Gerald Sinstadt: Family ties not uncommon in sport- just look at Tony Pulis and son
A WOMAN renowned for her beauty once proposed marriage to George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright, music critic and wit.
It was their duty, she suggested, to offer mankind an offspring who would combine her looks with his brains.
GBS, on one of his famous postcard replies, politely declined. Had she not considered the possibility of a child inheriting his looks and the lady's intellect?
Genetics is a capricious affair at best, not easily predicted. When sport is added to the mix there is material an aspiring sociologist could turn into a thesis.
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Shaw's theory might be seen to be vindicated by two glamorous ladies who currently adorn our sports broadcasting.
Kelly Cates and Gabby Logan are the daughters respectively of Kenny Dalglish and Terry Yorath, both fine footballers, but neither exactly a candidate for the catwalk.
On the other hand, Clare Balding's bloodline goes solidly back to horse racing. While of all sports, none surpasses cricket for multiple examples of the gene passing from father to son.
Long memories will recall the Nawabs of Pataudi, the Joe Hardstaffs of Nottinghamshire, or perhaps Jim Parks senior and junior of Sussex.
From Kent came the Cowdreys, from Surrey the Butchers, from Yorkshire the Huttons and more recently the Bairstows. The Comptons skipped a generation from Denis to Nick.
Curiously, football presents a very different picture. For example, cross-fertilisation to tennis throws up a couple of interesting names.
Stanley Matthews junior was a Wimbledon boys' champion and played Davis Cup for Britain, though without remotely rivalling his father's eminence elsewhere.
Elena Baltacha, ranked comfortably in the world's top 100, is the daughter of Sergei Baltacha, a Soviet Union international who played for Ipswich Town among others.
But chips off the old block, sons who have – so to say – inherited their father's boots, are surprisingly uncommon. When they do occur, the talent often seems to have been in some way diluted.
Joe Mercer once told me that one of his worst experiences as manager had been breaking the news to his son that he would not be good enough. This is where the distinction in football becomes most acute.
The majority of professional football fathers who see signs of promise in their offspring can ease themselves into retirement while offering advice when asked and, ultimately, support if ambition is not fulfilled.
A few, however, become managers and then it is easy to see the potential for problems if they are nurturing a player son at the same club.
How freely will the young man's team-mates talk in the dressing room or in training when any innocent remark may sound different when related to dad at tea time?
Obviously, the father cannot be party to the son's contract negotiations, but can they really erect a Chinese wall at home so that the subject is never discussed?
Sons often bond with mothers, so where will her influence fall?
Conflicts of interest may be perceived where none actually exist. There may well come a day when the manager father decides to call the player son from the bench to hold on to a lead for the last few minutes of a game. Will there be unused subs wondering if the youngster's deal includes payment for appearances?
The only practical safeguard will be a parting of the ways, even though neither may welcome it. This, though, is not a greengrocer teaching his son the trade in order to pass on the family business one day. Football is different.
Alex Bruce is currently a regular member of Hull City's thriving Championship team. Earlier in his career he was at Birmingham City, when his father, Steve, was manager. During that time he went on loan to Oldham, Sheffield Wednesday and Tranmere before joining Ipswich on a free transfer. The moves would have been sensible and, it now appears, beneficial. There are some parallels with Anthony Pulis, who followed his father from Portsmouth to Stoke, He then had loan spells with four lower league clubs before joining Southampton on a free.
But last week saw a somewhat different relationship forged.
Paul Ince made a welcome reappearance in the thin ranks of black managers when he took over at Blackpool where his son, Tom, is a highly valued player. Already capped at under-21 level, Tom has been tipped to follow his father into the full England team in the not too distant future.
Meanwhile, there will be great interest in how the pair interact at Bloomfield Road. Will any of the potential difficulties outlined come into play? What will be the ramifications this summer if, as expected, Liverpool renew their alleged interest in Tom's signature? Conclusions are not easy to draw.
But then this is no more than food for thought.
This is only a column, not a thesis.