Kissing in the wind
Seeing Joey Barton bashing his chest like a neatly-shaved ape on Tuesday night made me aware of one thing that's getting me really riled about footie players these days.
All this badge-kissing is pretty hard to swallow, isn't it, from a bunch of well-moneyed no-marks who show as much loyalty to the cause as a tabloid-hogging-celebrity-one-night-stand bimbo.
If you're John Terry or Paul Scholes or Jamie Carragher or Ian Ashbee then maybe you've got a point. Trouble is, if you're a confirmed one-club man, you don't need to convince the fans - or yourself - that you're a faithful standard-bearer for your team.
It's only them players who are a bit confused who seem to need to confirm their allegiance to whoever the hell is watching. Rooney at Everton was a case in point.
That 'Once a Blue Always a Blue' t-shirt will live with him forever, and frankly he could kiss the feet of Sir Bobby Charlton in an 'I Love Bestie' top whilst singing 'United, United!' and he'd still be a Toffee trying to escape his heritage.
Barton grabbed the ball for the spot-kick against the Baggies even though he's not the registered penalty-taker. They'll tell you it shows courage. I say it shows that he's so desperate to prove he's for real this time that he's willing to put his feelings above team orders. Funny how no-one seemed to want to wrestle the ball away from him too, eh?
The trouble with these badge-kissing travesties is that you know in your heart of hearts you're looking at a jumped-up little mercenary, especially if the bloke doing it only arrived in town a few weeks back.
Even so, it's easy to fall for it. You desperately want someone to want your club to do well as much as you do, so one goal is often enough to convince you that they share the same dream. And footie fans, whether they like it or not, are involved in a pretty torrid (or if you're a Liverpool fan, Torres) love affair.
It can turn sensible, emotionless blokes into heaps of girlish gibbering jelly at the drop of a cross. Some exotic whipper-snapper can turn up from nowhere, curl in a couple of masterful free-kicks and blow you a few kisses and you think you're in a relationship.
Take Boro for example. That Fabrizio Ravanelli was a strumpet, really. That Woody Woodgate never stuck around long, even though we rescued him from Spain. I hope the lad Wheater doesn't walk away and never phone us again.
There are players lighting up the League this season - Zaki, Geovanni - but whether either of 'em survives a transfer window must be seriously doubtful. We're so lovesick and sorry these days that fans'll often just say that they're grateful to have their man for even half a season.
You might think the boo-boys at Harry Redknapp's freedom of the city knees-up earlier in the week were a bit out of order. Personally I think 'Arry's got a bit of front going along to that any road when he's just dumped them for someone else.
Of course sometimes players don't get what they want, even if they sometimes act like they are bigger than the organisation. Cristiano Ronaldo's currently wearing the longest face in the Premier League since Van Nistelrooy went to the Bernabeu, and all 'cos the lad wasn't allowed to sidle out of Man U off the back of a series of insinuations in the press and the express wishes of his Mum.
Mind you, loyalty works both ways and Fergie's latest anti-Real rant, where he claimed that Heinze went to Madrid first as some kind of bait for Ronaldo, is downright potty. Only a woman with the figure of Scarlett Johanssen and the stamina of Paula Radcliffe could make me up-stumps in that way.
Next thing we know Fergie'll be claiming that the Real president has been in secret talks with the sunshine as part of some wicked ploy to lure the gelled tumbler to the balmier south.
The badge-kissing, then, is just a pretence of loyalty. And we fans still value it above everything else. One of the reasons we're so pleased for Hull, apart from it being even as surprising as the Major-Currie revelation, is that there are players who have been at the same club since the darkest days of a decade ago.
The reason the Champs League final was so epic was 'cos the man who missed the penalty to win it was the bloke who, when Chelsea have been up against it in the past, would always be the first to put his hand up (and quite often that hand would stop a certain penalty and the ref wouldn't give it).
The fact that Anelka missed the decisive one is no sort of story at all, 'cos that misery has been to more clubs than Kerry Katona.
So here's my plea to footballers up and down the country. No badge-kissing unless you've been there two years minimum and you've just signed an extensive contract (without some elaborate fannying about by your agent to screw as much cash out of the club you so loyally support). Otherwise you're no better than a drunken snog at a sixth-form disco.