Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Could Cameron be a bit frit about facing Miliband in TV debates? (Observer)

David Cameron's cold feet about televised leaders' debates suggest a new respect for his Labour opposite number, writes Andrew Rawnsley.

2. America: Too many guns, too little will to change (Independent on Sunday)

Newtown, Connecticut, joins a rollcall of towns whose names become synonymous with violent death, writes Rupert Cornwell. The President has a fight on his hands.

3. American fantasies that lead to massacre (Sunday Times) (£)

The ideal of guns as self-protection owes little to evidence and much to cultural fears, writes David Frum.

4. Where does Danny Boyle’s Britain go from here? (Sunday Telegraph)

We inhabit a pluralistic society – and identifying the common ground is the most pressing challenge for the 21st-century politician, says Matthew d'Ancona.

5. The coalition's in good cheer - so the hangover will be terrible (Mail on Sunday)

The subject on which Cameron and Clegg most disagree - Europe - cannot be avoided much longer, says James Forsyth.

6. Secular Britain is ruled by religious bureaucrats (Observer)

Why is the church still such a force in our society when most of us disregard its clerics' teachings, asks Nick Cohen.

7. Is Scotland in Europe? The SNP doesn’t even know (Sunday Telegraph)

The Scottish Nationalist Party is offering us a one-way ticket to a deeply uncertain future, says Alistair Darling.

8. Clegg has a mind-altering plan for power (Independent on Sunday)

The Liberal Democrat leader has to look for what he might call niche demographics – on an industrial scale, writes John Rentoul.

9. What a week that was for idiotic politics (Sunday Telegraph)

The commitment to gay marriage is seen as some sort of analogue with the Blairite renunciation of Labour’s Clause Four, writes Janet Daley.

10. Never has London seemed more like a city state apart (Observer)

The census suggests a huge gap between the lives and concerns of Londoners and their fellow Britons, says Catherine Bennett.

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If there’s no booze or naked women, what’s the point of being a footballer?

Peter Crouch came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

At a professional league ground near you, the following conversation will be taking place. After an excellent morning training session, in which the players all worked hard, and didn’t wind up the assistant coach they all hate, or cut the crotch out of the new trousers belonging to the reserve goalie, the captain or some senior player will go into the manager’s office.

“Hi, gaffer. Just thought I’d let you know that we’ve booked the Salvation Hall. They’ll leave the table-tennis tables in place, so we’ll probably have a few games, as it’s the players’ Christmas party, OK?”

“FECKING CHRISTMAS PARTY!? I TOLD YOU NO CHRISTMAS PARTIES THIS YEAR. NOT AFTER LAST YEAR. GERROUT . . .”

So the captain has to cancel the booking – which was actually at the Salvation Go Go Gentlemen’s Club on the high street, plus the Saucy Sporty Strippers, who specialise in naked table tennis.

One of the attractions for youths, when they dream of being a footballer or a pop star, is not just imagining themselves number one in the Prem or number one in the hit parade, but all the girls who’ll be clambering for them. Young, thrusting politicians have similar fantasies. Alas, it doesn’t always work out.

Today, we have all these foreign managers and foreign players coming here, not pinching our women (they’re too busy for that), but bringing foreign customs about diet and drink and no sex at half-time. Rotters, ruining the simple pleasures of our brave British lads which they’ve enjoyed for over a century.

The tabloids recently went all pious when poor old Wayne Rooney was seen standing around drinking till the early hours at the England team hotel after their win over Scotland. He’d apparently been invited to a wedding that happened to be going on there. What I can’t understand is: why join a wedding party for total strangers? Nothing more boring than someone else’s wedding. Why didn’t he stay in the bar and get smashed?

Even odder was the behaviour of two other England stars, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. They made a 220-mile round trip from their hotel in Hertfordshire to visit a strip club, For Your Eyes Only, in Bournemouth. Bournemouth! Don’t they have naked women in Herts? I thought one of the points of having all these millions – and a vast office staff employed by your agent – is that anything you want gets fixed for you. Why couldn’t dancing girls have been shuttled into another hotel down the road? Or even to the lads’ own hotel, dressed as French maids?

In the years when I travelled with the Spurs team, it was quite common in provincial towns, after a Saturday game, for players to pick up girls at a local club and share them out.

Like top pop stars, top clubs have fixers who can sort out most problems, and pleasures, as well as smart solicitors and willing police superintendents to clear up the mess afterwards.

The England players had a night off, so they weren’t breaking any rules, even though they were going to play Spain 48 hours later. It sounds like off-the-cuff, spontaneous, home-made fun. In Wayne’s case, he probably thought he was doing good, being approachable, as England captain.

Quite why the other two went to Bournemouth was eventually revealed by one of the tabloids. It is Lallana’s home town. He obviously said to Jordan Henderson, “Hey Hendo, I know a cool club. They always look after me. Quick, jump into my Bentley . . .”

They spent only two hours at the club. Henderson drank water. Lallana had a beer. Don’t call that much of a night out.

In the days of Jimmy Greaves, Tony Adams, Roy Keane, or Gazza in his pomp, they’d have been paralytic. It was common for players to arrive for training still drunk, not having been to bed.

Peter Crouch, the former England player, 6ft 7in, now on the fringes at Stoke, came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

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 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage