Welcome to the ‘gold-plated’ villages that the Premier League’s elite call home
Kevin Keegan knew this was no ordinary village on his first day of house hunting when the estate agent suggested they go for lunch to discuss options.
Keegan had just been appointed manager of Manchester City, and in his first meeting with the players, he made it clear that he did not like the stories he had heard about the drinking culture at the club.
What he didn’t realize was that he was moving to a village that had become one of the favorite spots on the Manchester football scene.
“I had never been to the Hill in my life,” Keegan recalled in his autobiography. “We had a choice of at least ten restaurants in the center of the village. The game we chose was called Up & Down and the same could be said for my heart rate when I walked in the door to find a group of players with a bottle of champagne at their table.
Welcome to The Hill, located eight miles south of Manchester, in a strip of affluence that holds great appeal to the modern-day footballer, attracting players from clubs up to 150 miles apart.
“We’ve always had a lot of Manchester United and Manchester City players moving here,” says Jackie Atkins, director of luxury property firm Hill Homes. “But we also get footballers from Liverpool, Everton, Stoke, Bolton, Blackburn, Leicester and other parts of the Midlands or the North West.
“They live alongside each other. It’s a beautiful area, and because there are so many of them, they can walk around the village and feel safe without being harassed. You see them in Sainsbury’s, pushing the trolley. It’s quite normal.”
With rivals on the pitch and neighbors off it, it doesn’t take long among the gated mansions and green meadows to understand why so many footballers are drawn to the Hill and the wide, tree-lined roads where it merges with the Hill Barns and Bowdon.
Every football town or city tends to have a designated area for players. Perhaps the difference here is that the Hill and its neighbors gradually became the center of Merseyside, Lancashire, Staffordshire and even further afield. One study, conducted in 2010, estimated that there were at least 33 Premier League players living in this leafy area. The numbers are much higher these days as more and more footballers come from outside Manchester.
Trent Alexander Arnold is one. Alisson, the Liverpool goalkeeper, is used to having Paul Pogba and Raheem Sterling among his neighbors at Hill Barnes. Shermety, Everton’s new signing from Sporting Lisbon, has been spotted in the village, as has Burnley manager Vincent Kompany and several others.
At one point, Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck, then United teammates, were neighbors of Joe Hart and Kyle Walker, then Manchester City teammates. Bruno Fernandes found a house three doors down from Stephen Ireland, and there were so many Leicester City players living locally – Danny Simpson, Jonny Evans, Danny Drinkwater, Matty James – that a driver used to turn up in a minibus every morning to take them home. Training at 100 miles.
Relationships are formed, and rivalries are put aside. Every week, a five-a-side match is held by a group of former professionals living in or around the Hill or the so-called Golden Triangle of Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Prestbury, which has the highest proportion of millionaires per capita. in the country. The standard, says Ireland, is “scary”.
The same description could be applied to some of the “absolute monsters,” in the words of one Hill estate agent, who have gone up to the parts of the village where old money meets new money.
Peter Crouch tells a story in his autobiography about his first day as a Liverpool player, driving around Barnes Hill, windows open, music blaring, in the Aston Martin he had bought to celebrate his move from Southampton.
“I try to convince myself that I look like Steve McQueen or Daniel Craig, ignoring the old Peter who told me I had become everything I swore I would never do,” Crouch writes.
“I’ve stopped at a set of traffic lights and there’s Roy Keane. He looks back at me. Even through my shadows, I can’t mistake the disgust on his face. He shakes his head and looks at the road ahead. I froze in my position, a wide grin on my face, and when… The lights changed, he drove off without looking back. I was left there with the handbrake on and the horrifying realization: Oh my God, I’ve become one of those *****s.
Crouch says he sold the Aston Martin the next day. However, it wouldn’t have stood out as too flashy in a place where sports cars and SUVs tend to have smoked windows and special license plates. “A leisurely flow of Shogun Jeeps, pulling into the parking lot while their owners buy tuna steaks, get their nails done, or admire the interior designer,” says one review.
This is the caricature anyway. The truth is that the Hill, with a population of 15,000, has a good mix of people, a lot of modest parts, and rarely as localized as, say, Alderley Edge, where car spotters with cameras slung over their shoulders used to line the road. the main. Take off your clothes every Saturday to get pictures of footballers’ dream machines.
Alderley Edge is where David Beckham, Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and many other celebrities have chosen to live. Rumor had it that one of the England players was repeatedly driving his Ferrari up and down the hill, roaring its engine, until car spotters chased him. It is not unheard of to find DKNY, Versace and other brands in the charity Oxfam’s shop window. “Older women may frown,” the Guardian cautiously notes, “if they don’t eliminate this option.”
Unlike the impression left by the British TV series Gold Plated or The Real Housewives of Cheshire, there are different layers to this part of Manchester’s southern commuter belt.
