Boris joins England's top squad - in the wrong boots

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The Independent Online

Boris Johnson's standing with the British public may have taken a downward turn of late, but he now has a golden opportunity to go some way towards redeeming himself.

Johnson has been awarded the high honour of representing England on the football pitch in a special game against Germany to mark the 40 years since England's World Cup victory.

The aim of the match is to raise funds for the British Red Cross and the Bobby Moore cancer fund, but that should not distract from the importance of an English victory. So seriously are organisers taking it, they've drafted several ex-pros into the team, including Paul Gascoigne and John Barnes.

Boris's role, as Pandora understands it, is to take charge of a defensive line to protect the increasingly creaky legs of Dave "safe hands" Seaman.

It's come as much as a surprise to Boris as it has to his friends. One chum tells me his sporting prowess at school was usually confined to the rugby scrum rather than providing any ball-dribbling skills.

"Boris is chuffed to bits to be asked, albeit slightly surprised," says one. "He's not really a footy man, but he's game to give it a go. He's told them he'll have to play in his rugger boots as he doesn't have anything else."

Unfortunately, I was unable to contact Johnson for any of his views over the weekend.

* After upsetting the animal rights lobby during the 1980s for an alleged (but totally false) fondness for munching hamsters, comedian Freddie Starr is now about to kick off an almighty row with the residents of Blackpool.

Starr recently cancelled a performance at the town's Opera House at the last minute, after making the embarrassing discovery he'd only sold 252 of tickets for the 3,000-capacity venue. But if that wasn't enough for Blackpudlians who showed up for the gig, he's now taken bitter swipe at the town, vowing never to set foot there again.

"Blackpool is finished," he told the Blackpool Gazette. "I don't think I'll come back. I don't want to see Blackpool like this. It really hurts me."

Opera House officials are livid with Starr's behaviour and are thought to be considering legal action over his no-show. He's adamant though that the failure to fill the venue was through no fault of his own.

"How is that I play elsewhere to big audiences but not here?" he added.

* Despite the doomsday predictions for Kate Moss's career from so-called public relations gurus six months ago, the Croydon-born model seems to be right back on track.

Such is Moss's phoenix-like rise from the ashes (she's reported to have bagged £11m in contracts since her cocaine-snorting scandal), talk was that her former employers at Burberry were on the verge of inviting her back into the fold.

Unfortunately for Moss, that doesn't look likely to happen any time soon. The British fashion house has just reported a major rise in sales since taking on the Oscar- winning actress Rachel Weisz as her replacement.

"It's unlikely Burberry will force Weisz to make way now," I'm told. "It'll be a blow for Kate, because she was desperate to get back with them - it was the jewel in her crown for seven years, after all."

* Product placement might be an absolute no-go area when you're appearing on the venerable BBC, but on Sky News, clearly, anything goes.

The 24-hour cable TV channel ran a news package covering the "cash for peerages" scandal all through last Friday which included a piece to camera with The Spectator magazine's political editor, Peter Oborne.

Behind him, a copy of this week's Speccie stood in full view on a makeshift stand which the cheeky Oborne had clearly erected prior to the interview.

What's more, the cover story just so happened to be an inside report on the BNP by, yup, Peter Oborne.

Canny fellow!

* Anouska Hempel falls into that category of well-heeled women who will stop at nothing to get what they want, whatever the price. She recently surprised fellow hoteliers when she bought back Blakes hotel, which she had previously sold to a Malaysian property developer in 2004.

So keen was Hempel to get her mitts back on the luxury Chelsea establishment that friends say she happily parted with a fair whack more than she sold it for.

"She maintained a role at the hotel after it was sold, but was becoming increasingly annoyed with what the buyers were doing with the place," I'm told.

"She didn't particularly like having to deal with them either, so when it became clear that they wanted to sell, Anouska jumped at the chance to bring it back under her watch."

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