Yesterday, to mark the occasion of his sixteenth birthday, I took my six foot, six inch son shopping in London’s Oxford Street. Whilst doing so I came across a rather disturbing phenomenon. Though I was holding the cash and doing most of the talking, the female shop assistants spent all their time ogling my son.
After about the tenth time of this happening I made the mistake of mentioning it to him and he, while simultaneously looking down on me from his great height said.
‘Well, you are getting a bit thin on top there, dad.’
That night I went home and under a bright light examined my hairline in the mirror from various angles. After confirming his prognosis I briefly wept, then sadly spent the majority of the evening on-line, researching hair replacement options.
The results were surprisingly encouraging. I discovered that for between three to six thousand pounds and a minor operation under local anesthetic I could replace the hair at the crown of my head with transplanted doner hair from a region just above the collar-line. So in theory, I could regain the thick locks that I once had in my youth.
With hope restored I got down to the real task I had set myself for the night, to write a football based article.
As the clock was now ticking I considered it a more judicious use of my time to combine my earlier research with my current project so I came up with this hypothesis.
Taking into consideration the technological advancements in hair replacement and combining them with the huge wages that modern day footballers now earn, it would be a simple process for them to restore any hair loss issues they might have and consequently, the golden age of the iconic, genetically bald footballer might be over for ever.
In light of that shocking thought I proceeded to comprise a list of some of the most memorable baldies to grace both the English and the World game.
This Man United and England legend lost his hair at a young age and never came to terms with it, adopting a long wispy wrap-around strand, the style of which became know as the ‘Bobby Charlton comb over’. Despite his valiant attempts to maintain it the ‘comb over’ almost always became dislodged in the rough and tumble of the game.
Sir Bobby could shoot and pass exquisitely with both feet and had in abundance all the attributes of the complete footballer except for a marked reluctance to head the ball, which in hindsight could be attributed to a subconscious desire to retain the illusion of hair.
With Bobby Charlton a member of the victorious England team in the World Cup of 1966. Toothless, yet tenacious in the tackle, the small, bald and bespectacled Nobby was celebrated in the England World Cup song “Three Lions on the Shirt’.
His image remains a clarion call and counter-culture style icon for the decaying manliness of a generation.
The first of two Italian baldies. Attilio was a celebrated transferee to lowly Crystal Palace FC from the Italian giant Juventus of Turin.
An Italian international winger, he quickly became a crowd favorite in London displaying surprising skill and pace for one so prematurely bald and since his team’s nickname was ‘the eagles’ earned himself the honorary title of ‘the bald eagle’.
Unfortunately for the elegant Attilio his lack of a sufficient donor area to the rear of his head makes him an unsuitable candidate for hair restoration. An undeserved fate for a fine player.
Renowned Italian international forward and much loved figure at Chelsea football club. Gianluca was an exception, in the same way as Bruce Willis, in that his baldness only made him more attractive.
A pioneer of the shaven-headed look now common amongst middle-aged white British males, the charming and urbane Vialli was heavily in demand on the London social circuit and remains a much missed figure on the British cultural landscape.
The well-traveled England international center forward was an exceptionally brave player, almost too brave. His personal knockout statistic ran into double figures and if he had boxed would almost certainly have been denied a fighters license.
Commanding in the air, his silky, dark locks were worn long at the back even though his relentless heading of the ball assisted in the demise of his frontal follicles.
Came to prominence in the 1994 World Cup finals in the USA as a midfield general of the surprise semi-finalists Bulgaria. An able lieutenant to the magnificently temperamental Hristo Stoichkov, Letchkov was known for being difficult himself. His strange small island of hair in the fringe region of the scalp hinting at the maverick tendency of this well-rounded player.
A cerebral French international and world cup winner with the best first touch in the game. In his early years it was feared that the wonderfully talented Zidane wouldn’t achieve his full potential but he dispelled all doubts with his two goals in the 1998 final against Brazil and further stellar achievements with both club and country.
His spiraling monk-like bald patch was later replaced by a fully shaven pate which he used to spectacular effect when ramming Marco Materazzi of Italy in the 2006 final.
The former manager of West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United.
Amongst his footballing achievements he was recognized as championing the prominence of black players in the English game when he regularly started Brendon Batson, Lawrie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis in his time at West Brom, a trio popularly known as ‘the three degrees.’
Perma-tanned, bulbous-featured and sporting gaudy jewellery, Big Ron became a much loved TV football pundit. Unfortunately, while commentating on a football match in 2004 and believing he was off air, he made an offensive racist comment which cast into doubt the validity of his earlier achievements and left him as something of a pariah.
The long serving football manager and original holder of the honorary title of “the bald eagle.’
Smith’s baldness was accentuated by a bulging forehead which contained an appreciation of the beautiful game, leading him to sign numerous flair players throughout his managerial career, the foremost probably being the charismatic Frank Worthington during his time at Birmingham City.
A personal favorite and the last in the list of legendary baldies.
The QPR and Arsenal center-back of the 1970s possessed the most prominent dome of his era. A traditional ball-winner, the humorous and self-depreciating Mancini once took to the field for a QPR game wearing a wig and then at a later match mooned his bare buttocks, an act which was caught on TV cameras.
There is a theory that, taken together, both incidents confused supporters as to his identity so much that he was soon transferred to Arsenal.