Rebekah Vardy at the Royal Courts of Justice (Image: Getty Images)
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I’ve been thinking a lot about Ian St John during this FA Cup Final week.
When The Saint scored a beautiful diving header to win the 1965 final he cemented himself as my first hero. Many years later we became friends through work and he’d tell me stories about how, despite giving Liverpool 10 magnificent years of service, he was treated callously when his time was up.
The players’ Christmas bonus back then was a free turkey, with the first teamers getting the biggest birds, but in 1970 St John was handed one he claimed “was the size of a bloody budgie”.
A year later, when the club refused him a new contract and he had to leave, he asked to buy the semi-detached house he’d been renting off them for 10 years for the £2,500 Liverpool had paid for it, as his wife Betsy loved their family home.
They refused, demanding £5,000, which St John didn’t have, so they were left homeless and heartbroken but accepted that was the way football was. In the early 70s, players were paid a bit more than the average skilled worker but had no job security or pension. The economic reality was brutal for all footballers’ wives. Even if, like Betsy St John, her hubby was a star striker at a top club.
Which brings us to the Wagatha Christie libel trial. I’m the first to agree that in these depressing times we need a lift. And hearing that a man in a starched wig and cut-glass accent told a High Court judge in a stuffy, wood-panelled Victorian courtroom that Peter Andre was hung like a miniature chipolata, was certainly a lifter.
As was hearing Coleen Rooney’s QC tell how a “poor, unfortunate phone” belonging to Rebekah Vardy’s agent accidentally fell into the North Sea within days of a legal request to search it.
And seeing Vardy dressed to resemble Sandra Bullock playing a nun who’s been given day release from the nunnery to attend the Pope’s funeral, being asked why she called Rooney a “c***” for unfollowing her on Instagram. Plus the stupefied expression worn by Wayne Rooney which said he’d rather be playing darts in a pub than be a sitting duck for a court artist to portray him as a mutant baked potato with a beard.
But the Judas-like leaking of tittle-tattle in return for 30 pieces of silver, the complete lack of irony from Vardy as she wept about being bad-mouthed by trolls, the gargantuan scale of self-obsession, the blatant wallowing in this Wagatha Christie notoriety, and the insulting play for sympathy by lucky people with lavish lifestyles, when there are millions genuinely suffering in the world, leaves me as nauseous as a parrot.
Watching two women, who were made rich and famous through marrying footballers, fritter away millions on legal bills to settle an irrelevant ego dispute is one of the saddest indictments on how fortunes have been sucked out of fans’ pockets and
showered on people who clearly don’t need or deserve it.
Still, I’m sure they’ll both be OK after this trial, especially when Netflix and Amazon Prime put in whopping bids to tell their harrowing tales. They certainly won’t lose their mansions.
I just wonder what the likes of Betsy St John make of it.