Footballers. It is Sir Alan Sugar's contention this week that they are "Scum, total scum. They don't know what honesty or loyalty is. All they're interested in is themselves."
This is a ludicrous generalisation: as evidence I present to you a team that one day might well represent heaven in their annual grudge match against hell. Obviously, God will be picking the Heaven XI but I'm not sure who'll be coaching the opposition - some might put Sir Alan's name forward, but it is not for me to say.
These 11 names have not just been pulled out of a hat; they have all, over the years, proved themselves to be the keenest workers in the community. My sources are the clubs themselves, journalists, charity workers and, most importantly, the sports administrators who know best which players go the extra mile for those (very much) less fortunate than themselves.
Tactically, there are a number of problems with my team. I'm happy with the strike pairing but there's no balance to the midfield; there's only one full-back in the back four and I'm left with no choice but to pick two goalkeepers. My sources tell me you simply can't choose between Shay Given and Dean Kiely when it comes to the good work they're doing.
What is it about goalkeepers, I wonder? Could it be that they stare into the abyss every time the ball comes towards them or, indeed, every time they pick it out of the back of the net? "Yes," says Kiely, "there could be something in that. The possibility of disaster is never far away, so perhaps we are a little more mindful of the misfortunes of others."
Not that Dean, or any of his 10 team-mates, for a moment, equate their troubles with any of the suffering they regularly witness in the course of their unpaid work. He makes a donation to the Demelza House Children's Hospice every time he keeps a clean sheet.
"I've always been quite well grounded, having played in all the divisions. But seeing the fantastic work the nurses and staff do I'm more aware than ever that I'm paid a lot of money to stand in front of two posts and a crossbar. What I do as a footballer is only a fraction of what I see them doing."
He seems genuinely surprised by the impact footballers can have on a good cause: "It's all about building momentum. When we score a goal we give money and then a company hears about it and has a charity dinner or something. A cricket club wrote to me the other day saying they'd heard about what I was doing and how they'd be making a donation. The fact is once I'm an ex-footballer my stock will be more or less nil so I need to make the most of all this while I still can."
Given, our other goalkeeper, is a patron of Macmillan Cancer Relief and puts in many personal appearances for that and other causes. His involvement is more personal as he lost his mother to cancer when he was five years old. "It was obviously hard, she was never at home, I used to see her in hospital. I remember opening presents by her bed. She died leaving six quite young children, but we stuck together and got through it." With this behind him it's hardly surprising he has his life of plenty firmly in perspective. "You see these young kids in hospitals suffering when they should just be starting out. It really doesn't take long to visit a hospital and if it helps anyone obviously I'm happy to go."
Mario Melchiot, our only full-back, is another with very personal involvement. His brother died of a heart attack at the age of 25 so he works as a British Heart Foundation Ambassador. Elsewhere in the back four our three central defenders are John Terry, patron of Chelsea's community scheme and a persuasive force when it comes to getting others involved; Gareth Southgate, Middlesbrough's Football Foundation ambassador; and Darren Moore, whose generosity and spirit has long had members of West Brom's community department shaking their heads in wonder.
A three-man midfield has Patrick Vieira at its heart, helping to educate African children through his charity Diambars. And buzzing around him we have Southampton's David Prutton, a reading champion for the National Literacy Trust and Lee Carsley of Everton.
Lee's middle child, Connor, has Down Syndrome, but when I somewhat crudely describe this as a misfortune to have befallen Lee he, in the nicest possible way, pulls me up: "It's honestly the best thing that ever happened to me. It brought us closer together as a family and actually made us realise how lucky we are."
Connor's in mainstream education but, having had difficulty finding after-school activities for him, his father is now Everton's Football Foundation ambassador doing lots of work with disabled children.
"I could afford to pay for special help for Connor but others couldn't, so it's great to be able to do something." Carsley, like Kiely, admits to some frustration with the pros who don't make so much of an effort but he remains essentially sanguine about it. "It's all about personal choice. I'd never criticise anyone for not doing so much. Sometimes the club forces everyone to attend some charity event and some players don't want to be there, so why force them? Each to their own."
Our front pairing, Paul Dickov and Alan Smith, are good for goals, red cards and, it turns out, good for goodness too. Dickov works as Blackburn's Social Inclusion Ambassador. Smith is as committed to community work at Manchester United as he was at Leeds.
Incidentally, to accommodate all the others highly recommended to me I'll need a long substitutes' bench. On it will sit Linvoy Primus, Lorenzo Amoruso, Wes Brown, Matthew Upson, Shola Ameobi, Aaron Hughes and Shaka Hislop.
Chris Coleman's efforts in the community mark him out as our manager. As for Alan Sugar, as a gesture of goodwill, I invite him to be this club's chairman, although that may not meet with Kiely's approval: "What he said was a stupid, sweeping statement. It'd be like me saying that every multimillionaire businessman has made shady deals to get to the top. Some have, but that doesn't mean everyone has. It would be a ridiculous thing to say and I wouldn't be daft enough to say it."Reuse content