A few years ago, Pat Nevin was one of the most prominent go-to football pundits on television. He was, and indeed still is, erudite, intelligent and insightful. As a former Scotland international winger, his words carry weight.
But there was just one problem. His hairline was retreating into the distance with the sort of acceleration its owner once used to embarrass full-backs. Not a problem on radio, of course, where he is also found. But a big bald no-no if you have designs to be on the box, apparently.
A producer took him to one side and offered some advice: do something about the do, mate, or you won’t eat lunch in this town again. Or words to that effect.
Admirably, Nevin didn’t tell him or her – he is unsurprisingly reluctant to reveal the identity, confirming only that it wasn’t anyone at BBC Scotland – to stick their opinion where the sun don’t shine.
Indeed, he welcomed the feedback. Unlike those who might have retreated into their shell while composing laments to the last remaining strands of their hair as they disappeared down the plughole, Nevin resolved to do something about it.
Fortunately, he decided against going down the James Nesbitt route. At Monday night’s Ballon d’Or awards ceremony the Northern Irish actor decided to showcase what appeared to be a badly stitched-on hairpiece as black as a raven’s wing.
It wasn’t a good look.
Instead, Nevin, as became clear yesterday, has had a rather more-subtle weave. It isn’t quite the magnificent mop of dark hair that used to enhance his reputation for being pale and interesting. But it’s back to being thick enough, it would seem, to salvage his telly career.
It has been a perhaps ironic turn of events for someone who once co-wrote a book entitled In Ma Head, Son! Written in conjunction with leading psychologist Dr George Silk, this sought to get inside the mind of a footballer. Suddenly Nevin’s post-playing career was being threatened by what was – or rather, what was not – on his head.
Hence the video, released yesterday by a Dublin-based hair restoration firm, where Nevin explains why Sportscene viewers have been trying to put their finger on just why he is looking, well, a bit younger these days. Now 52, the darkened hair was perhaps the giveaway that Nevin has gone in for ‘repairs’. But so, too, the thatch creeping back over his head.
“It was purely for TV,” he explained to The Scotsman. “The funny thing is I didn’t want to get the back done, just the front. And now I am doing the thing on Sportscene where I am standing discussing tactics by a big TV screen so I need to turn around – and you can see a bald patch!
“So it was not a style consideration, nothing like that,” he continued. “It was just suggested by a producer: ‘you’ll lose your job if you don’t get it done’. Er, OK then….Do you take it personally or do you say, thanks for your help?”
Given this is Pat Nevin we are talking about, there is little surprise he tips a hat, so to speak, to the late, great David Bowie when he reflects on having the guts to look how you wish to look – and to hang with what anyone else thinks.
As well as his commitments as a football pundit, he also has a regular gig as a DJ. He has never once failed to include a Bowie record in one of his sets – the only artist to feature constantly. But even when he had naturally flowing locks he didn’t take a photograph of Bowie with him to his hairdresser with the instruction “make me look like that”, as many did.
“When I was player I maybe tried to look like David Sylvian [the lead singer in Japan] who in turn was trying to look like David Bowie,” he concedes, recalling the New Romantic floppy fringe that simply added to the fury of those full-backs he left in a heap on the ground.
But Bowie is an inspiration on so many other levels. “Be comfortable to be different,” said Nevin, with reference to the singer, who died earlier this week. “Maybe more than anyone else in the public eye, he was someone who encouraged that. But I still expect plenty of abuse!”
“However, if it helps normalise it and makes other people feel less uncomfortable about getting the treatment done, then I was happy to do [the promotional video],” he continued. “That’s the point.
“But I am not trying to sell anything to anyone,” he added.
Wise man that he is, he surely knows any flak will die away within days, like it has done with other high-profile beneficiaries of hair transplants, such as Wayne Rooney and Celtic pair Anthony Stokes and Leigh Griffiths.
When Nevin is asked by friends, colleagues and even strangers whether he’s had something done to his hair, he is happy to confirm the news. “I tell anyone who asks. But then I say, ‘I’ve also had my hips done’….” Few want to hear more about those procedures.
In any case, when you’re infamous for taking the worst penalty in the history of penalties, as the self-deprecating Nevin often admits he is, any embarrassment felt about a hair transplant must surely be easier to cope with.