A walk through the Hill shows that the village is not immune to the difficulties of modern life. A number of store units are empty. One Six Eight cocktail bar is closed. So did a Cheshire Midland pub, claiming the landlord was having such a hissing fit that so many people were ignoring the ban on mobile phones.
Overall, there is an unmistakable feeling of wealth. Photographers are often positioned outside restaurants with catchy names like Cibo and Riva. Art lovers browse the Clarendon Gallery. The coats of obediently trained dogs are clipped at the Dog Cutting Club.
Locals talk about seeing Erik ten Hag cycling to Marks & Spencer for some dinner, or seeing Louis van Gaal, one of United’s former managers, queuing to be seated at the now-closed Italian restaurant Danilo, and – classic Van Gaal – he was not happy that he had to… Waiting (“This had better be good”).
The Railway Pub is where John Stones, Fabian Delph, Bernardo Silva, Vincent Kompany and Kyle Walker joined the regulars to celebrate after City won the 2018 Premier League title.
– Alex Hunt (@AlexHunt01) April 15, 2018
Sam Allardyce interviewed for the England job at the Bowdon home of David Gill, then FA director, and stories were legendary about Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside and an assortment of United players being locked up in the Griffin pub.
However, these days, it’s not uncommon for Luke Shaw to live alongside Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, or to see Everton’s Michael Keane having a coffee, James Milner walking his dog, or Robin Olsen setting off for training at Aston Villa. 80 miles away.
What you may not notice is that security guards stand as “stationary controllers” near the most luxurious Hollywood-style avenues, where the homes are over 10,000 square feet (more than 900 square metres).
“There was a time, around 2008 and 2009, when the Hill stopped being so popular because it was a high-crime area for footballers,” says Hayden Roberts, who was City’s player liaison officer. “Some terrible things happened if you look at the burglary at Roque Santa Cruz’s house.”
Santa Cruz, the former City striker, was targeted while playing away to Blackburn Rovers. The criminals also robbed the homes of Liverpool player Emile Heskey and United midfielder Darren Fletcher. In each case, their partners were in the home and they were threatened with a knife.
“There was a lot of panic-mongering at the time,” Roberts says. “But it’s a new generation of footballers now. Attitudes have changed, and Hill, who has always owned restaurants and huge houses, is in style again, perhaps more than ever.”
For wealthy footballers, the solution was security, and lots of it. Almost every home has electronic entry and advanced anti-theft systems. Many have “panic rooms” where homeowners can lock themselves inside if there is an intruder. One property even has bulletproof windows.
A study last year found that five of the 10 most expensive roads in north-west England were in Hale, Bowdon or Hale Barns, with nearby motorways, the airport so close you can almost touch the wings, and plenty of other things adding to the celebrity feel. : Parks, shops, golf courses, high performing schools, restaurants to see and be seen, and the Priory Hospital (always a sign of money) in case you get past it all.
Barrow Lane, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic used to live in Hill Barnes, was at the top of that list, with the average house price standing at £3.3 million ($4.1 million).
Broadway, on the Hill, was next. No one will be able to find it on Google Street View, since cameras are blocked from accessing this stretch of Millionaires’ Row. Horseback riding is also prohibited, perhaps because anyone riding saddle-back can look over strategically high walls and fences.
Meanwhile, on Brooks Drive, another security sign explains the long list of prohibitions: No loitering, No walking, No biking, No dogs, No school drop-offs, No trespassing, No driving faster than 10 mph. the hour.
It may seem extreme, but enhanced security has made a difference in an area where dozens of footballers past and present mingle with Coronation Street stars, musicians and other showbiz types.
A blue plaque on Hill Road shows where singer Paul Young used to live. Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs, former Oasis guitarist, has a house in the village. Johnny Marr and Mike Joyce moved to the area during The Smiths’ heyday, as did the band’s frontman, Morrissey, for a while. Music Trivia: Marlborough Road is where the albums The Queen is Dead and Meat is Murder were written.
As for Keane, you wonder what makes rival players from such a wide circle of clubs become neighbors and, in some cases, friends (although Micah Richards, his cash buddy from Sky Sports, is also close).
Keane’s relationship with the region began 30 years ago, and if you remember him leaving the Republic of Ireland World Cup in 2002, you’ll also remember his daily dog walks with Triggs after his return from Saipan, with the world’s media outside his gates.
Sadly, Triggs is no longer a part of Hill’s life, but the dog’s role in the drama convinced Paul Howard, the award-winning Irish writer, to write Triggs – a biography of the animal.
“The Hill was a respectable area where people voted Conservative and their grasses were mowed in harmonious lines,” was the dog’s verdict. “It was known as the stockbroker’s belt – and this was in the days when stockbroking was considered a respectable job.”
(Tags for translation)Liverpool