Apart from developing the technical skills with which to ply their trade successfully, there are other qualities a footballer needs to acquire to ensure their survival in the cut-throat world of the professional game.
One such is the ability to recognise which side their bread is buttered. Genuine good friends can be thin on the ground and must be nurtured, and their support is never to be taken lightly.
These are basic rules, which may explain why Alen Boksic, the Juventus striker, has decided to make a somewhat unlikely journey during his recuperation from the ankle injury which is keeping him out of Serie A action. The Croatian forward is planning a trip to Paris to visit his former boss, Bernard Tapie, in jail.
Tapie, the former chairman of Marseilles, is resident at La Sante prison in the French capital, where he is in the second week of an eight-month sentence, having been convicted of rigging the result of a French First Division game between Marseilles and Valenciennes in 1993, shortly before Boksic helped Marseilles defeat Milan in the European Cup final.
"I have an excellent relationship with Tapie," Boksic is reported to have told an Italian newspaper yesterday.
"He's a great person and has lived the experiences of 10 men put together. I'm sorry about what has happened to him, but we all knew it would end up like this.
"However, he treated me very well at Marseilles and I am grateful - that's why I think I will go and visit him in jail."
It's quite touching, really.
Speedie slows down
The end may be in sight at last for the long and controversial career of the former Scottish inter- national David Speedie.
Since injury ended his usefulness at the professional level, the diminutive striker has acquired the reputation of a nomadic Peter Pan on the non- League circuit, popping up at one club after another to perform brief cameo turns before moving on - unable to give up the game for good, even as a creaking 37-year-old.
In recent months, he has added stints at Crawley, Atherstone and Stamford to the 11 names on his CV from his full-time career, and he has continued to perform in the style for which he is best known - keeping referees busy as well as opposition defenders.
Referees can now breathe a collective sigh of relief. Speedie's Saturday afternoons, sadly, are no longer free. This is because he is back on the fringes of the professional game, working as a players' agent. As such, he must devote Saturdays to looking after his clients' interests, as well as seeking out new ones in the bar after the game.
None the less, referees in the Leicestershire Senior League cannot rest easy just yet. Still as keen as ever to pull on his boots, Speedie is turning out on an occasional basis for Kirby Muxloe, a team based not far from his Midlands home.
"I told them I would not be able to play on Saturdays, but they are happy for me to help out when I can and I am very happy to play," he said.
And Speedie has no more intention now of keeping his opinions to himself as he ever did.
After Chappaquiddick, it was always going to be tough for young Teddy Kennedy to reach the political heights his brothers scaled. Little wonder, then, that he should seek fulfilment via a less treacherous route. Even so, you would not have thought that being manager of Woking was quite his thing.
FIRST DIVISION TEAM OF THE WEEK
Take a bow
Having gladly accepted the job nobody else wanted, it has taken the former Nottingham Forest manager only six weeks to show that managing Manchester City is apparently an absolute doddle. Seven games without defeat and Kinkladze and Rosler back to their best - no wonder Alan Ball is bitter.
Almost as big a hit in Scotland as Paul Gascoigne, in a somewhat quieter way, the Hull-born forward is in danger of changing that by falling into disciplinary problems that would make even his volatile compatriot blush. The red card he received on Saturday in the match against Motherwell was his third this season.
fact and fiction from the Sunday papers
Gianluca Vialli might get a chance to swap his bench-warming role at Chelsea for the murky waters of the relegation zone, according to the News of the World, who reckon his old Sampdoria buddy, Graeme Souness, the Southampton manager, has made a move for the striker, who would probably cost pounds 3m. Meanwhile, says the same paper, Blackburn Rovers' failure to sign Roberto Mancini is behind Sven Goran Eriksson's apparent snubbing of Blackburn Rovers. The People, however, says that Lazio have offered Eriksson pounds 2m a year, twice the sum Blackburn were proposing to pay. The Mirror suggests Blackburn will turn instead to Roy Hodgson, Bobby Robson or John Toshack. On the transfer front, both the People and Mirror report that Manchester United are planning to tempt Aston Villa to part with Gareth Southgate by throwing Andy Cole into a possible exchange deal. However, the News of the World says Brian Little is ready to bid pounds 7m for Trevor Sinclair.
