False Controversy over Luke McCormick

In response to the recent stories being run about the controversial appointment of Luke McCormick as club-captain for Plymouth Argyle, I consider an alternative view on the matter.

While there may be flaws in justice system, to lay the blame at the door of those rehabilitated within it is an entirely counterproductive way to demand any reform or change. It must not be forgotten that the criminal justice system aims to rehabilitate, not punish, those who break the law in order for them to be deemed suitable to be reintroduced back into society.

Luke McCormick was released from Leyhill Prison in Gloucestershire in June 2012. The Coventry born goalkeeper was a product of Plymouth Argyle’s youth set up, earning himself a professional contract in 2000 and making his debut aged 17 in a home match against Rochdale. His success in the game he’d dedicated his life to continued, as he was awarded club young player of the year in successive years as well as picking up two league winners medals; as Argyle were promoted Champions from Division Three and Two in 2002 and 2004 respectively.

Then an unforgivable mistake happened; a catastrophic mistake that led to the deaths of two boys. Luke admitted to the drink driving and death by dangerous driving charges and subsequently served his time in Her Majesty’s Prison Services. The system deemed Luke fit and safe enough to return to society, deciding that he posed no danger to the public and that his rehabilitation was complete.

While Luke was a successful footballer with Plymouth Argyle, the riches of the Premier League that dominate the papers never reached the club. Having joined Argyle in the fourth tier of English football and earned his way with the club to the second division, I feel confident in saying that McCormick was likely unable to retire aged 28 after an 8 year footballing career and another 4 served in court or prison. In a recent interview with the BBC, former teammate at Plymouth, Guy Branston said that “there’s not big money in the lower leagues” and in the foreword of Branston’s book The Footballer’s Journey Neil “Razor” Ruddock explains how every footballing career inevitably comes to an end and that most footballers “have to find other work, and earn money… to pay your mortgage”.  He continues to add that clubs, generally, neglect to consider a footballer’s life beyond his contract with a shocking statistic that “there are over 200 ex pros in prison”. Free to re-enter society, with goalkeeping as his most developed qualification and work experience, Luke needed to rediscover a living.

I fail to read the stories in the Daily Mail or Mirror of the ex-plumber who after serving time in Prison returned to his job as a plumber, or the lady who worked the checkouts at Morrisons that served 7 years and then returned to her checkout at Morrisons. However certain press seem to believe it’s unacceptable for McCormick to return to the trade he’s most familiar with.

Following the sale of Conor Hourihane to Barnsley, previously captain and club captain of Argyle, the club needed to assign his duties to other members of the squad. 21 year old defender Curtis Nelson was chosen by manager John Sheridan to wear the armband this coming season for Plymouth, while new recruit Peter Hartley was chosen as vice-captain. The controversy of assigning Luke McCormick the duties of club-captain quite frankly bemuses me.

There seems to be anger of Luke’s chance to step back into the spotlight, as a public figure head of the club. However his role as club captain contains only off-field and internal responsibilities, there is no spotlight for Luke to step into. I fail to grasp an understanding of the moral limitations that wish to be dictated by some on McCormick’s career; just how successful is he allowed to be? It seems to be acceptable for him to play these days, but should Argyle feature at Wembley in front of all the Sky cameras in the play-off final, would it suddenly become unacceptable again?

Steph Cockroft of the Daily Mail seems to condemn the decision to give Luke a “second chance”. His second chance with Plymouth Argyle came in May 2013 when Luke McCormick resigned for a second spell with the Pilgrims. Argyle owner and Chairman James Brent released this statement at the time;

Although Luke made a dreadful mistake with unthinkable consequences, he has served his time and is totally remorseful. While I respect others who have alternative views, from a moral standpoint, the Board and I think Luke is entitled to rehabilitation. John Sheridan wanted to sign him and the club is totally supportive of that.

While I happen to disagree with James Brent about a great deal of things, I must say I agree with his every word here. The unthinkable happened and it cannot be reversed. McCormick cannot do any more than the justice system asks of him. Of course it is perfectly reasonable to disagree with how the justice system deals with its offenders, but to argue that against Luke McCormick will serve to no purpose at all. Lazy journalism will take aim at easy targets and rehash old stories to fill the pages. If you want change, then demand it; a case of wanting to care, but it seems like too much work.

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About powell96

A Truro College Student and sparse writer. I'll be using this space as a portfolio for storing and sharing my film reviews.

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