Mike Rowbottom: Views from transfer window reveal the transparency of lies

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The Independent Football

Are lies like cuts? Is the first one the deepest? I can't remember exactly when I began lying (is that true?) but the earliest instance I recall concerned the mysterious disappearance of gaudy foil-wrapped chocolates which hung from our family Christmas tree some days before schedule.

I say mysterious, because my parents appeared to be unsure about what had happened to these chocolates. I, of course, knew, having carefully removed and consumed every one, leaving - and here's the cunning bit - the foil hanging from the branches.

My subterfuge was discovered, however, and I had to fall back upon Plan B - denial. Since then, I admit, the number of lies I have told may even have approached double figures.

My stupidest lie occurred while I was being interviewed for a place at university. On my application form, under "Interests", I had put "reading". Upon handing the form to our school secretary, I was told that this was neither instructive nor surprising given that I was applying to study English. Titles were needed. All I could picture was the small pile of books on my bedside table, of which the majority were by Kurt Vonnegut. There was also, however, my father's copy of The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. So I mentioned that.

Fast forward two months, and I am in a college room with a Senior Tutor and my potential Director of Studies. The latter is studying my application. "You say here you have read The Brothers Karamazov..." he begins. I agree.

There's a girl walking across the courtyard. Why would a girl be here? It's a men's college. Perhaps she's a girlfriend. Perhaps I would have a girlfriend if I came here, but I won't be coming here, because I've just been asked about The Brothers Karamazov.

The question was re-phrased. "When the public prosecutor says, 'There are no Hamlets, only Karamazovs,' what do you think he meant by that?" Tricky one, in the circumstances... "What does that suggest to you?" Both men are now looking at me with expressions of curiosity. There's nothing else for it. "That suggests to me that I haven't read The Brothers Karamazov." The Tutor starts to laugh. The Director of Studies looks at me with a mixture of anger and contempt.

As I say, I've probably told the odd lie or two since The Christmas Tree Incident. But I reckon the total of falsehoods offered has been minuscule compared to the number received.

If that sounds jaundiced, you'll have to forgive me. Reading the sports pages this week has been enough to make anyone feel a little off colour.

This may be the month of the football transfer window, but the public utterances it has provoked have been anything but transparent.

One of the lowlights must have been the heartfelt plea by Louis Saha after he finally achieved the transfer to Manchester United from Fulham that he had been agitating for despite his manager at Loftus Road, Chris Coleman, saying that the Frenchman would leave over his dead body.

"I had to put pressure on Fulham, which did not please me," Saha maintained, "because I love the club." Poor Saha. Just think what he must have been through. But they do say that each man kills the thing he loves.

Just imagine a player who really loves his club. What does he do? He stays there. If you hear Johnny Haynes talking about his love for Fulham, or Matthew Le Tissier expressing similar feelings about Southampton, the sentiment makes sense.

Another little quote that caught my eye this week. Who said this: "Rules are rules, and they have to be followed." Any ideas? I think you know, don't you? It was Rio Ferdinand.

Now shoot me down if I've got this one wrong, but isn't it Mr Ferdinand who is taking eight months paid leave after breaking a rather important rule about being available for drug-testing? Had the Manchester United defender simply accepted his punishment, such a stance on his part might have been more credible. But his club are currently seeking to bend the rules by having his ban reduced, having lodged appeal papers with the Football Association of a bulk approximating that of a giant redwood tree.

Lies are distressing. But the truth can be even worse. Amid the welter of speculation over Leeds United's future this week a table of the players' earnings was published. Seth Johnson gets £37,000 a week.

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