Rejoice! With nothing but a grueling foreign war and the prelude to a dead-certain election to cover, Britain's tabloids have been saved from tedium by good old-fashioned football sex scandals.
Stand up and take a bow John Terry, England and Chelsea captain, club tour guide, family man, swordsman, and saviour of the Red Tops.
Terry provided a timely boost to flagging circulations when his affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the then-girlfriend of England teammate Wayne Bridge, became front-page news.
After a week of lurid headlines and daily humiliations, the defender voted "2009 Dad Of The Year" must have been delighted to hand over his position as national whipping boy to his former manager Avram Grant.
The 54-year-old Portsmouth boss' visit to a Hampshire vice den for a Thai massage returned hilarity to the national breakfast table as it transformed "Average" Grant's image from lugubrious dullard to a Viagra-fueled Mr. Hanky Spanky!
As deliciously titillating as these sex scandals may be, they still pale in comparison to the real tabloid prize: a Manchester United immorality tale.
Just ask Johnny Evans.
The defender was at the beginning of his United first team career when he was arrested in December 2007 on suspicion of raping a 26-year-old barmaid at the players' £4,000-a-head, drink-sodden Christmas party.
The world's most popular club, internationally famous celebrities, a "harvest" of nearly 100 young, pretty, slightly-dressed women, and an allegation of rape in a sexually-charged atmosphere, made for a tabloid sensation that no hack or reader could refuse.
The scandal was also a vehicle for Britain's greatest talent: righteous indignation.
The Sun opined that the party had been the theatre of "sleazy" and "sickening" behaviour by United's boozed-up stars.
The Mail, peerless as the net curtain guardian of middle England's morality, disturbed Sir Bobby Robson and worked the football legend into quite a lather. The headline of his by-lined piece, "United's party has shamed the proud tradition of this great club," set out from the beginning the article's precise destination.
"I felt very angry with the United players for putting their manager through this," Sir Bobby complained.
"Alex turns 66 on New Year's Eve and is still working hard, devoting his time and wisdom to keeping United at the top; not easy when you've got rivals as good as Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool.
"The United players have nobody to blame but themselves for how they have been perceived this week. To the outside world, they will be regarded as egotistical stars with no self-control."
With grave prescience, the Guardian warned the alleged victim that she faced being disbelieved.
"There has been a spate of previous allegations of sexual assault against footballers," the newspaper confirmed.
"Top players accused include Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo, who was not present at Monday's party, and Arsenal striker Robin van Persie. Both denied the allegations and no prosecutions were brought."
The News of the World was happy to repeat the pub wisdom...the "nudge, nudge, wink, wink, it'll never stand up in court"...a viewpoint which lay just beneath the surface of much of the comment on the story.
Referring to the complainant, the newspaper reported: "She cannot fully remember what happened when she was in the room or exactly who was in there with her because she was really drunk."
The tale disappeared from the news headlines a month later, buried in a four-paragraph obituary declaring that Evans would not be prosecuted.
Former club physiotherapist Laurie Brown might be the only man in Manchester not to see the allegation against the Northern Ireland international as certainly the most serious United sex scandal in recent memory.
In July 1977, Brown's wife Mary ran off with United manager Tommy Docherty, a married father of four children, who was later sacked for misconduct.
United's board could do nothing but bow to the press-led moral onslaught that engulfed the club once the affair became public.
Docherty had recently brought United out of a slump. He built a thrilling team featuring the likes of Coppell, Hill, Macari, Daly, and Buchan that stormed the old Second Division and played the most attractive football in the country.
Docherty's flamboyant style made him a terrace hero. His reputation as a United legend was cemented when he took the team to Wembley for the '77 Cup Final and defeated a much-feared Liverpool side which would later be crowned European champions.
The Docherty dismissal was proof that not even success, normally the only currency that matters in the sport, could provide a shield against moral opprobrium. United fans waited six long years for the return of free-flowing football to Old Trafford.
If Docherty put the sex into sexy football in the 1970s then Dwight Yorke did his best to uphold the tradition some 20 years later.
The Trinidadian striker had already achieved a notoriety of sort at Aston Villa, where filmed coverage of his "hide the sausage" party tricks with waitresses and good-time girls were the stuff of legend.
But when he hit Manchester in 1998 and formed a lethal duo with strike partner Andy Cole, Yorke became a tabloid mainstay.
Yorke was famous for having a smile as wide as the Manchester Ship Canal, and the Sunday newspapers were delighted to offer readers salacious explanations.
Hectares of newsprint were devoted to his tryst with Jordan, the perma-tanned, helium-chested glamour girl, with whom he had a child and a falling-out of spectacular proportion.
Yorke freely admits that there were many, many others. His autobiography Born To Score thus appears as a statement of fact as well as a tongue-in-cheek confirmation of his sexual magnetism.
If Yorke has few regrets about the women he bedded as he "lived the dream" as a top athlete employed by the world's most famous club, the same cannot be said of Wayne Rooney.
The striker, soon to transfer to United from Everton, became a national laughing-stock when it was revealed that he visited a Liverpool brothel for "sexual healing" dispensed by a woman described as a "52-year-old PVC clad mother of seven (and grandmother to a further 16)."
The story ran for weeks in the summer of 2004, as newspapers printed a string of revelations about the England star and other hookers.
One tabloid unearthed Ms. Charlotte Glover, a prostitute, who alleged intimate knowledge of Rooney.
Glover claimed that Rooney paid her £140 for sex in the bathroom of a seedy flat in December 2002 and even signed a note afterwards. It read: “To Charlotte, I shagged U on 28 Dec, loads of love, Wayne Rooney.”
Yet, if there was a United league table for public humiliation, Rooney would only be at No. 2. The incontestable chart-topper is former club chairman Martin Edwards, who was cautioned by police in 2002 for spying on a middle-aged woman in a health club toilet cubicle.
The incident marked the end of Edward's United career. However, another sex scandal did quite the opposite for new Brazilian recruit Anderson.
The youngster became a cult hero, his antics celebrated in song, when news broke in September 2007 of the carry-on at the home of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Gemma Storey was also an invited guest, paid less than £600 for her September evening's "companionship."
“We had an orgy in the pool with Ronaldo, Anderson, Nani, and my friend Ty," Storey confessed to the News of The World. "I’ve never done anything like that before. It were fun."
Chilled-out amusement and poor grammar were not what the newspaper needed to sell its indignant outrage, so Storey quickly changed tune and put on a show of revulsion for the cameras.
“When I think about it now, it was degrading. It upsets me a bit, but it happened,” she blubbed.
Yes, young Gemma was so shaken and upset that she ran sobbing to the nearest newspaper hack to unburden her soul.
Storey later built a low-budget career demonstrating what can happen when idle hands and a tennis racket combine pointlessly.
Typically, "Taggart" Ferguson was distressed by his players' high jinks. His United was a puritan temple replete with loyal family men.
The manager was not slow to vent his fury, captured memorably in one Sunday journal under the headline: ”Orgy Ron is given a roasting by Fergie."
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