Lord Macaulay, who could not imagine a spectacle "so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodic fits of morality", would have been reassured these last few days to find that little has changed in 150 years. There has been some specious talk since the revelations finally emerged that the footballer John Terry had an affair with the the ex-girlfriend of his erstwhile Chelsea team-mate Wayne Bridge, most of it concerning one question: should Terry be sacked as England captain?
Some of Bridge's colleagues at Manchester City evidently think that's the least of the punishments the wretched Terry deserves. During Sunday's match against Portsmouth, three of them wore "Team Bridge" t-shirts under their football tops, as a gesture of solidarity with a man widely regarded as a cuckold even though his relationship with the French swimwear model Vanessa Perroncel was reportedly over by the time Terry began studying her 34-24-34 formation.
To some of us, the "Team Bridge" t-shirts represent almost the most unsavoury chapter of the whole gruesome saga. They evoke a new British film called 44-Inch-Chest, about a hard-nut (played by West Ham United devotee Ray Winstone, naturally) who on discovering his wife's infidelity is joined by his even harder-nut friends in kidnapping and menacing the hapless young (and, quelle coincidence, French) lover.
Which is not to say that the slogan-toting members of Team Bridge are about to drag John Terry to a derelict building and tie him up, but they are nevertheless guilty of a kind of moral vigilanteism, which is all the Football Association needs as it considers the implications of the affair and seeks (not very committedly, it has to be said) to counter the popular view that most leading footballers have their brains in their feet.
Ironically, the fashion of removing club colours to reveal a message on a t-shirt more usually conveys the idea that some footballers have functioning minds, which they use to embrace worthwhile causes. It was how the former Liverpool player Robbie Fowler showed his support for striking dockers, for example. By contrast, support for Wayne Bridge is not a worthwhile cause, at least not one that needs airing in public. The sooner the silly Team Bridge is disbanded, the better for all of us with the possible exception of the publicist Max Clifford, all too predictably engaged by Perroncel.
Meanwhile, Terry's extramarital dalliance should not have the slightest bearing on the England captaincy. It will be a lynch-mob sacking, a dangerous precedent for a love-rat in the notoriously priapic world of sport. Besides, the favourite to get Terry's armband is Steven Gerrard, who last summer was cleared of affray, despite admitting to hitting a DJ three times.
But then moral relativism has been in vogue at the FA's Soho Square offices ever since two senior employees – chief executive Mark Palios and England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson – were discovered to have had an affair with a secretary, Faria Alam, yet only Palios resigned. So Terry will probably go, to be replaced by Gerrard. But he shouldn't, at least not for this. If Daddies Sauce wish to withdraw the Dad of the Year award they gave him, however, they have my unwavering support.Reuse content