Artsy arses are getting rarer

I was at the Emirates Stadium being driven mad by the flashing adverts round the side of the pitch - God, they do annoy me, constantly changing every few seconds. They're now as bad at Spurs. I don't know how the players cope. Watching at home, you don't realise it, as most camera angles are taken slightly from above. In the flesh, you can't avoid them, shattering your eyeline.

So, at first, I didn't understand what this bloke in front of me was shouting at. "Look at the arse on that!" he said. How demeaning, how sexist - we don't use that sort of language at White Hart Lane.

Naturally, I turned to look where he was pointing, and it wasn't at a female fan, but a player slowly dragging himself to his feet, namely Kevin Davies of Bolton, whom Arsenal fans had been roundly booing all afternoon. Since Robbie Savage dropped divisions, fewer players get automatically booed.

And the bloke was right - Davies does have a big bum, the better, of course, to shield the ball and hold defenders off and, in his case, to use as an offensive weapon. You often hear commentators talk about an "educated left foot", but you never hear them refer to a "cultured bum" or an "artistic arse". Kenny Dalglish had one. So did Maradona.

They are rarer these days because footballers are bred taller but thinner. It is not, of course, a matter of being fat, for Kevin Davies is not fat, just broad around the beam.

Those who genuinely tend to fat get pilloried mercilessly, like Benni McCarthy of West Ham, or find themselves not getting picked, like Andy Reid, currently at Sunderland. He's quite slender at the moment, or so he appeared when he came on as sub last weekend. Now, he has an educated left foot, but his belly has always let him down as he waddles over to take corners.

Jan Molby of Liverpool, he was a porker, but again a very clever player who didn't seem to worry too much when he put on the odd stone. He hardly ever bothered to leave the centre circle, which helped. Gazza, in his days at Newcastle, used to put on about two stone every summer, stuffing his face with ice creams and cocktails, and then work like an idiot to get it all off. Rival fans used to throw Mars bars at him, which he would pick up and bite.

Rival fans love shouting “fat bastard", whether a player is really fat or not, such as Frank Lampard, doing it to annoy. Which seems to work. Lampard always looks miserable.

The point about physique in football - being small and weedy or chunky and big-bummed - is that basically it doesn't matter. There's room for all sorts, all shapes, if you can do the biz.

But we'll probably never see the likes again of Fatty Foulkes, Chelsea's goalkeeper in 1905-1906, who weighed 22 stone. He would come down early in the team hotel and eat all 11 breakfasts. By the time he moved on to Bradford City, he was 25 stone. He died in 1916, aged only 42 - supposedly having caught a chill while saving penalties for pennies on Blackpool Beach.

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 27 September 2010 issue of the New Statesman, The 50 people who matter