House of Payne: Dons aim to find homes for loans
Think being a professional footballer is all about owning Beckingham Palace like David Beckham or building a buy-to-let empire as Robbie Fowler has done?
AFC Wimbledon demonstrated just how different life is at League Two level this week by asking fans whether they can offer lodgings for players they sign during the January transfer window.
It makes financial sense, not only for the club, but also for the players they are looking to attract.
While you may imagine a footballer would far rather live in upmarket suburban SW19 than the likes of Mansfield or Rotherham, they could easily be put off by the cost of living in one of the country’s most affluent areas.
Think how many people go on holiday during Wimbledon fortnight because they know they can get sky-high rents... for a young player on League Two wages that could break a possible loan deal.
Of course, there are even greater benefits for the club in getting the fans involved.
Who could blame a 20-something player, away from home and stuck in a hotel room, from easing the boredom by over-indulging?
However, any Dons fans who care about the club sufficiently to give up part of their own home are unlikely to tolerate a footballer abusing their generosity and failing to provide their club with a return on its investment.
With Neal Ardley having proved a master of the loan market since becoming Dons boss, their website appeal makes perfect sense – although it is nothing new.
Football clubs have traditionally put young players in digs and gone to great lengths to keep them out of trouble.
Jamie Paterson may have been Nottingham Forest’s hero in their 5-0 win FA Cup over West Ham on Sunday, but only after being brought back on to the straight and narrow following his summer move from Walsall.
“He is a single, young player and can get up to a lot of tricks,” said Forest boss Billy Davies. “But we have pinned him down in a nice flat and made sure he’s behaving.”