film the Olympic Football in 2000 - and he liked the Down Under experience so much he stayed.

“I moved to New Zealand and turned my hand to player interviews for national newspapers.”

He stayed for three years writing for the New Zealand Herald and became football columnist for a sports magazine.

But David began to long for the cold terraces at football grounds back home and returned to the UK where he hatched the idea for the book.

He recalled: “I penned 6,000 words straight off and let a few people read it.”

The response was so positive he cracked on with the rest of the novel then listed it on a website for unpublished novels where it was voted one of the top five reads.

David said: “This is a story of friendship, of hope and desire. Based on real events and personalities from my time covering professional football,

“I aim to reflect the life off the field that most people never see.

“But this is not just a book for football fans.

Anyone who is interested in the human condition will find interest in this novel.”

* Bailey of the Saints, published by Great Northern Books, is priced £8.99.