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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 

When is a star not a star?

Tabloid editors across the land must have thought that Christmas had come early. After spending all day boozing at various locations, including a visit to a lap-dancing club, the Manchester United squad decamps to the Great John Street Hotel, where, according to "one male guest" courtesy of the Scum:

“I spoke to one stunner who had come up from London and another who had travelled from Newcastle.

“They were gorgeous — it was wall-to-wall babes. Most were aged between 18 and 30 and some were throwing themselves at the players."

It gets worse from there on in. In any case, at 4am the police were called over allegations of rape having taken place within the hotel.

Whenever something such as this happens, the first thing the tabloid editor does is think the worst. In Piers Moron's faux-diaries, he describes how after Concorde crashed that he was excitedly shouting and speculating about just who might have been on board. When his hacks informed him that it was mostly German tourists, he despaired coarsely and wondered how he was going to fill the pages he'd already ordered be set aside. His outburst was sent to Private Eye, which is probably the only reason the incident was included in the diaries at all.

A similar happening would have occurred in Wapping and everywhere else last night. Manchester United player arrested! Who could it be? Ronaldo? Rooney? Giggs? Even Tevez? Err, Jonny Evans. To which, the only cry would be "who he"? He's essentially a reserve team player, having featured in both the Carling Cup and in two of the Champions League games where the team played with a below full-strength side. He's also played for Northern Ireland. Not good enough for a huge splash to fill the glaringly empty pages just before Christmas, though.

It is of course still a big story, as would be any event involving footballers throwing both themselves and their money around. Shaun Wright-Phillips' birthday celebrations recently made the headlines after John Terry allegedly got so drunk that he urinated on the floor and then in a cup. Then again, it was in the News of the Screws, so it probably doesn't have even a grain of truth in it.

Both the Scum and Screws have to tread carefully over any such stories. Both papers have painful memories of having to pay Wayne Rooney £100,000 in damages after they alleged that he had slapped his girlfriend Colleen McCoughlin in front of the other Manchester United players and then told her to "fuck off home", while Frank Lampard, a teammate of Terry's, "writes" a column for the Screws. Private Eye noted that Lampard was described by the Screws' witness as being there but "he wasn't drunk or anything." Just to drum the message in, the photograph of Lampard has "QUIET NIGHT" plastered on it.

A similar non-story was Amy Winehouse's arrest, which had been pre-arranged and completely voluntary, presumably to answer questions about what she knew about her husband's alleged assault and perverting of the course of justice. Not even the Guardian consigned it to the "In Brief" slot it merited, going so far as to fall into the tabloid practice of describing her as troubled in the first word of the piece.

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I suspect that she went along with it and that the stink arose because the boyfriend lost face.

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