Monday 19 February 2018

No shortage of temptations or players to be tempted

Richard Sadlier

Richard Sadlier

'I am not discussing any of my players' personal lives." When asked on Friday for a view on the mental state of Wayne Rooney ahead of yesterday's game at Everton, Alex Ferguson was in no mood to give an opinion on the matter. It seems he belongs to an ever-increasing minority on that front.

The days of correctly referring to any aspect of a footballer's life as personal or private are long gone. Clearly, there is very little which a player can do away from the field which is not deemed newsworthy, or viewed as off-limits or irrelevant by the public. That people want to know gives them justification to believe they have a right to know.

Everton manager David Moyes was also asked for his view in the build-up to the game; his reply was just as dismissive: "I think if you are a good football journalist you don't ask those kind of questions." Be that as it may, it appears there is still a great deal of interest in the answers.

Surprise, disappointment, amusement -- there have been many reactions to the allegations that Wayne Rooney hired a prostitute a number of times while his wife was carrying their child.

Following recent allegations linking Peter Crouch to similar behaviour, some now believe such carry-on is widespread among footballers everywhere. Irrespective of whether or not that is the case, you can bet more players will be named and shamed very soon. There is too much money to be made for prostitutes to keep quiet. There are too many papers to be sold for editors to resist.

During a mid-season break abroad one time, the management and players of a British club spent the evening in an Irish pub reflecting on their recent performances and looking ahead to the remainder of the campaign. Conversations veered away from football the longer the night went on. Inevitably, the suggestion was made to move on to a livelier spot. Six cabs were called and the entire group travelled to a nearby brothel. Not everyone knew it was a brothel when they went there, but nobody left when they realised it was.

Within an hour or so, one player was accompanied down a corridor by the coach and one of the girls. When the coach handed over money, the player asked what was going on. "It's for you, son. Don't worry, I only want to watch."

This is a world people on the outside can never understand.

Harry Redknapp said last week that 90 per cent of all behaviour which gets footballers into trouble is down to the consumption of alcohol. While that logic could well be applied to non-footballers also, he believed that top professionals should accept that alcohol is for those who have retired.

European players don't get in similar trouble he said (perhaps forgetting recent scandals involving Franck Ribery and some of his French team-mates), but the image of English football is taking something of a hammering lately with revelations emerging with alarming regularity. The suitability of players as role models is under question yet again.

Certain newspapers pay for girls to go to parts of the world known to be visited by players on holiday. They are paid handsomely to bed footballers in exchange for sharing their experiences with the paper when they return. Nightclubs are swarming with girls hoping to launch a career on the back of a night spent with any one of them. Players are targets. The pitfalls are everywhere.

Wayne Rooney's marriage may survive or it may not. Either way, those with a great interest will be served up every detail of the story as it unfolds over time. Of greater relevance will be his form for Manchester United while he tries to deal with it all.

The fact that he was not even in the squad for yesterday's game shows he has quite a bit of work to do. With nobody watching, it must be an enormously difficult experience for him to go through. With the eyes of the world leering in, it must seem almost impossible.

As with Rooney's case, whenever such a high-profile figure is found paying for sex, the discussion invariably turns to wondering why they bother. After all, it would be reasonable to assume it would be readily available for free from many quarters at any time. Actor Charlie Sheen was asked that very question by the judge when he faced such charges in America. He reportedly replied: "I don't pay them for sex. I pay them to leave." When you put it that way . . .

Sunday Independent

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