Peter Beagrie (Man City)
If there is one thing the Maine Road revival has missed it has been Beagrie's celebration somersaults. But they might yet return. After 16 months struggling with injuries - his last League start was on 14 October 1995 - Beagrie coming on as a substitute against Sheffield United 10 days ago heralded a possible comeback. All the former Everton winger has to do now is win over Frank Clark.
Watch out for...
Alex Smith (Swindon Town)
Freed by Everton a year ago, the slightly built Smith joined Swindon as understudy to Paul Bodin at left-back. He has since made more impact in midfield, his style identified by a certain old-fashioned elegance. Saturday brought his first senior goal, spoiling Ray Harford's first match as West Bromwich manager.
Lack of concentration cost us dear. We have a lot to learn but it is early days yet.
Ray Harford, after a losing debut as West Bromwich manager.
Wolves have millions of pounds worth of talent at their disposal. My team cost about two bob.
Brian Horton, having watched his injury-hit Huddersfield side beaten at home.
He had a sticky spell earlier in the season when people said he should be dropped. We never thought so.
Wolverhampton manager Mark McGhee on his match-winner Steve Bull.
I told them they could either throw the game away or get hold of it by the scruff of the neck.
Dave Bassett, on a half-time rollicking that paid off for Crystal Palace.
When the goalkeeper went off I got the feeling that we relaxed a bit.
Colin Todd, seeking explanations for Bolton's defeat at Reading, who had Bobby Mihailov carried off.
I didn't see their first goal but I should have stopped the second. It slipped through my fingers. Bobby's gloves were too big for me.
Jimmy Quinn, Reading's joint player-manager turned emergency goalkeeper.
I cannot put up with that level of defensive performance. It was the worst since I came here.
Trevor Francis, fuming after Birmingham's home defeat by Portsmouth.
He should be banned from every League ground for life.
The Bury manager, Stan Ternent, on the Bournemouth fan who attacked the referee, Ian Cruickshanks, at Gigg Lane.
First Division 18;
FA Cup 1; Coca-Cola Cup 5.
Third Division 20;
FA Cup 1; Coca-Cola Cup 1.
Mike Sheron (Stoke)
First Division 16; Coca-Cola Cup 5.
Tony Thorpe (Luton) Second Division 18; FA Cup 1; Coca-Cola Cup 2.
Third Division 13; FA Cup 5; Coca-Cola Cup 3.
On 24 May, 1961 England defeated Italy 3-2. Italy led 2-1 with 13 minutes remaining, but were dealt a stunning double blow by Jimmy Greaves.
To the astonishment of a 100,000 crowd, Greaves raced 40 yards to lay on an equaliser for Gerry Hitchens. Then, with five minutes left, he collected a pass from Johnny Haynes and steered home the winner.
There were some happy Italians in the crowd, however. Milan already had an option to buy the talented 21-year-old and his performance had convinced them once and for all that he was the player for them.
The agreement had been announced the previous month and Greaves had already bid his farewells to Chelsea. Unknown to the public, however, the impressionable Londoner was having seriously cold feet.
In his book, The Sixties Revisited, Greaves recalls meeting Milan scouts as early as November of the previous year, when "telephone number" wages had been dangled before him. But, having seen the threat of a strike bring an end to the maximum wage and Johnny Haynes sign his mould-breaking pounds 100- a-week deal with Fulham and turn down Internazionale, Greaves was secretly hoping for a different outcome.
"I have made up my mind not to join Milan," he wrote, "...but my late winner makes the Milan club even more determined to sign me. They make me an offer I cannot refuse."
That was a pounds 15,000 down payment on a three-year deal worth pounds 40,000, which he accepted a week later. Five months later he was back home, wishing he had said no.
(League matches only)
1 Don Hutchison
2 Scott Leitch
3 Ian Baird
4 Stephen Torpey