The Last Word: Sorry is the hardest word, especially if you mean it

The way of modern sport is to deny, or show contrition for reasons other than true remorse

This is no time to suspend disbelief, to surrender to sophistry and subterfuge. Ignore the arrogance which assumes an apology will suffice, regardless of whether it is neutered by a ghostwriter or nuanced by a lawyer.

Ask yourself a sequence of simple questions. In whom do you believe: Roy Hodgson, Ashley Cole or Kevin Pietersen? Should their contrition be trusted? Can their characters withstand scrutiny? Do they deserve your forgiveness? The answers will be deeply personal, but instructive.

For the record, I found Hodgson's response to his midweek gaffe perversely noble. Cole's apology, for his outburst against the FA, lacked authenticity. Pietersen's acceptance of the need to rebuild relationships was transparently tactical.

To broaden the argument, the fact John Terry has yet to apologise to Anton Ferdinand, and Lance Armstrong insists his conscience is clear, despite accusations he is modern sport's most malign influence, is damning and entirely in character. Deny, deny, deny. When the alternative is to shine a harsh light on the darkest recesses of your soul, reality is usually too uncomfortable to countenance.

Football's narrative resembles a Derek & Clive sketch. FA disciplinary judgements carry warnings that the contents are "unsuitable for minors", but the English game remains a global industry which promotes fictional virtues and artificial values.

Improbable sums are wasted on PR lackeys whose first instinct is to dissemble rather than share. They argue that, as prominent public figures and brand ambassadors, footballers should disguise flaws, deny mistakes.

They resist the admission of human error for fear of exposing the consequences of a client's ignorance or malice. They want to trade on the illusion of intimacy created by copy-approved interviews and sanitised public appearances.

It is not easy to own up to weakness or stupidity in such an overexposed, testosterone-driven environment as professional sport. So when someone of Hodgson's status apologises with clarity and humility, he is legitimised by his all-too-visible discomfort and decency. Hodgson's greatest gift as England manager has been the identity of his enemies. The headlines which mocked his slight speech impediment were rightly condemned as puerile and vindictive. He will be excused the embarrassment of becoming a victim of vigilante journalism on the Jubilee Line.

By contrast, Cole's instinctive anger defined the ugliness of his character. The apology, issued through his solicitor, might have conformed to a crisis-management strategy, but it lacked humanity, context and credibility.

Pietersen, too, read his stage-managed speech as if it were the menu from his local Chinese take-away. It was devoid of meaning or substance. His only compensation was the presence of ECB chairman Giles Clarke, a parody of pomposity. Pietersen's Orwellian reintegration programme compromises Andy Flower. It insults the intelligence of a man of principle and character. No one could blame England's head coach for resigning.

We live in strange times. Bizarrely, Pietersen's performance triggered memories of Tiger Woods's most notorious apology. The golfer, whose brand was tainted by domestic problems, has never recovered from an expression of sorrow which seemed to be directed at corporate America rather than the family he had fragmented.

The FA have yet to apologise for their manifest failings, of both process and personnel. But this is unsurprising, since football has been sucked so deeply into a vortex of denial and distortion that the truth is a challenge to convention.

Managers admit privately that they lie casually and consistently. Sir Alex Ferguson has demeaned himself by banning journalists for accurately reporting on Manchester United's injury problems. Senior Premier League executives accept their impotence, and do not bother to enforce their own statutes.

That is crass, self-serving and utterly typical.

Football dreams are made of this

The image was timeless yet timely, ubiquitous yet unique. It represented a reminder of innocence, an antidote to the malaise of modern football.

Ironically, it was carried on Twitter, the medium for much of the slurry which infects the game, on the day when Ashley Cole used fewer than 140 characters to destroy what remained of his reputation.

"The very proud Dad and my son in his England U 16 kit" ran the caption, on a photograph of Ayodele Amos and his son, Luke.

I came across it by accident, but there was something strangely reassuring in the easily discernable emotions of the moment. Even the ogres of the modern game were once driven by unblemished ambition

Luke is a central midfielder from Tottenham's academy who made his England debut in the 5-0 Victory Shield win against Northern Ireland in Dungannon.

He is a symbol of a dream that is too often distorted. A boy's hopes are fragile, and easily destroyed by poor coaching or external influences.

Amos is small, skilful and technically adept. He has made exceptional progress, but only a fraction of his England team will make it in professional football.

He will need good people around him, with his best interests at heart. He will need luck to avoid injury, and strength of character to avoid distractions.

At the risk of tempting fate, I hope football gives him a life. We need all the feelgood stories we can get.

Boot it out

Boxer Orlando Cruz has joined rugby player Gareth Thomas, cricketer Steven Davies and hurler Donal Og Cusack in coming out as a gay athlete. It will continue to be news until a footballer follows suit. A game struggling with racism must also deal with homophobia.

News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us