JACK CHARLTON warned the muck-rakers that, like Greta Garbo, the Irish want to be left alone.
"If we're boring, that's what we want to be," insisted the Republic of Ireland manager yesterday.
However as the England and Scottish camps reel from the inevitable World Cup 'scandals' of drink and girls, Charlton fears his squad could be next.
"I have no doubt that someone, somewhere will drag something up to the detriment of the Irish, whether we deserve it or not. It's the great worry that all managers have when they come away and have as many reporters as we have flocking around, poking their noses in every door.
"We have a very well-behaved group of players who are very much aware that if they do anything, they will be put through the mill. We have warned them very carefully and they all behave themselves.
"They had their night out last night, they never caused any problems. They only had a few drinks we told them 'back at 11', and they all were and yet I still pick the papers up and wonder when someone is going to start having a go at us.
"So far, they seem to have left us alone. I get a bit uptight over these things, it's not part of football, not a part of football that I like."
Fortunately, throughout three weeks in Turkey, Malta and eventually Italy, Charlton's men have behaved as impeccably as the huge army of fans but that hasn't stopped some Italians from 'having a go'.
Italian journalists were last night standing by local newspaper reports here that Irish players broke their curfew in Malta and spent hours gambling in a Casino.
The story appeared here yesterday in lurid headlines in a Milan-based newspaper suggesting that "Ireland are to get serious after two weeks in the Casinos of Malta" and other eyecatching pieces refer to the Irish players "throwing away the wine bottles" and getting down to serious World Cup preparation.
It is not that the Irish are unpopular. It's just that Italian journalists like to write and what the readers like to read. All is fair in love and the World Cup it seems.