Jason Barlow: I wouldn't expect anything less from our top footballers

Manchester. Northern city; one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution. Not much in the way of mountainous terrain, mucky fields or even small, grassy hillocks. Pretty urban, frankly. Especially round Old Trafford. And as for Highbury, well it's not really very high is it? Just the one steepish hill, if I recall, and easily dealt with even on a bicycle. I think I managed it myself once. Stamford Bridge? Flatter than the proverbial witch's bosom.

So, what is it exactly with our Premiership footballers? A survey in fresh-faced, new "lads'' weekly Nuts reveals, among other things, that a resounding 116 Premiership players travel to and from work in a small organ conveyance, or SUV for short. Well, it was hardly likely to be the number 59 bus, was it?

Other star performers in this Mammon-worshipping list include the glorious and in no way tumescent Aston Martin Vanquish (favoured by 18 players), the Jaguar XK8 (15), the Ferrari 360 Modena Spider (10) and the BMW M3 (9).

Add the value of that little lot up, and you might just about stretch to an annual season ticket for Manchester United and a kebab on the way home. Note also the total absence of the Nissan Micra. Or in Thierry Henry's case, the Renault Clio.

Va-va voom, M. Henry? "Non merci, je prefere L'Aston Martin, if it's all the same to you."

This is a devastatingly predictable roll-call of automotive excess, but you've got to admit there's a certain pleasing symmetry to it. It seems only right and proper that some of the most over-rated, overpaid clods in the country should ferry themselves from nightclub to nightclu ... sorry, intense training session to intense training session, in what many right-thinking people regard as the most socially repugnant form of motor vehicle there is. I'm only surprised that Porsche's Cayenne, the Idi Amin of off-roaders, doesn't feature more heavily. Next year, perhaps.

To be honest, football doesn't interest me very much. Cars do, though, and you hardly need to be Sigmund Freud to work out what's going on here. The subtext is as clear as the worry-lines on Kevin Keegan's face (obviously I know a little bit about the beautiful game, more than Keegan, if Man City's current form is anything to go by).

So, let's have a closer look at this list, shall we. League leader (do you see what I've done there?) is the BMW X5. An incredible 48 of our favourite footballing heroes drive one of Munich's finest - Nicky Butt, Damian Duff, Joseph-Desire Job and Titus Bramble among them, although I suspect those last two are actually characters in a Martin Amis novel.

To be fair, the X5 is the least ponderous and most genuinely sporty of the off-road breed, although its popularity among the footballing fraternity has earned it the pejorative "training ground taxi". Worth bearing in mind before you order one, although the waiting list for BMW's five-year-old 4x4 still stretches some way into next year. Presumably because all these bloody footballers keep snapping them up.

Next is the Range Rover, which racked up a record total of 35,000-odd sales in 2003. Thirty-seven of these were to Premiership players, who will have helped Land Rover's bottom line no end by specifying all manner of profitable little peccadilloes, such as unique oak interiors, DVD screens and, of course, privacy glass. A "basic" Range Rover costs £50,995, if you were wondering.

As for the Aston Vanquish, well it's obviously fabulous, but as at least three Manchester United players have one, may I suggest that one player switches to the new DB9, just to be, you know, different. Rio Ferdinand, perhaps. He'll soon have plenty of time to get to grips with it.

Please spare a thought, too, for those poor souls at Elland Road. As Leeds United's cash crisis continues, it seems the players may have to undergo a "wage deferral". Whatever next, eh? Maybe we'll see Mark Viduka on the number 59 bus after all.

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