As John Terry and his Chelsea team-mates waited beneath the Stamford Bridge stands to be called on to the pitch to receive the Premier League trophy on Sunday evening, they were interrupted by the progress of a pram down the tunnel.
Politely, they stepped aside and ushered past Carly Cole and her baby. If the British public was shocked by the WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends) culture at the World Cup finals in Germany four years ago, this summer, it would seem, is going to be all about SADs – Sons and Daughters.
Terry and some of his team-mates have at times appeared to personify all that is bad about footballers. In 2006, the paparazzi had a field day in Baden Baden recording the shopping and other perceived excesses of their partners, among them one Carly Zucker (now wife of Joe Cole of Chelsea and England).
But times have changed. Fabio Capello, the stern Italian who will manage England at this summer's World Cup finals in South Africa, has long said he will stand for nothing but the highest standards among his players both on and off the pitch. He famously stripped Terry of the England team captaincy after his public misdemeanours earlier this year.
When the Chelsea players finally got their hands on the trophy, it was not long before it was being passed among an army of children who had flooded on to the pitch in their wake.
"You couldn't move for all the kids out there," said one television producer who was also on the pitch for the festivities. "It was a nice surprise to see the families so involved. It made it all seem so much more human." It is an impression that will prick the interest of agents and advisers up and down the league. "Players have never been more under scrutiny," said one leading football agent. "They are aware they must conduct themselves better."
Most attention was naturally focussed on Terry, who was joined on the pitch by his wife, Toni, as their twins, Summer and Georgie, munched chocolate Premier League winners' medals. But there was barely a player without a child in tow. In four years it has gone from bling to bibs. At Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, Wayne Rooney paraded his son Kai.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager and most successful coach in British football, has long believed marriage is a cornerstone of success on the pitch. "Marriage helps footballers," he said when discussing Rooney last year after his marriage to Coleen. "It helps them settle down. You know where they are, too. It's good for the stability of a footballer."Reuse content