Brian Viner: What would a World Cup be without a metatarsal scare?

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No sooner had David Cameron got his foot in the door of Number 10, than news broke that something foot-related had also befallen another true blue, John Terry. Indeed for several hours yesterday it seemed that we might have the first metatarsal injury under a coalition government. Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, the Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham of modern politics, forced into a marriage of convenience, have been at pains to reassure us that Britain is about to embark on a new era, yet here was early evidence that the more some things change, the more other things stay the same.

A Labour government couldn't protect our boys' metatarsals, and nor, it seemed, could one run by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. When fresh news emerged to suggest that the damage to Terry's foot was not as serious as at first feared, the spin-doctors still finding their way round Number 10 must have heaved sighs of relief. What a terrible start it would have been. Especially with Gordon calling mean-spiritedly over his shoulder that England only win World Cups under Labour.

Meanwhile, the rest of us were excused a month of prayers for the Terry metatarsal, not that anyone outside west London would have prayed all that vigorously. With Ledley King hitting such splendid form, should the ex-captain be Fabio Capello's first choice anyway? A tiny broken bone might have made the manager's job easier; he could have picked King and not looked as if he was still punishing JT for straying from the marital bed.

Nevertheless, it's amazing how the curse of the metatarsal never seems to strike fringe players, with the possible exception of Danny Murphy. No one except possibly Murphy himself remembers that he missed the 2002 World Cup with the same injury that so inhibited David Beckham. And after Beckham it was Michael Owen, and after Owen it was Wayne Rooney. We can be sure that if it does strike again before the players fly to South Africa, it won't be Shaun Wright-Phillips who suffers.

This we know because in the weeks before a World Cup we are all foot experts. Napoleon called us a nation of shopkeepers, but every four years we become a nation of podiatrists. As for Messrs Cameron and Clegg, at least they don't have to share the headlines with a broken toe. Yet.

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