Footballers are increasingly viewed by extremes in the press. James Calder worries that we have become too quick to judge

I haven’t heard much about Titus Bramble lately. I can’t say I’ve followed his career assiduously but I’m definitely hearing less about him than I used to. Time was when he seemed to be everywhere – pranging cars, giving away soft goals and attracting cheap gags from anyone with an opinion on the game. Once the epitome of “comedy defending”, the term of choice for caustically humorous bloggers and writers everywhere, Bramble seems to have slipped out of the public eye. Well, out of my eye anyway.

It sounds like a dream. A young man plucked from a building site and now scoring goals freely in the Football League. Scott Anthony recounts the story of Charlie Austin

When Charlie Austin swept in Swindon Town’s opener in their 3-0 victory over Leeds United it marked a truly remarkable ascent through the football pyramid. After arriving at the County Ground from Wessex League Poole Town in the summer, 20-year-old Austin has become a scoring sensation. At the time of writing he had notched 15 goals in 23 games, a ratio that bears comparison with much-hyped peers such as Jermaine Beckford and Jordan Rhodes. Austin is “constantly pinching myself”, League One defences are consistently being shredded. For Swindon promotion is a possibility, for Austin there is talk of an England Under-21 bow.

Following a recent birthday Cris Freddi takes a look at the select group of international players to have reached triple figures

Francisco Varallo, who turned 100 in February, is the last survivor from the first World Cup. He played in the final. He shouldn’t have done. He hadn’t recovered from the injury that kept him out of the semi. But he didn’t want to miss the big game, so he told porkies about his fitness. Then he broke down in the second half and Argentina lost 4-2 to Uruguay after leading 2-1 at half time. Varallo captained Argentina when they won the Copa América in 1937 before a knee injury ended his career.

Robert Shaw looks at how the serious illness of a World Cup hero has brought to light the negative impact alcohol has had on Brazilian football

Brazilian football legend Socrates left hospital on September 22 after two stays for stomach haemorrhaging and liver-related problems that could yet necessitate a transplant. Given that doctors admit that the 57-year-old’s condition was life-theatening, the relief among friends, family and the better part of 190 million football fans is tangible.

In an unlikely setting, David Wells enjoyed several hours in the company of some famous English footballers

It’s a damp, blustery evening a few weeks before Christmas. There are more than the usual number of middle-aged men about, some furtively clutching carrier bags and cardboard tubes. Many are heading to the Wolverhampton Civic Hall, a large soulless venue with the feel of a school hall circa 1975, where earlier in the week Alice Cooper had been appearing. Tonight is billed as “An evening with the 1966 England World Cup Squad”. It should read “or most of them”, as two cannot appear and Bobby Charlton presumably prefers not to. The company run by agent Terry Baker (“the only worldwide agents for Pelé’s signature”) do a steady line in selling signed memorablia in the foyer. One of their clients, Jimmy Greaves, is the evening’s compere.

Paul Joyce reflects on the tragic death of German goalkeeper Robert Enke and examines football's poor record when it comes to helping players with mental illness

Unlike many of today's players, people felt like they genuinely knew Robert Enke. An ambassador for children's heart charities and anti-fur campaigns, the German national goalkeeper embodied a new generation who rejected the combative machismo of Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann in favour of an unspectacular integrity. Yet it turned out that no one knew Robert Enke at all, not even his Hannover 96 team-mates. "You learn over time how to trick the media," he once said, tellingly. "You talk a lot, but say nothing."

Ashley Timms found himself jailed for attempting to blackmail a Premier League footballer. But as Mike Whalley reports, his attempts to rebuild his career are not running smoothly

When you’re trying to rebuild your career after a spell in prison, the last thing you need is to fall out with your boss after barely a month. But Ashley Timms isn’t very good at steering clear of trouble. In September last year, the former Man City youth-team keeper was jailed after admitting that he tried to blackmail an unnamed Premier League footballer over a mobile phone sex video.

New legislation is aimed at a lack of homegrown players but, as Andy West reports, the issues are deeper than that

September’s announcement that Premier League clubs will be required to adhere to a “homegrown quota” from the start of next season came as no surprise. The question of whether clubs should be forced to limit the number of overseas players has been openly debated for a long time. In the face of increasing pressure from the government as well as the football authorities, it was sensible for club chairmen to follow the example of the Football League and voluntarily introduce new legislation.

The digits on the back of footballers' shirts seem to be getting higher and higher. Seb Patrick examines a recent trend

Australia’s Asian Cup qualifier against Kuwait in March of this year drew attention for a number of reasons – namely that the side was made up entirely of A-League players and that it slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat. To the eye of someone with an interest in shirt numbers, however, the game was notable in an entirely different way – as starting winger Daniel Mullen and substitutes Fabian Barbiero and Mitch Nichols took to the field sporting three-digit numbers on their backs.

Matt Nation tells an unfortunate tale of sibling rivalry, one played out at opposite ends of the German league system

As Rhodri Giggs and Joel Cantona would testify, being the younger brother of an established professional footballer can have its advantages. Talentless duffers who’d struggle to get in their own family’s first XI are invited to trials simply on the strength of their sibling’s name (or, in the famous case involving Graeme Souness at Southampton a few years back, on the strength of a non-existent cousin’s name). It’s a different story, however, when it’s the family’s first-born who has to sit back and watch Our Kid hogging the headlines.

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