Jeers and Booze
So Harry Redknapp is taking all the booze out of the players' bar at Spurs on the back of Ledley's lunacy the other night.
Harry Redknapp!? As true-blue English as a pearly king morris-dancing over a pint of real warm ale with a song in his heart and steak and kidney puddin' in his belly? Telling footballers that alcohol is forbidden?
What next? Elected parliamentary representatives of our great empire using public funds to play the housing market?
And has 'Arry got a point? The only one to come out against him thus far is Gazza. The lad may be turning things around a bit right now, but he's not exactly the best poster boy for the Footballers Can Handle A Drink lobby.
Of course, as many of you know I often pen this particular piece of prose from my favourite hostelry. Actually, thinking about it, for 'favourite' read 'closest'. I have been diligent in my attempts to mix the ball and the beer, although that half-time pint does take the edge off me game these days... not that I'll be swapping it for the full-time half in a hurry.
(I have on rare occasions opted for that, but only when I have been labelled with the worst two words in English football - no not 'gelled tumbler', or even 'Chelsea's millions', but 'designated driver').
Up until the late 80s I reckon a bit of booze-riddled blowing off of steam was pretty much obligatory amongst football clubs, not to mention the management. That's probably why many former players ended up owning and/or running their own pubs - they'd have been in there any road so they might as well get paid for it, eh?
Nowadays your average Premier League footballer could buy up a pub chain and still have enough cash left over to pay his legal fees at the end of the week. It doesn't matter how stinking rich you are, it's no guarantee that you can hold your drink.
Ledley and Cashley have got into terrible bother - and the apologies ring a bit hollow too. Nicklas Bendtner was another quick to say sorry: "I want to apologise to the club and the fans for letting them and myself down." Never mind the standard of your finishing this year, Nicklas, just apologise for letting your trousers down, son!
Of course one of the things them pesky foreigners have brought into the British game, apart from (and here I dive into my Hansen Thesaurus of All-Purpose Football Phrases) power, pace and penetration, is a sensible attitude to grape and the grain. I mean, damn their eyes, some of them don't even touch the stuff!
You'd never get in our team on that basis. We had a mazy left-winger who once asked the barman for a St Clements and ice and he was benched for three matches 'til he came to his senses.
But Redknapp's right, isn't he? Usain Bolt may be able to get away with a fried chicken diet, but your average footie player these days needs to monitor everything he puts into his body (I'm avoiding any smut after that remark, but God it's difficult!).
Clearly getting half-cut on a Wednesday night is going to leave you less well equipped to deal with an important game than the mid-European puritans in the opposition. Being professional means eating pasta and sipping mineral water and, well, being very dull indeed.
I would suggest it also means that, like every other professional athlete, you are available for a dope-test at all hours of the day. Why football should consider itself immune from the investigations of the World Anti-Doping Authority is beyond me.
I mean for those of the rest of us who have reasonably regular jobs, how hard can it be to inform someone where you might be for one hour of every day?
Clearly, if testers want to have a guarantee of where top pros might be then I suggest they trawl the bars of Soho and Manchester of a Saturday night and they're bound to be able to collect two or three hundred samples in an evening. What they probably would be best avoiding is asking some of the players' missuses where they might be.
WADA has a job to do. There are so many sports that we watch with a cynical eye these days and not just 'cos of the rule-bending antics of writhing international forwards. The successful Jamaican sprinters, anyone who suddenly and surprisingly improves: all of them have to deal with comments behind the back of cupped hands 'cos of what has gone on around them.
It'd be nice to think that our self-serving footballers could embrace the idea that proving themselves and their sport to be clean is a good thing. Sepp Blatter's called it an infringement on their private lives but it does seem, particularly in financial terms, a tiny price to pay for a bit of integrity.
And if it all helps improve the image of our footballers, especially the British lads, then I'll drink to that.