Coleen vs. Rebekah: When the drama happens off the pitch
As Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy have it out on Twitter, Andrea Smith looks at our obsession with the perfectly manicured partners of footballers
When Coleen Rooney rocked Twitter yesterday by dramatically accusing a fellow footballer's wife of passing stories about her to an English tabloid, even those of us with zero interest in the sport were captivated by the unfolding drama.
Many of us spent the day feverishly refreshing our screens to see if Rebekah Vardy, wife of Jamie (Leicester City), had responded to the allegation, and were gratified when she duly obliged and denied the charge.
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The fact that we were entranced by a spat between two minor celebs across the water speaks volumes about our enduring fascination with players' wives and girlfriends, who have come to be known, perhaps somewhat dismissively, as WAGS.
For most of us, it was the behaviour of the England team's partners at the 2006 World Cup in Germany that sparked our curiosity. David Attenborough himself would have been hard-pressed to understand how the sideshow put on by the glam women managed to eclipse the performances of the stars on the pitch on that infamous trip, but it was a most entertaining situation.
Sporting their uniform of glam hair extensions, perfect manicures, designer threads and deep tans, the women were ostensibly in Baden-Baden to support their other halves. As England turned in a frankly lacklustre performance in the tournament, the gals didn't trouble themselves unduly with soothing their battered egos or rubbing lotion on aching limbs, however.
Instead, we devoured the media images that emerged of them living it up in a big girl gang, stumbling drunkenly out of clubs at dawn, surrounding themselves with massive security entourages, enjoying poolside drinks at expensive hotels and shopping up a storm in local boutiques.
The highlights of their stellar performance included Frank Lampard's then girlfriend Elen Rives rocking Maxi's nightclub by dancing on a table in the small hours of the morning to 'I Will Survive'.
The fact that Victoria Beckham, Cheryl Cole and Coleen Rooney were part of the gang that year helped to cement our fascination with them. It was at the height of our devotion to celebrity gossip magazines like Heat, and we lapped up every silly detail and whisper of bad behaviour.
How we sniggered at the tale that Victoria Beckham reportedly lost her temper with FA officials when there was a delay with a private jet chartered to take the women back to their base, declaring that "a dog gets better treatment than this". It was delicious nonsense and we relished every moment .
Abbey Clancy, girlfriend of Peter Crouch, was shipped back to the UK early from the tournament in shame after pictures surfaced of her taking cocaine two years earlier. This headline-grabbing behaviour dismayed FA officials so horribly, partners were completely banned from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
With so much attention focused on them, it is probably no coincidence that it was around that time that being a WAG became a career aspiration in its own right. While some of the women had careers and were famous themselves, many of the young women who emulated them openly vied to become nothing more than a glamorous appendage on a Premier League player's arm.
They endured being objectified - an occupational hazard - and if they disliked being defined by their relationship with their husbands and boyfriends, they didn't say.
But as the years rolled on, the scandals kept coming. We were all transfixed when allegations surfaced of an affair between John Terry and Vanessa Perroncel - the former partner of his England team-mate Wayne Bridge, and friend of his wife, Toni.
While being attached to a footballer can look like a glamorous existence, filled with high fashion and nice houses, in many cases it involves sacrifice. It can't be easy to follow your husband around the world when they make a move to another club, while you lose established friendships and face upheaval in the process. And sometimes the veneer truly slips.
Who can forget the rape allegation that was made and later dropped in 2007, when Manchester United had a Christmas party without the wives and girlfriends, and 100 hand-picked women were brought in to party with the players? It tainted the reputation of the club, and many wondered why the women put up with such treatment.
Top footballers are actively pursued by women and can have sex on tap. Sports writer Alison Kervin once asked Peter Crouch what he would have been if he hadn't been a footballer? "A virgin," he replied.
Even Cheryl Cole had to put up with being betrayed by husband Ashley, whom she later divorced. Coleen has remained with her husband Wayne in spite of the various sex scandals he has been involved in over the years and a drink-driving conviction.
As we have now seen, she is currently not as forgiving of Rebekah Vardy, whom she alleges fell for a trap that she set up to identify the person leaking information to the tabloid press from her personal Instagram account.
"I'm not being funny, but I don't need the money, what would I gain from selling stories on you?" Rebekah responded on her own Twitter.
"I liked you a lot Coleen and I'm so upset that you have chosen to do this, especially when I'm heavily pregnant. I'm disgusted that I'm even having to deny this."
Given this latest slice of riveting drama, it's rather unfortunate that Rebekah spoke last year about how footballers' wives these days "have a much lower profile now and that is how it should be".
"Our job is to be supportive," she said. "I would be mortified if I was pictured leaving a bar absolutely p***ed knowing that my husband was going to play one of the biggest games of his life the next day."
How she feels about that low profile now that she has been accused of betraying her friend so publicly remains to be seen, but either way, this little spat has rekindled our interest in the colourful world of footballers' wives.