27 October ~ David James isn't like other footballers. David James has studied psychology. David James often gives strangely passive-aggressive post-match interviews. David James writes his own column for the Observer, which isn't even written by a journalist or anything! But hang on a minute. There's a reason why footballers' columns are ghostwritten and it has much less to do with their skills as writers than it does the fear of them accidentally revealing just how detached from the realities of modern life they really are.
For every sub-editor employed to tidy up Michael Owen's subjunctives there are presumably two more tasked with removing all references to his platinum hovercraft and the undersea lair he's just bought in Hawaii. But "Jamo" is different, isn't he?
Those hoping that James's much heralded intellectualism might triumph over the traditional Premier League player's grossly inflated sense of entitlement would have been disappointed to read his returning Observer column on Sunday. You can read it yourself here if you wish but the unremitting catalogue of hardship and degradation involved in being Bristol City's best paid player of all time is pretty hard to stomach.
Nevertheless, it's worth recapping James's appalling treatment at Ashton Gate (if only to stop Steven Gerrard accidentally signing for Millwall). The list of indignities includes: having to remember to bring and clean his own football boots; being forced to travel to games on a coach – even when the games are further north than Birmingham!; coping with a ball that is different to the one in the Premier League and enduring constant questions from non-famous team-mates about Wayne Rooney and playing for England.
Inevitably, James admits to having second thoughts about playing for a team that isn't very good. "How did I end up here? I must confess it wasn't part of the plan... I'll be honest, there are days when we get beat and I think: 'What am I doing here?'" All very encouraging for those who bemoan the lack of honesty and insight from modern footballers, but what exactly are his team-mates and the fans who pay his wages meant to make of this? And what happens if Bristol City get relegated to League One? Perhaps football's loss will be literature's gain. One can only imagine the Dostoevskian depths of soul-searching his prose will have attained by the time the team bus finally gets to Hartlepool.
David James is not your average millionaire footballer – he is honest and this is refreshing. But what this honesty actually reveals is that he's not so different from his former colleagues as some people (including David James) might like to think. Tom Lines