In a world where tough athletes are revered, distinctions often become blurred when it comes to how such professional performers behave themselves outside the game. Atypically, two of the ‘Hard Men’ of the soccer field, Roy Keane and Robbie Savage, were always getting in trouble during their down time when they were young. Both stopped drinking, however, got psychological help and ultimately fulfilled themselves as gentlemen both on and off the field. But what happens when a player doesn’t do the necessaries?
Atypical is Marlon King. A grizzled old professional who has played for ten different clubs over a long career including Watford, Birmingham City, Coventry City, Hull City and Middlesbrough, King is a tough guy who scores clutch goals. The London-born King is, at the time of writing (August 2013), now 33 and a slim, muscular, powerful 6’1″. A big, lumbering, tough and old-fashioned center forward who plays with his back to an opponents goal, King is not a finesse player, but the kind of go-to guy to offer a contract to when things are not going well for the club. He is the epitome of the player you love to hate if you’re the opponent and adore if he’s on your side.
On August 8, 2013, King was arrested in connection with a hit-and-run incident that left a pedestrian with a head injury after a car hit him. The Birmingham City striker was held on suspicion of failing to stop at the scene of a road traffic collision following the crash in the Paddington area of central London in the early hours of Saturday morning. King was then arrested by City of London Police officers and subsequently released on bail and given a court date in mid-September.
After being bailed out, King was reportedly made instantaneously available by Birmingham City on a free transfer and at the time of writing was currently in talks with other Championship clubs about a possible move. Considering King was so instrumental in helping keep the club out of the relegation zone into England’s division one, the club seems to show little faith in its employees, or else very aware of the voices of various feminist watchdog committees who work hard at unmasking and pillorying celebrities caught battering women. As King has found out, once you get on their enemies list they are a righteous relentless enemy. Football clubs tend to be very conservative organizations and wish to avoid any such publicity. Yet the truth is that King has been given multitudinous chances to redeem himself.
Previously, King has had convictions for 14 offenses, dating from 1997. Beyond a thick juvenile delinquency file which can not be legally opened under British law, he has received fines, driving bans, community service sentences, a rehabilitation order and orders to pay compensation on convictions including: theft from a person and from a car, criminal damage, attempting to obtain property by deception; fraudulent use of vehicle license documents, driving without insurance, speeding, drinking and driving; a vicious wounding incident which included the use of a machete while he played ‘guest’ amateur football; and two separate cases involving assaults on young women who were attacked on a Soho street after rejecting his advances in the infamous red light district of London. Worse yet, King, having lured a naïve young female fan of his current club at the time, Wigan Athletic into the men’s bathroom, began to rape her, breaking both her nose and front teeth in the process when she resisted. When two police officers arrived, they, too, were assaulted by the half-naked footballer. Convicted of battery, ABA (Actual Bodily Harm), and rape, he went to prison for eighteen months and had his name placed on the SOF (Sexual Offenders Register) for both the UK and Europe.
While on loan to Hull City, King was out drinking with his fellow striker, Dean Windass at a Scarborough casino when he turned and head-butted his friend, knocking three teeth out and rendering him unconscious. After this, two subsequent incidents lead to King finally undergoing imprisonment. In May 2002 King received an eighteen-month prison sentence for receiving stolen goods. This case involved King driving around with a convicted prostitute in a red convertible BMW. Then, he was found not guilty of a charge of assaulting a police officer in a related case. His club at the time, Gillingham United, continued to pay his salary while he was in jail, and even supported his appeal, which resulted in the sentence being reduced to nine months.
Cut loose by Wigan, King and his solicitor did the rounds of Britain’s morning television shows. Weeping and trembling, the Jamaican international blamed his alcoholic mother and a violent family and street upbringing for his problems and promised to get help. This led King being given two more chances of football redemption at both Coventry City and Birmingham City.
Lately, King seems to have lightened up on what the English called ‘Aggro-culture’ (fighting) and committed himself more to just drinking and driving. Of late, he was arrested and bailed in April 2013 after a car crash that left one man seriously injured. Unable to function, King’s victim is still wheelchair-bound and “mentally impaired.” Birmingham City’s manager, Lee Clark, put King up for sale. A good bid came in February, 2013, from Shanghai Shenua, but Clark rejected it, probably because helping King get legal help to persuade a reluctant Chinese government to give him a work visa despite owning a criminal record was going to prove to be very, very expensive. Ironically, the following March, his season was brought to a premature close as a long-term knee injury deteriorated, requiring an operation. Hopefully, Birmingham can find him a minder/driver who can keep him away from alcohol and the opposite sex!