Early Doors

Football kept NOTW in business

Early Doors

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"COLE LOT OF LOVE: Birthday pic proves Cheryl and Ash are back together"

"CROUCH'S UNABBEY FAMILIES: Separate tables at big bash"

"CARROLL POSH FAMILY HOL ENDS IN BRAWL: Boozy brother Andy gave me a black why eye"

These are just three headlines taken from last Sunday's News of the World, on pages one, three and 17 respectively. Goodness knows what they will be printing this Sunday when the final edition of the 168-year-old rag hits the newsstands.

While a few players may be sweating on what the tabloid has got on them which it has been saving for the rainy day that has finally come, the majority will probably be delighted that they can soon romp and roast with impunity. At least until the inevitable launch of the Sun on Sunday, anyway.

No other media organ reflects football's leap from the back pages to the front over the past two decades quite like the moribund red-top (Early Doors is referring to the newspaper, not shamed editor Rebekah Brooks).

As part of News international - one arm of self-confessed 'billionaire tyrant' Rupert Murdoch's media empire which also includes Sky Sports - the paper has served to bring the beautiful game into the world of celebrity with an alarming series of kiss-and-tells and other assorted scandals. It has helped make household names and brands of a multitude of players, which in turn has helped make the Premier League the financial juggernaut of a brand it is today.

The world is not going to weep for a couple of hundred hacks losing their jobs, even if most of them are paying the price for the sickening and morally reprehensible actions of a few within their organisation.  

But the paper's relationship with football - with the two parties regularly exchanging roles as parasite and host - is, for better or worse, undeniable.

Ever since it broke the story of Tory MP David Mellor's penchant for wearing his Chelsea shirt as he revelled in extra-marital delights in 1992 - the same year as Sky 'invented football' with the formation of the Premier League - the two have often been merry bedfellows.

Having built its reputation on criminal curiosities, such as the murder trial of Dr Crippen, and sordid political sex scandals like the Profumo affair, the Mellor story could be seen as a transitional moment when football began to overtake politics as the main focus of many among the paper's readership.

The front page claiming David Beckham had an affair with Rebecca Loos in 2004 was the most eye-catching in a string of stories exposing footballers cheating on their wives. Soon enough, there was no longer the need even for the tired justification that their position as role models made the stories newsworthy. Just plying your trade for a Premier League club has become enough to deem such information in the public interest. Of course, it is very much a two-way street, with players happy to be snapped on holiday with their partners in order to show their marriage was strong or simply to boost their own profile.

And then there was the Fake Sheikh, Mazher Mahmood. This was the man who found it all too easy to expose the greed and arrogance of those high up in the game via his questionable method is posing as a mega-rich Arab, dangling just enough rope in front of his victims for them to hang themselves.

One of his biggest scores in the football world was catching Newcastle chiefs Freddie Shepherd and Douglas Hall branding the women of Tyneside "dogs" and bragging about the huge mark-up on the club's replica shirts. Another, in 2006, saw him record Sven-Goran Eriksson revealing his bizarre plan to become manager of Aston Villa, and bring Beckham to the club with him, while he was still England boss. The Swede was not in the employ of the FA for too much longer. Funnily enough, ED played in a football match against a team which featured Mahmood not long ago. He was quite a handy goalkeeper. Someone should let Arsene Wenger know that he is available as a free agent.

But perhaps the most bizarre link between the paper - nicknamed the 'News of the Screws' for its sordid exclusives - and the game of football is that involving Glenn Mulcaire. The private investigator who was jailed for six months in 2007 for hacking into the voicemails of royal aides, and is now implicated for doing the same with countless celebrities and innocent, grieving families has an exalted place in the history of AFC Wimbledon.

In 2002 Mulcaire scored the first ever goal for the club after it was formed in the wake of Wimbledon's move to Milton Keynes. At the time, journalist Will Buckley wrote how AFC Wimbledon were only seven promotions from the Premier League and 'Trigger' (as Mulcaire was known) was less than a decade away from being a household name. Nine years later, AFC are in League Two, and Trigger has certainly found fame, albeit not for his exploits on the pitch.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "This is very hurtful and insulting and says a lot about Manchester City. On the one hand they want to become the biggest, most successful club in the world, yet the people who run the club are not acting in that way at all. No one at City is man enough to speak to me face-to-face to explain... I heard this was the same with at least six other players." - Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor has accused the club's hierarchy of not having the stones to tell him he is not wanted. The Sun claims he is considering suing the club for constructive dismissal. Good luck with that.

FOREIGN VIEW: "There are 14 people injured (later rose to 16) and unfortunately there is one fatal injury, in addition to the 14 injuries. Ten people were treated in hospital and two of those people were severely injured. The exact nature of the injuries I cannot tell you at the moment." - A local government spokeswoman for the city of Enschede in the Netherlands reveals that one person has been killed and a further 16 have been injured after a section of the roof at FC Twente's De Grolsch Veste stadium collapsed on Thursday afternoon.

COMING UP: Jim White and Paul Parker will both be dropping in with their latest blogs, and later we will be revealing the winners in our vote to add two central midfielders to our Greatest Premier League XI.

Away from football there will be live text commentary of today's two practice sessions ahead of the Formula One British Grand Prix (09:00 and 13:00), Stage Seven of the Tour de France (11:30) and the first two rubbers in Great Britain's Davis Cup clash with Luxembourg (16:00), with Andy Murray back in the fold.

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