Call me a footballer and I'll sue

AFTER the recent deluge of bad-behaviour stories, you might almost consider it libellous to be branded a Premiership footballer.

AFTER the recent deluge of bad-behaviour stories, you might almost consider it libellous to be branded a Premiership footballer.

Most are probably decent people. And most – quite possibly all – of those whose names have been linked by rumour with a foul crime are completely innocent.

Still, rape or no rape, some of the admitted activities in London clubs and hotels are sordid in the extreme.

The same contempt for decent behaviour shows in some players' driving.

One top footballer has twice caused me to brake sharply to avoid a crash. I won't name him, as no damage was actually done – but if I did, his identity would surprise nobody.

Put it all together, and football has a serious image problem. And it doesn't ALL come down to money.

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The most telling thing I've read in this week of football furore was a comment about Rio Ferdinand's missed drug test.

It came from former England player John Scales, who has been leading an investigation into drugs in football. He said: "The responsibility for the test falls on the shoulders of the player and sometimes that is difficult for a player to understand because clubs organise so much for them."

Poor Rio. Fancy having to take responsibility for your own wee.

It reminds me of a tale one-time Ipswich striker Lee Chapman told about his time under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest.

Coming out of a hotel toilet, Chapman – then 28 and a university graduate – met Clough in the corridor. "Young man," said Clough, "have you washed your hands?"

Football clubs simply don't expect their star assets to grow up or think for themselves. As they travel between the stadiums and hotels of the country – or the world – players are treated like infants on a pre-school outing.

Give these cosseted Peter Pans obscene wealth, top-of-the-range cars and a higher public profile than Governor Arnie and it's no wonder they get a little out of hand when they're let out on their own.

Now, can England win in Turkey tomorrow? And how much does it really matter?

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