It started with a myth

Oh, the lies we love to tell. Hunter Davies kicks a few of them into touch

One of the minor side effects of writing books about so-called celebs is that you begin to see stuff from their point of view - how they get pissed off by stories that are rubbish and then have to put up with the same old lies, myths and mistakes being set in concrete in the cuttings, repeated for ever and ever. A bit upsetting, really, when I think of all the generalisations I've trotted out based on very little.

Take Rooney. Now I don't know why he's lost form, and I don't suppose he does either. It happens at his age. And will pass. But has it got anything to do with the World Cup incident when Cristiano Ronaldo wanted the ref to give Rooney a card?

Immediately when it happened, the studio pundits were predicting a punch-up between Ronaldo and Rooney when they got back to training at Man United. One newspaper reported that Rooney had to be restrained from going into the Portuguese dressing room to thump Ronaldo.

Last Saturday, Richard Williams in the Guardian - normally my favourite footie writer, now that Simon Barnes of the Times has gone pretentious - gave credence to a theory by the writer Gordon Burn. He argued that when they got back to Man United, Fergie warned Rooney not to have a go at Ronaldo because Ronaldo is so valuable to the club. This has had the effect, so Burn maintains, of Rooney "being constrained, he can't express himself". Ergo, he is "not being himself as a player". Smart theory, huh?

It is so useful when great philosophical and literary figures, such as Julie Burchill, turn their fine minds to the subject of football. More and more intellectuals are coming into football and getting their pensées published by eminent firms.

Last week, in these pages, Emma John was arguing that our obsession with football has got out of hand. She was suggesting, or more like hoping, on very little evidence, that there might be a backlash. No chance, Emma. Not when all these people are flooding in to give us their opinions.

Gordon Burn's theory is interesting enough, and well argued, but is basically bollocks. Rooney bore no resentment against Ronaldo. The minute the Portuguese game was over, Rooney, while still on the team coach, sent a text to his friend Ronnie, saying forget the incident, and wished Portugal good luck. He has repeated this since, said so in his autobiography, explained that they are good friends, and yet still no one wants to believe it.

There is an oft-repeated story about the Rooney family and the family of Coleen, his fiancée, having a punch-up at a birthday party. It gets trotted out all the time. Some of the Rooneys did get into an argument with some bouncers, but there was no fighting between the families.

When I was working on Gazza's book, I was always reading how fat and bloated he had become, now that he'd finished playing, when the opposite was true. It was part of the urban myth that believes Gazza has ended up in the gutter, or will very soon.

David Mellor reported in the London Evening Standard that Gazza was back living with his dad in his "two up, two down". Which wasn't the case. And, anyway, his dad has a nice suburban semi in Newcastle. And still lives there. Which made a story in the Times all the more remarkable. On 7 December 2005 it stated that Gazza's dad had died "of a brain haemorrhage when Paul was 11".

You have to laugh. Football is, after all, a funny old game.

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