Spot-fixing is very much back on English football's agenda. Given the opportunity to make a lot of money very quickly and with little effort, Johnny isn't that surprised...
You don't have to be a Manchester United fan to feel nostalgic when you read about the Class of '92. Ordinary boys in the middle of an extraordinary coincidence...
Unfashionably, I'm not really a fan of hard-core pornography (does soft-core even exist anymore?), in fact I'm a bit squeamish about it in the same way I'm squeamish about watching operations or people being sick, and that's even before we get to the politics. I'm more of a doer than a viewer, however, experts in the genre tell me that one thing the proliferation of home-made amateur internet porn between consenting adults has given us, should we chose to view it, is an insight into other people's sex lives. Beforehand, we had no idea if how we were and what we did was regular and normal or weird and perverse. See that thing you like to do with the washing up bottle and the beef dripping? Only you do that, right?
Turns out, as we had all probably assumed, with a few exceptions we're mostly going at it in much the same way and give or a take a few wrinkles, flaps and an inch or three, with much the same equipment and outcomes. But we never used to know about any of this. Until the advent of the internet, regular people's sex lives were a foreign land - one which we only knew about through unreliable reporting and unrepresentative movies
And as with porn, so with football. There's now so much more to see, compare and contrast from all over the world. It's ironic that when British clubs were so dominant in European competitions - the 60s to the 80s - the football watching public was largely culturally insular and distinctly non-cosmopolitan. Even though I was relatively well-read and had a degree in English & History, by my mid 20s I'd only been outside of the UK once. This may have been because of a culturally narrow and economically skint upbringing but it was far from unusual for kids from my background.
Some of the working class went to Spain on package holidays to drink Watneys Red Barrel, eat steak and chips and re-fight the second world war while chanting 'Here we go,' and, more metaphysically, 'You what, you what, you what?' That was the full extent of their Europeanisation. The week-to-week life of non-British football was not known to us at all.
But how life has changed. With the proliferation of coverage of the German, Italian, Spanish and French leagues, as well as from the Americas, the opportunity to watch non-British clubs every week has never been greater.
For me, and I'm sure for many others, this is slowly but surely leading to a situation where the domestic league holds less and less interest. Perhaps due to over-exposure, I'm almost too familiar with the Premier League and its cast of characters, like it's a story I've read and re-read many times so I can't get worked up about it very often.
The only genuine excitement I've felt so far this season is for the prospect of the Champions League and the Europa League. This week I really, really want to see Rafa Benitez's Napoli play Dortmund (did you see them beat Hamburg 6-2? Wow) far more than I wanted to see, say, Southampton play West Ham on Sunday. I want to see Celtic play AC Milan not Manchester United play Crystal Palace. Galatasary v Real Madrid? Oh hell yeah. Chelsea v Fulham? Not so much. I could go on and on.
But it's the same many days of most weeks. Game of the day on Saturday? Inter v Juve. On Sunday I could have watched Reading play Brighton followed by Southampton playing West Ham but I went for an excellent game between Lazio v Chievo instead, followed by a bit of Hoffenheim v Monchengladbach and then a bottom three clash between Eintracht Braunschweig v Nuremberg, while keeping an eye on Lille v Nice. Then there was a choice was between Malaga v Rayo Vallecano and Real Betis v Valencia from Spain, Monaco v Lorient and Lyon v Rennes from France and Sampdoria v Genoa from Serie A. After the excellent Sunday Night Football with James Richardson, I opted for Sampdoria and was rewarded with an excellent local derby played in a sizzling atmosphere.
The few times I switched on to the Reading and Southampton games, there was an ominous dull hum from the crowd which suggested a less than thrilling afternoon, but perhaps that was unrepresentative.
But why did I make those choices? It wasn't just because ex-F365 Euro-wonk Sheridan Bird has got a BT Sport pundit gig, but rather because I had no idea what to expect from any of the games. No preconceptions, no pre-game likes and dislikes and I wouldn't have to watch Sam Allardyce chewing a ball of gum the size of a seagull.
It's not that British football offers no pleasure at all, and I'm not really interested in trying to measure the quality or worth of one league against the other - that seems a fruitless, arbitrary exercise, but what seems to have happened is that my football palette has expanded and I'm hungry for different football dinners these days. I don't want to have to put up with watching a Sam Allardyce team and now I don't have to if there is a game on TV from somewhere else in the world. I want more variety, more education if you like. I'm satisfied far less easily than before world football opened its wings for me and it's also easy to tire of the hype in England about a few star players and the pretence that every game is a massive festival of eyeball melting football orgasm.
This cultural shift has recently been both celebrated and ridiculed as football hipsterishness but I genuinely think it's part of an interesting cultural phenomenon to do with some wanting a broader cultural hinterland.
For example, in the last year I've been watching Danish, French, Italian and Swedish dramas with English subtitles on TV. This was once the sole province of the art house groovers with pointy beards and black polo neck sweaters but I'm not going to miss out on The Killing because it's not set in London and the characters aren't speaking English, am I? That would be perverse and stupid, which is why watching Atletico v Zenit or Bayern Munich play CSKA Moscow this week seems to fit easily with this cultural standpoint.
However, this trend is at the heart of an increasingly big divide in our football culture between those who are barely interested in the game outside of these shores and those who see world football as a smorgasbord to stimulate all of the taste buds. One side tends to look at the other with disdain. The domestic-focused fan sees the love of European football as wilfully pretentious, imasculatingly middle class and nerdish. The other side see the domestic-obsessed punter as a culturally narrow, tribalistic, thicky who is hypnotized by the red top hyped, big dumb-ass English football brands.
What was once one football nation is dividing and never is this fracture more clear than when the Champions League and Europa League tournaments start. For some of us, a minority, I'll admit, it is the best of times, for others only of some interest if a British club is playing...and even then.
In this of all weeks, as the European adventures begin all over again, ask yourself which side of the fence you're on. I know. For me, it's a no brainer.
Even though I was relatively well-read and had a degree in English & History, by my mid 20s I'd only been outside of the UK once. This may have been because of a culturally narrow and economically skint upbringing but it was far from unusual for kids from my background. In what universe does the economically skint, culturally narrow working-class kid get TWO degree's by his mid 20s? Is John "It's grim up north" Nicholson actually a middle-class hipster from Surrey? Hmmmm...- dirtyblonde