In contrast, the grit in the programme's oyster, so to speak, was Ann Lee, wife of Jason, the striker who took so much stick from Newman and Baddiel about his pineapple hairdo (and habit of missing open goals) that his confidence was shot to pieces and he slid down the professional ladder into Nottingham Forest reserves. After Suzi Walker had shown us round her Ongar love nest, Lee gave us a reality restorative: "I wouldn't wish it on anybody," she said of her life. She met Jason when he was playing for her father's team when she was 15, and has been a grass widow for too long to be starstruck. "I hate football," she said. "I don't know if it's because it was rammed down my throat since an early age. I think netball should be on telly, not football."
For Ian Walker, it was love at first sight. He opened page three and there was his future wife. Blind date fixed, she read the sports magazines to see what she was letting herself in for, but there was nothing about Ian - an outrage later rectified when he was named Sexiest Footballer of the Year by the Nobel Prize Committee or United Nations Security Council or someone similar.
As we see her fluffing her introductory lines to Hiya! (a cheap shot this, one of several the film couldn't resist) David Hahn, her agent, trundled into view, coming across in his bilious green jacket (I once saw an identical one on the back of porn supremo David Sullivan at an awards dinner) like one of those ambitious but hopelessly self-deluded characters Mike Leigh is ruthless in dissecting - think Timothy Spall in Life is Sweet.
Hahn had gleaned his script from the tabloid showbiz pages, and his analyses of the celebrity lifestyle were magnificently unenlightening. "On planes they might even find themselves next to royalty," he slavered, on the subject of footballers who get rich quick. In one interview sequence, shot bizarrely in a restaurant as he stuffed his face with what appeared to be chicken satay (or it might just have been a very runny kebab), he gave us the benefits of his theories of celebrity and physical attractiveness.
"If you're going to be in the public eye you want to look good, you want to feel good," he said as satay sauce dribbled down his chin (well, almost). "If you're earning big money - this is the whole glitz - it's a whole aurora around the industry. It's a case of they like to be seen in the right places and they always like to be seen with good-looking people. It's very unusual that you'd see a footballer wandering in a nightclub or wandering out in a restaurant with someone who's extremely -" there was an almost unrecordably short pause while he considered the blatancy of what he was about to say - "ugly".
While Sam Holdsworth spoke soulfully of the "devastation" she felt when Love Rat Deano was caught with his trousers round his ankles, it was left to Ann Lee to tell it like it is. "They meet a footballer, they think, `Cor, money, limelight. I'll have some of that.' " And to be fair to the gold-diggers, she says, footballers are a pushover: "They'll shag anything."
Intercut with shots of Lee studying for her maths and English "O" levels while she waited to hear whether her husband, unwanted by Forest, signed for Watford (she doesn't want to leave Nottingham) were scenes of Walker being shown round a mock Jacobean "mansion" that for all its chandeliers and panelling had as much character as a Happy Eater, and Holdsworth's ill-advised foray into crap pop music. As she was paying the producers and agents herself (according to the programme, at least), at best her efforts were aural vanity publishing. There were some nice shots of the two agents on their carphones following up the demo tapes: "So you've got the tape. What d'you think of it?" Pause while the person on the other end presumably says "it's the biggest load of cack I've ever heard." "Ah," said the agent, trying not to let the disappointment show. Another cheap trick had Holdsworth singing with the backing track on her headphones, so she sounded like Eddie Murphy mangling "Roxanne" at the beginning of 48 Hours. Yet another saw each of the three struggling with an explanation of the offside law (would a metallurgist's wife be expected to describe the properties of titanium?)
At the end, Walker's cable career continued and Holds-worth's pop aspirations re- mained thankfully unfulfilled, while Jason Lee signed for Watford, which meant that Ann would keep the kids in Nottingham while he stays at his mum's, though she said that they will stay together - "I can see us going all the way till we drop dead." The last shot, as Lee turned out for his new side, was of Ann looking pensive and long-suffering. Whatever the distaff equivalent of a diamond geezer is, she's it.