x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

A WAG-free World Cup?

With the wives and girlfriends excluded from the England camp, the World Cup will simply not be the same.

Extraordinary to think that there may be people whose brains remain uncluttered by knowledge of what a WAG is, but there you have it. Some people are, like, so uncivilised. A quick lesson then: WAG stands for "wife and girlfriend" and applies, commonly, to footballers' other halves, most often in reference to the England team. Distinguishing features include acres of hair and leg, neon skin, an ability to spend wads of cash in seconds and, um, nope that's about it.

Still with us? Good. Now, the term WAG is being bandied about again at the moment because we are nearing something called the "World Cup". Heard of that? Well done you. But WAGs: The Sequel is shaping up to be a lot less fun than its predecessor, four years ago in Baden-Baden at the last World Cup. Back then, a sleepy German town was roused by the sound of clacking heels and swishing hair extensions as the England WAGs - called things like Victoria and Cheryl - swept in to play. Credit cards were plucked from giant bags like cards from a deck, restaurants ran out of lettuce leaves and rumour had it that certain girls requested the removal of protective screens from their hotel so that camera lenses could more easily be trained on their oily limbs.

But in South Africa this World Cup season things will be different. Quieter, for sure, because there has been a WAG-lash. Blamed for, ahem, distracting their boys last time, the WAGs have been banned from the England camp by the team's manager, Fabio Capello. What a fun-sponge, I hear you cry. And you would be right. For what WAG-watcher doesn't need to pore over endless pictures of Cricket-clad lovelies?

And what WAG should be denied the opportunity to have a million cameras focused on her Juicy Couture? So, given that no self-respecting WAG would pass up the chance of such glorification, and that Basic Posing is one of the earliest lessons learned at WAG school, we must remain optimistic that several of them will slither through the net and appear in South Africa anyway. Let's begin by sizing up the frontrunners, because the situation has changed somewhat since 2006. Back then, Victoria Beckham reined as Queen WAG, ably supported by underlings such as Cheryl Cole, Carly Zucker, Elen Rives, Louise Owen and a fresh-faced 20-year-old Colleen Rooney.

A few divorces and separations on, the line-up looks different. David Beckham is out of the running with his dodgy Achilles tendon so we bid a weepy adieu to Victoria - the original and perhaps best ever WAG. So must we also tear ourselves away from Cheryl Cole, imminently to be divorced from Ashley Cole and apparently planning a "divorce-party" on the night of the first England game. That's our girl.

Big-lipped Elen Rives is another fallen soldier worth mentioning, following her acrimonious split with Frank Lampard. The most obvious replacement as queen would be Colleen Rooney, but quel désastre! She is apparently keen to shirk her WAG duties by staying home and looking after little Kai. Yawn. Alex Curran, wife of Steven Gerrard, is threatening to do the same. What is wrong with these WAGs? Just as yesteryear's rock and roll stars might complain that you'd never see Justin Bieber biting the head off a bat, so the next generation of WAGs seem alarmingly unconcerned with upholding their reputation for excellence and advanced application of Fake Bake.

Aah, but don't panic. There is one WAG we definitely expect to see, because she has happily landed a modelling shoot in South Africa at the same time. What good fortune Abigail Clancy has. One might almost think she'd purposefully orchestrated such a thing. Others we may catch a glimpse of include Toni Poole, wife of John Terry, whom we saw recently in Dubai, gently sunning herself in a strenuous effort to recover from the shock of his infidelity. And then there's Carly Zucker, still floating about the scene as the wife of Joe Cole. There are a few WAGs from other teams worth looking out for - notably Cristiano Ronaldo's Sara Carbonero - but one always gets the disappointing impression that they don't try as hard as the England WAGs.

Of course, the rules may well change should England get through to the final 16. In which case, Louis Vuitton bags will surely be packed and they will race one another out on first-class tickets. Here's hoping, because it would be a monstrous shame for them to miss out. As, indeed, it would us.