Star players in the Championship are often on loan from big Premier League clubs and unlikely to stay for long. Adam Bate explains why this trend is distorting competition
There have been many changes to the game over the last 20 years. One aspect that sometimes gets overlooked is the changing nature of the football loan system. It's not like the backpass rule or the tackle from behind – you don't instantly see the impact it has on the football field. And it's not as conspicuous as an Arab sheikh or a Russian oligarch when it comes to transforming a club. But if there is one thing that is distorting the Football League Championship today it is the use of the loan system.
Just over a year ago Paraguayan striker Salvador Cabañas had been enjoying life as "King of América", the title bestowed on him by fans of his club in Mexico City for whom he had scored 66 goals in 115 games. Then he was shot in the head in the toilet of a bar where he had gone drinking with his wife and his life turned upside down.
Zesh Rehman has been praised for his work in the Asian community but not on the pitch. Jason McKeown explains
Saturday March 7, 2009, Bradford City are thrashing Aldershot Town 5-0 to climb into fourth place in League Two. Around Valley Parade there are Mexican waves, but in quieter moments a pocket of dissenting home fans can be heard protesting their displeasure. "We want Zesh!" is their loud, high-pitched cry. These were no regular supporters but children from local schools, predominantly Asian. And their vocal disapproval, aired during Bradford's biggest win for 11 years, was due to the benching of Pakistan international centre-back Zesh Rehman.
It's now just over 20 years since Justin Fashanu, Britain's first and, to date, only openly gay footballer, agreed a deal with the Sun to come out. Last year, the PR kingpin Max Clifford teased the press by stating he'd recently advised two high-profile Premier League stars not to follow in Fashanu's footsteps, adding that football "remains in the dark ages, steeped in homophobia".
Most people remember England's Euro 96 campaign for Gazza's goal and the dentist's chair, Psycho going... psycho, Gareth Southgate, another heart-wrenching defeat to the Germans. France 98 is the tournament of Michael Owen and David Beckham each for different reasons. No one can think about them without hearing the Lightning Seeds. But I haven't met many who remember first and foremost, as I do, how brilliant Darren Anderton was.
Ed Wilson looks at Coventry fans' reactions to the signing of Marlon King, recently released from jail
It's an understatement and a platitude to say that most football supporters identify strongly with our club. If that club is successful, we claim a little reflected glory for ourselves. And if it fails, or behaves in a way that's embarrassing, or shameful, that shame seems to rub off on us a little, too.
Macclesfield Town fan Andrew Fraser tells how, despite the famous surname, one former player failed to live up to expectations
Making a name for yourself in football can be a struggle, but when that name has already been made for you things can be trickier still. Nineteen-year-old John Rooney, brother of Wayne, spent two weeks of August in the US having turned down a new contract with League Two Macclesfield Town. Aiming to win a place in the MLS Superdraft and secure a central contract, he trained with both the Seattle Sounders and Portland Trailblazers and his name prompted a flurry of excitement among the American media. For fans of Macclesfield, it looked very much like a last throw of the dice for a young player who has long carried the weight of expectation.
Jon Spurling looks at how footballers' holidaying habits have changed radically since the days of the maximum wage
For England’s multimillionaire footballers, there is one major consolation to having flopped so dismally on the grand stage earlier this summer. With cash to burn, they have the choice of jetting off to any destination in the short gap between the World Cup and the new season. Frank Lampard, with girlfriend Christine Bleakley in tow, holidayed in Italy with the Redknapps while the newly single Ashley Cole took a break in Los Angeles. According to the tabloids, Cole quickly got over the trauma of his split from Cheryl by partying until the early hours in “the city’s top nightspots”.
Damian Hall takes a look at the decline of former England goalkeeper Richard Wright
Ten years ago he was playing for England, but at just 32 Richard Wright is without a club. Arsène Wenger may act like he’s lost his credit card nowadays but back in the summer of 2001 he was swiping it about like a madman. Arsenal purchased Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Francis Jeffers, Richard Wright and Junichi Inamoto for around £26 million. Fast forward nine years and most of those players’ careers have taken fairly predictable paths, especially the injury-prone Jeffers. But not Richard Wright’s.
Taylor Parkes reads a controversial and much-delayed book on England's key player and tabloid star. And then wishes he hadn't
It’s known on the back pages as a “moment of madness”. Probing the Church of Scientology on behalf of the BBC’s Panorama, John Sweeney – investigative journalist of some repute – is harassed by sharp-suited goons. No surprise to anyone familiar with that organisation, but too much for Sweeney, who blows his top.