It seems today’s sporting spouses don’t have much in common with the partners portrayed in British television’s hugely popular series, Footballers’ Wives, as Steven Corbett discovers…
Unfortunately, the image still exists of footballers’ wives in Britain as blonde bimbos with model looks and very little else to do with their day, except have their nails manicured at their husband’s expense.
However, pop stars such as Louise Redknapp and Posh Spice have something else in common, apart from being part of a famous collection of footballers’ wives.
They have their own successful and very lucrative singing careers to rival the earnings of their superstar husbands.
This new breed of footballers’ wives began with the marriage of Sky television presenter, Suzi Walker, to England International footballer, Ian Walker, eight years ago.
Thirty-one year old Suzi initially appears to reflect the footballers’ wives stereotype perfectly.
She has designer looks from her Tony and Guy-styled hair, her cream-coloured suit and diamond encrusted exclusive watch all seem to fit the ideal image shown in the television series.
A former Page 3 model, she lives on an acre of land and drives a Mercedes CLK. Yet, she speaks eloquently with warmth, sincerity and vigour. She says that she had a privileged upbringing in Esher, Surrey, where she was educated at a private school.
Sitting in the living room of her seven-bedroom house on a beige leather sofa, Suzi is always smiling. She’s bubbling with energy and when she talks, she hardly finishes a sentence before beginning another one.
Suzi begins: “Most people think it’s unusual for a footballer and a model to have a long-lasting relationship. I know lots of footballers whose marriages are very unsteady, but thankfully our relationship is very stable.”
Suzi met former Tottenham player Ian on a blind date, where she claimed she’d never heard of him. Despite that fact, they got on straight away. As a young player Ian had yet to hit the riches that a Premiership football player can earn, and even had to borrow Suzi’s car now and again.
Suzi insists that the couple didn’t have a glamorous life in the beginning because Ian didn’t have much money. Yet the foundation for a loving relationship was being put in place.
She continues: “I don’t think it was love at first sight, but definitely lust. He was nothing that I expected even though my friend told me he’d won best-looking footballer of the year. I thought he was really gorgeous and as time went on, I got to know him and I really liked him as a person, and we fell in love.”
It was about six weeks later that Ian broke into the England squad and he and Suzi became the 90’s Posh and Becks. Ian reportedly signed a £20,000 per week contract and this enabled Suzi to spend all the money she desired. But at the same time, her own Page 3 stint landed her a job as a swimwear and catalogue model and she reaped similar financial rewards.
She laughs when she remembers that people used to ask her for her autograph at the Tottenham matches, and that she would feel embarrassed. Today, she still receives fan mail, all of which she treats as a compliment.
As for her wedding, and despite being whisked off and proposed to in Barbados, she admits that the ceremony failed to live up to expectations set by Kyle and Chardonnay in the Footballers’ Wives television series.
Instead, Ian and Suzi were married in a local registry office after photographers sent her home in tears from the proposed ceremony in the Caribbean.
In reference to the television series, Suzi finds it amusing.
She says: “It’s all good fun but it’s extremely far-fetched. They (the footballers’ wives) spend most of their time not doing anything and that is completely wrong. I don’t actually see myself as being a footballer’s wife, I just see Ian as being my husband. To me, he is a footballer like anyone else is a plumber, it just happens to be his profession.”
Her life now is fairly ordinary, she keeps in shape by going to the gym three times a week, and she likes to get away from football to spend time with her family.
Ian is best friends with Scotland defender, Matt Elliot and his wife Cathy, and often spends time with Tottenham players, Steffen Iversen and Darren Anderton.
Suzi admits she was once into the showbiz scene, meeting celebrities such as Harrison Ford, but nowadays she prefers to go out locally with friends outside of the players’ lounge.
When it comes to the subject of clothes, Suzi’s outlook is extremely refreshing.
Despite an obvious penchant for designer labels like Prada and Armani, and a love of Chanel perfume, she is not someone to spend money just for the sake of it. She enjoys shopping at the local boutiques and Topshop, and likes nothing better than nobbling a good bargain.
She enjoys dressing up when going to watch her husband play, but thinks that it is ridiculous to splash out on a designer shirt if the money is not justified.
As a young woman in her 20s, Suzi’s determination helped her when she made the decision to go to Monte Carlo as a singer and dancer. Her talents undoubtedly helped to make her make one of football’s most glamorous couples when Ian played in the Premier League.
Her determination was needed again, in a different way, when she gave birth to her daughter, Sophie, four years ago.
When her daughter was born, Suzi suffered a fit that almost killed her. She spent a terrifying week in intensive care. She has since developed myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a potentially chronic and disabling neurological disorder.
ME or chronic fatigue syndrome causes exhaustion, muscle pain and memory loss. As a result Suzi hasn’t been able to work properly for the past four years, but has become a full-time mum, caring for her daughter.
Suzi said: “I’ve definitely become more of a family based person since the birth of my daughter. My little girl means more to me than anything. I’m trying to get back into more television work with Sky.”
Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen.
In the meantime, through coping with her illness, Suzi retains her optimistic outlook on love. She knows that Ian’s career in football could potentially end at any time by an injury or transfer. She says that if she had to sell the house tomorrow, it wouldn’t matter as long as the family were together.
Her doctor has told her that it is risky to have any more children, and she admits that Ian would like another boy, to follow him into football. She remains philosophical about the subject though, and jokes that she will have to get him a male dog instead.
As a result of her experiences, Suzi, the real footballers’ wife, knows what is important to her.
She said: “Money can’t buy you happiness because when I spent a week in intensive care after Sophie’s birth, I suffered very ill health. At that time no money in the world could bring me happiness. I would have given it all up, everything, to have my health back."