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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Protect Britain in a two-speed Europe (Financial Times)

States outside the eurozone should not be at disadvantage in the EU, write George Osborne and Wolfgang Schäuble.

2. Children don’t earn their inheritance. Tax it (Times)

A fair society would let people keep as much of their earnings as possible but take a cut from property and land, says Philip Collins. 

3. Osborne must not run scared of housing (Daily Telegraph)

If the Chancellor is charging up the nation’s credit card, he should spend it on property, says Jeremy Warner. 

4. Farage's TV debate has lit the European touchpaper – are we in or out? (Guardian)

Britain is a step closer to leaving Europe this week, writes Polly Toynbee. It is high time all who fear an exit from the union spoke out against the liars.

5. Only one person is laughing at the Farage-Clegg EU pantomime (Daily Telegraph)

The PM is offering a grown-up discussion on radical reform of the European Union, along with the Germans and Dutch, says Fraser Nelson. 

6. We should thank Putin for one thing - the west is once again the West (Independent)

Thanks to Mr Putin it is experiencing a frisson of unity it has not known for a long time, writes Peter Popham. 

7. Why foxhunting has become an unspeakable topic (Daily Telegraph)

A reluctance to address the contentious issue of foxhunting is dividing the Tory party, says Isabel Hardman. 

8. Labour is part of the problem, not the solution (Guardian)

Its rhetoric may be softer than the Tories', but the party still puts profit before people, says Ken Loach. Left Unity offers a new voice.

9. Osborne had to aid spenders over savers (Financial Times)

The Chancellor’s plans, if implemented, mean turning the government into a substantial net saver, writes Martin Wolf. 

10. Price of Power (Times)

Energy suppliers say that a competition inquiry would interfere with investment plans, but it must go ahead, says a Times editorial. 

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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