READERS of Ashley Cole's My Defence (new copies available at £0.99 on Amazon) would have turned the last page and thought: "Surely football can never come up with an Ashley so crass and self-serving as this admittedly rather talented left-back."
AND so it begins. English football's war with Fifa started around 3.30pm on Thursday afternoon, when 22 well-fed delegates and Sepp Blatter laughed in the face of the PM, heir to the throne and greatest living Englishman David Beckham.
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IT WAS a tale of two substitutes. Chelsea's comfortable Champions League victory over Spartak Moscow, and Liverpool's panicky win over Napoli in the Europa League, saw the respective club and England captains, John Terry and Steven Gerrard, starting on the bench, resting their priceless limbs for tomorrow's Premier League encounter.
Tom Lappin: Big blustering Sam Allardyce left to rule modest roost with new owners unlikely to ruffle feathers
THE Premier League's capacity for rich comedy continues to impress. One of its most delicious characters, Big Sam Allardyce, can look forward to ever more appreciative audiences for his brand of unwitting hilarity with the news that Blackburn Rovers is being acquired by a chicken factory.
FABIO Capello will have allowed himself a wry smile when perusing his Gazzetta dello Sport this week. Federico Machedo's description of Wayne Rooney as a "coatto" would have been immediately intelligible to a man well-versed in Roman slang, but might have struck him as somewhat unfair.
ARSENAL: the 21st-century equivalent of the Schleswig-Holstein. That enigma, you will recall, was only understood by Prince Albert, Lord Palmerston and a mad German professor, which might be three more than those able to fathom the riddle of Arsenal.
IT'S difficult to imagine such a thing as a glamour fixture in the 1970s. Footage of that era invariably focuses on matches played in swirling snow, or in a mud-bath, where those players lucky enough to preserve their limbs from the onslaught of Ron "Chopper" Harris were liable to succumb to a bout of trenchfoot.
ROY Hodgson's dulcet Croydon 1950s gentleman bank robber accent will be music to Sir Alex Ferguson's ears tomorrow. Ferguson has had his fill of Glaswegian, after a week in which his curmudgeonly compatriots David Moyes and Walter Smith frustrated Ferguson's lacklustre Manchester United.
GERARD Houllier at 63 remains a football manager whose career eludes rational assessment. He is revered or reviled, according to the vested interests of whomever you are asking. His return to the Premier League with Aston Villa is surprising.
Tom Lappin: Wembley win lifts the gloom, but scoreline flatters a team still well short of greatness
THE advertising hoardings at Wembley were proclaiming "the new fabric of England". After a very encouraging win anything is possible, but there remains a suspicion that England is still a rough and ready patchwork that might fall apart at the seams under any concerted pressure.
Timing is crucial in football. Looking back at his career (some time in the future, or perhaps over this weekend) Martin O'Neill might reflect that it has been among the most important skills to have eluded him.
THE BBC screened The Damned United a couple of weeks ago. Commercial imperatives understandably demanded that the film adaptation mostly eschewed the psychological trauma of David Peace's novel in favour of some sentimental buddy-comedy moves, but where it excelled was in the period detail.
It's a problem that will elicit little sympathy from the rest of the Premier League managers. Roberto Mancini has to decide what to do with one of the brightest forwards from the World Cup, a Brazilian who, on song, is one of the world's most mesmerising footballers.
IT'S back to school for England's footballers. Ashley Cole may be leaving the England he hates (and who can blame him?) to reunite with his indulgent uncle Jose in Madrid, but the rest of the motley crew require some intense cramming in the basics of international football before they are allowed to sit the exams for European Championship qualifying.
Tom Lappin: From Johan to Johannesburg, Total Football travels true course, but this time Dutch are artisans not artistes
IT ALL started with a self-important Serbian centre-back. Velibor Vasovic, his own biggest fan, joined Ajax Amsterdam in 1966. The way he told it, it was his character and experience that allowed the development of total football.
FABIO Capello: The Backlash was an enjoyable way for the English press to spend those interminable six days between the desultory draw in Rustenburg and this debacle in Cape Town. Nobody took it too seriously.
FLAGS, flags, as far as the eye can see.
IT'S NOT the most dignified of epitaphs for Rafael Benitez's Liverpool career. Cruel YouTube footage shows Benitez getting up on stage for the finale of a theatrical reconstruction of that 2005 night in Istanbul. If you have ever seen a tubby man in his 50s dancing frantically (and we've all been to family weddings), you can supply your own pitying cry of 'oh the humanity!'
WORLD Cups aren't won or lost on the treatment table. That said, successful teams are formed and guided by the way they cope with setbacks, by the ingenuity with which their manager plays the hand he has been dealt.
WHAT'S it to be for the travelling Premier League supporter next season? A happy stroll along the most gleefully vulgar seafront in Britain, with a stiff breeze from the sea blowing sand all over your stick of rock? Or a punch-up in the car-park outside Cardiff railway station with a stiff Welsh boot spreading teeth all over your injudicious away team scarf?