Disgraced footballer, Marlon King, is set for a controversial return to the Football League following his release from prison last month having served nine months of an eighteen-month jail sentence for assaulting a woman in a London nightclub.
King was sacked by Wigan Athletic Chairman Dave Whelan, who claimed that he couldn’t see a future in professional football for King. The thirty-year-old is no stranger to controversy, having faced criminal charges in court seven times since the age of seventeen. Whilst playing for Gillingham back in 2002, King was and sentenced to his first jail term of which he served five months for receiving a stolen BMW. Although unlike Wigan, Gillingham continued to pay his wages whilst King served his sentence. Along with he’s two prison terms, King has also received fines, community service sentences, driving bans, a rehabilitation order and also ordered to pay compensation. Whilst on loan at Hull City from Wigan, King allegedly head-butted team-mate Dean Windass, which was later dealt by the club.
Reaction from Coventry City fans has, as you would expect, been mixed. Whilst some are relishing the prospect of having a proven goal scorer like King in their team, who played a pivotal role in Watford’s 2006 promotion to the Premier league, others feel a player like King is not worthy of playing for their club. The general perception amongst the Blues fans looking through comments on fans forums, is that a striker is not just for scoring goals, but a role model to young supporters who represents the club and it’s city, though a fair share of the support couldn’t care less about King’s off-field misdemeanours as long as he scores goals for them.
The most recent high-profile player to serve a serious jail term and make a return to the Football League is Lee Hughes, now of Notts County. Hughes, whilst of West Bromwich Albion, was convicted of death by dangerous driving in 2004, and was sentenced to six years imprisonment, of which he served three. Hughes then went on to enjoy successful spells at League One Oldham Athletic and then a very prolific spell in League Two with Notts County – although the striker was subject of intense verbal abuse from opposing supporters.
King will reportedly earn around £10k a week at the Ricoh Arena, on a three-year-deal. The move will see the London-born striker reunited with former manager Aidy Boothroyd who was the his manager at Watford, where King enjoyed arguably his most successful spell as a player, with King’s agent Tony Finnigan claiming the duo enjoy a ‘special relationship’. King of course does have the right to play professional football again, having served his jail term, but will surely have to endure plenty of abuse from the terraces. The high profile move is sure to open the debate as to whether players with criminal records should be able to play the professional game, as role models to younger supporters, but at the end of the day players are simply paid their wages to play football.