Pandora: Why Chelsea are the bookie's favourites

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The Independent Online

Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich's billions aren't just enriching his mollycoddled players the wealth is also trickling down to local businesses.

Since moving into their state-of-the-art training centre in Cobham, Surrey, several of Abramovich's players are known to have become regulars at the poky local bookmaker belonging to Coral.

It was even reported a couple of years ago that the team's captain, John Terry, and his colleague Wayne Bridge had blown as much as £13,000 during a single three-hour visit.

To accommodate their affluent clientele, I hear Coral's bosses are now responding to the demand by opening a new, "bigger and better" shop a few yards down the high street.

"It's not uncommon to see several of the players' flashy gas guzzlers parked outside on a weekday," I'm reliably informed by one local.

"They're often in there, so news that Coral have decided to expand shouldn't come as a surprise."

Handily, a spokesman for Coral confirms that the new premises will be ready by the early stages of the coming football season.

"The opening is imminent," he tells Pandora happily. "It's just down the road from the existing smaller shop. We are looking to provide something bigger and better for the benefit of our customers."

Emily's Russian faux pas Lithuania

Another day, another anecdote from the delightfully self-deprecating British starlet Emily Mortimer.

Mortimer, whose dodgy running action, as I reported, had to be edited from her new movie Transsiberian, met with further embarrassment on the shoot in Lithuania.

"I was so looking forward to it, because I would be able to practise my little phrases and curse in Russian, and they would think I'm cool, but it was just going down like a cup of cold sick," says the Russian-speaking actress.

"Then someone pointed out that Lithuania had been brutally oppressed by the Soviet Union for about 70 years and the least cool thing I could do was to speak Russian."

Say what you... like?

Over the years, the Edinburgh Festival has been the launchpad for many a celebrity comeback. Take Roy "say what you see" Walker, appearing in a one-man show based on his 13 years presenting Catchphrase.

"I've been offered a tour and I'm replacing Joan Rivers at the Leicester Square theatre in October," he tells Pandora. "I'm thrilled, it's great material for my book. It's a semi-autobiography: no one writes the whole truth in those things do they?"

On target with new film

Irvine Welsh is a busy wee fellow.

Along with penning his prequel to his debut hit Trainspotting, the novelist has announced he will be making his TV directorial debut with Good Arrows. Welsh is hoping ITV 4 will screen the film, a mockumentary on a darts player.

"It's a very funny script," he says. "We've got a chance to make something without interference from the suits, which is what attracted us."

MP's nuclear fallout

See apology, 17 October 2008

Pint-sized Labour MP Ian McCartney got his Y-fronts in a twist when I recently brought up the sensitive matter of his advisory work for the US nuclear firm Fluor. "Macca" declared that his Fluor salary (more than £110,000 a year) allowed him to "employ someone from my Makerfield constituency." Judging by the comparatively modest salaries of other backbench MPs' staff, we can only presume McCartney is unusually generous.

Author seeks more controversy

Few novelists have whipped up quite so much of a storm in modern times as James Frey.

Apt, then, that for his next project, the American scribe – whose gut-wrenching "memoir" A Million Little Pieces turned out to be a work of fiction – is attempting to enlist two of the British cultural scene's leading controversialists.

"I'm going to try and get Banksy or Damien Hirst to do the cover for my next book because I know what I want it to be," he tells Pandora. "If I can get one of those guys to do it, it would be amazing."

The book will be called The Final Testament of the Bible, which Frey describes as a "reaction to the religious fundamentalism we're seeing all over the world."

Sounds right up Hirst's street.