CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. We can survive a dip but we risk a fatal plunge (Times)

Anatole Kaletsky warns that if growth falters and the coalition doesn't moderate its macho cuts, a vicious downward spiral beckons, which could start a prolonged, potentially catastrophic recession.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. It's time to stand up to the Treasury (Independent)

Christina Patterson urges Iain Duncan Smith to hold his ground in his row with the Treasury over funding for his welfare reforms.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. A Lib Dem civil war? Surely we're forgetting something (Guardian)

John Harris looks ahead to potential tension at the Lib Dem conference. That the party has delivered power will probably be more than enough to keep a lid on any trouble.

4. Bush tax cuts for the rich must go (Financial Times)

By letting the tax cuts for the top 2 per cent of households expire on schedule, say John Podesta and Robert Greenstein, policymakers can continue to help middle-class families while harvesting low-hanging fruit on deficit reduction.

5. Parties must abandon the sordid dash for cash (Times)

MPs waste too much time sucking up to rich donors, says Alice Thomson. No one gives money to a political party unless they expect something in return -- which is exactly what they get.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

6. In the name of purity, public funds are wasted on the rich (Guardian)

From IVF to universities and museums, says Simon Jenkins, Britain's aversion to charging for services punishes women, students and the poor. Charging, paying and pricing must not be seen as morally corrupt.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. The myth of the forgotten middle class (Independent)

There is no danger that politicians will forget the concerns of the middle class, says the Labour leadership hopeful Diane Abbott. Only when the party leaves the "New Labour" era behind will voters of all classes trust it again.

8. There is an alternative to a shrivelled Britain (Times)

Another Labour leadership contender, David Miliband, argues that it's not denial to reject the coalition's plans on deficit reduction. It is Labour's duty to expose the risks of economic masochism and the "big society".

Read the CommentPlus summary.

9. We need states to be smarter, not bigger (Financial Times)

Ajay Chhibber, UN assistant secretary general, asks what the appropriate role of the state is after the financial crisis. It has reached its size-limit in the developed world, but could up its role in finance.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

10. Deluges after the deluge (Guardian)

Catastrophic floods in Pakistan are likely to recur, warns Julian Hunt, as global warming combines with El Niño, a climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean every five years on average.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

Getty
Show Hide image

What David Hockney has to tell us about football

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times