PFA shows it can be vain

Jamie Redknapp and Tim Sherwood attempt to please PFA members with a vanity publication, Harry Pearson reports

Many years ago a school friend of mine had trials at Middlesbrough. Chris was at Ayresome Park for a week, training alongside Craig Johnston and Bozo Jankovic. He was offered terms and, incredibly, turned the chance down. “To be honest, I don’t think I could spend every day with people like that,” he said. “I just couldn’t find anything to talk to them about."

At the time I thought this was the most idiotic remark I’d ever heard. It seemed inconceivable that anyone would reject fame and football in favour of tea-break talk of Neil Young’s new album and nostalgic reminiscences of the Casey Jones show. As the years have gone by, however, I have come to see that far from being stupid my friend was actually mature beyond his years.

Final vindication of Chris’s judgment came when I opened the pages of Icon. This infamous magazine, produced by Jamie Redknapp and Tim Sherwood for members of the PFA, is a high-spec glossy that seeks to bridge the gaping void between Vogue and Gavin Peacock’s facial hair by employing Louise Redknapp as fashion director and Michael Owen (earnestly sucking in his cheeks for dear life, the little darling) as one of its models.

You don’t have to delve far before you realise that it is essentially a vanity publication. Regular correspondent DJ Spoony does a “What I did on my holidays” entry about a golf trip to South Africa (“Of a night there are some good bars and clubs in the vicinity, which, of course, we sampled!” the 6.06 host yelps excitedly) that should have been confined to a Christmas round-robin, while Ryan Giggs proves that post-match interview blandness is no fluke when he test-drives a new Audi. “The RS4 is something else. It’s frighteningly fast and has brilliant road-holding,” he opines in a manner that makes you feel the subs have chopped “to be fair” and “as I say” from his copy a few times.

Leafing through Icon, with its adverts for speedboats and housing developments “intended for an enlightened minority”, is like being stuck in Funky Buddha with the Chelsea squad. You feel it really ought to be very exciting, but, despite – or maybe because of – the veritable shitstorm of exclamation marks that accompany even the dullest utterance, the overall feeling is of being in a place where money and sense are so far apart they can only hazard a guess as to one another’s existence.

It’s not entirely the players’ fault, mind you. In an era when BBC interviewers approach players in so cringing a manner it makes Sir Alastair Burnet’s encounter with the Queen Mother look like ultimate fighting, Observer Sport Monthly decorates itself with vanity shots of Andriy Shevchenko and his wife in their underpants, and Sky showers praise on the stars that would turn the head of God, it’s not surprising if they end up taking themselves way too seriously. As the recent print burblings of Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole so ably demonstrated, there are deck chairs with more self-awareness than some of these blokes.

Icon – by the stars for the stars – reflects its audience. It exudes the kind of self-regard only made possible by a cocktail of wealth, fame and a complete absence of any sense of our own ridiculousness. You wouldn’t want to spend too much time in its company, believe me.

From WSC 238 December 2006. What was happening this month