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...
Anyone who has spent any time in the world of rock 'n' roll at any level knows that it's full of crazy.
It's full of people who are on the run from the straight world and looking for a place where their weirdness won't stand out quite so much. Foremost in this community are drummers. I don't know what it is about drummers but 95% of them are certifiable whack-jobs. Maybe they take up pounding the skins to assuage the madness in their souls. Some are the Keith Moon-style, booze and drug-fuelled hellraisers, others are monk-like aesthetes, over-focused on percussion instruments, others still are committed can't-get-enough, Tommy Lee-style sexual adventurers.
Almost no-one who has been in a band hasn't at one time or another got sick of the drummer because the drummer is too crazy. It goes with the territory. But often the craziest drummers are also the best drummers so you stick with them because he is the most important guy in rock 'n' roll. A leaden, unimaginative beat just pulls everyone down whereas a lunatic, expansive sticks-man just lifts proceedings to a new level. So you tolerate the drummer's idiosyncrasies as much as humanly possible because we realise the importance of letting creativity flow so that roll will assuredly follow rock.
As ever, football could learn from this rock 'n' roll tradition, as was all-too obvious when I was reading the reports of Jack Wilshere smoking. Jesus Christ, the panty-wetters couldn't wait to come out in force to condemn him. Jack, Jack, Jack, didn't you know you've got to look after your body? Good grief, think of the children when you're mainlining your drugs - they're already calling it Jacking Up y'know. Think of your fitness, Jack, what about your precious lung capacity?
Oh Jack, what have you done? We're all so disappointed that you wanted to raise your dopamine levels a little with some sweet, sweet nicotine. No-one who is serious about their football would do that, would they? What a bad example, look how sad your manager is. Oh Jack.
Inevitably, he was then told by ex-pros and other superannuated nannies to look at Ryan Giggs as an example. Okay, all this yoga has aged him terribly and he does look like he's in his 50s already but he won't even eat butter for fear it makes him sluggish. That's how dedicated he is, Jack. This is all too symptomatic of the creep of the fitness fascist into football.
The game has got faster and consequently players have to be super-fit athletes to keep up. Fitness is everything even though we're often told the English game is too fast. We need to slow down, gain possession and be more intelligent like those World Cup and Euros winning and smoking Spaniards, Italians and Germans. Germans such as, oh yes, a bloke called Mesut Ozil who it seems likes an occasional fag and a drink too.
It might not be a good idea for someone who relies on lung-busting runs for his living to be smoking all day but Wilshere is actually one of the few Englishmen who has the talent, vision and skill in his feet to put a foot on the ball and do something other than run like a dog out of a trap. Without players like Wilshere, modern football is just sterile athletics, as we will be only too well aware later this week when we watch Danny Welbeck turn out for England. So what if he's slower because he smokes a fag occasionally? We have plenty of people to do his running for him, but almost none who can get their head up and make something happen.
It seems that we are making the mistake of replacing the biggest kid in the school mentality with a fastest, fittest kid in the school mentality; obsessed with speed and endurance, seemingly unaware that at some point you need someone on the ball who can be creative. This is part of so-called professionalism though; a form of professionalism that crushes the maverick and the oddball in favour of the grunt monkey.
Francesco Totti, like many of those pesky world Cup-winning Italians, has also been known to have a few smokes. He's 37 but looks ten years younger than the hallowed non-buttering Giggs and is still tearing it up at Roma with a great performance this weekend. His control and lay-off for their third goal was sublime and I bet he doesn't look at a pat of butter and worry it's going to slow him down a bit. Nor a smoke. He doesn't look that neurotic. Rather he looks the sort not to give a f*ck. Rightly so. He's a bloody genius and we need bloody geniuses.
Football played by super-fit athletes who can run for 95 minutes and whose worth is measured by how many metres they've covered is not football at all, it's a track-and-field meet and that's where we seem to be heading with the obsession with hyper-fitness and so-called appropriate lifestyles. Is this really what we want? In an era replete with statistics, we risk measuring everything but understanding nothing about why we're even watching.
Just like rock 'n' roll needs its brilliant drummers, so football needs it creative geniuses and frankly, whatever they need to do to get their buzz on they should be indulged to do. In the past, this was understood and creative players flourished throughout world football. But now we have the health brigade puking their misanthropic muesli minds and moral ministrations all over us in a slurry of sanitised sanctimony, the creative genius is a much more rare commodity. I'd much rather pay to see a fat Jan Molby spraying the ball around but not moving out of the centre circle rather than some sweat-jockey with little skill or vision but who can run 14km per game.
Ironically, England had their most successful tournaments with at least a couple of semi-functioning alcoholics in the squad and they're not alone in that down the years. You need to be fit to some degree to play football but we should always remember football isn't a fitness test, it's entertainment.
If health and fitness is really so important in football, why are the FA and clubs happy to take advertising money from so-called 'partners' who purvey energy-dense, nutrition-poor fast food, from strong booze merchants, from soft drinks which are increasingly associated with type 2 diabetes, and from empty-calorie, hyper-active-kid-inducing confectionery manufacturers. You'll find plenty of people who will tell you just how corrupting to your body sugar, artificial sweeteners, refined carbohydrates and refined vegetable oils are on a day-to-day consumption basis. But smoking? It's almost regarded as morally wrong.
Matt Le Tissier was the least fit man on the pitch but was the dude you paid your money to see. In today's fascist fitness regimes, Le Tissier wouldn't even be a professional footballer and neither would many of the great talents of the past. See what we lose by this over-obsession with super-fitness? Who knows what talent is overlooked or doesn't flourish because of it. All in the name of being that most over-used word 'professional.' But surely a good professional footballer, just like a good rock 'n' roll drummer, is one who entertains and excites, not merely the one who is fittest.
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Wilshere scored last Saturday so the fags aren't doing him much harm thus far :) Seriously, If people want to smoke let them at it. No one can claim ignorance of the dangers of regular heavy smoking (this isn't btw, there's no evidence that Wilshere regularly partakes of the Bennys) at this stage He's 21 not 12 so if he wants to have a puff and it knocks a few years of his career then that's his problem. Everyone else should unbunch their panties and live their own lives- boycee