We’re prepared to let a lot of things slide during the horror of silly season. As the annual ‘Cesc Fabregas to Barca’ story began yet again, we embraced it as if it was the first time we’d heard it and not as if it was the umpteenth rehashing of a tedious storyline we’d seen hundreds of times before a lot like the squad rotation of plots they employ for EastEnders. So when a photo emerged of Aston Villa player, Stuart Downing holding a Liverpool scarf, we briefly got interested, said ‘oh yes! This is definitely what Aston Villa fans need to worry about and not the recent dubious managerial appointment and the general lethargy that seems to have gripped so many of the star players at the club in recent months.’ After that we were hoping the story would piss off, we could go back to sleep and wake up in August in the midst of the opening weeks of the football season.
But those dreams of lazy summer slumber were shattered when Downing came out and claimed that the picture was fake, throwing more fuel onto the fire and making this story slightly harder to ignore than it had been. A footballer holding up a scarf of another club is one thing, but a footballer being deceitful in order to save his own ass – that represents a low we’re not prepared to accept. To our untrained eyes, the fakest thing about the photo is Andy Carroll’s Abe Lincoln beard, but we sent it upstairs to Jason, head of the design team and all round ray of sunshine here at Paddy Power for his expert opinion. After much examination, magnifying and a rant about Ryan Reynolds’ performance in the Green Lantern, he has come to the conclusion it’s most likely a fake.
“First off, it’s a low quality image, so it’s hard to draw any conclusions,” he said, in preparation for firmly positioning himself on the fence. “The tonal quality looks good. The scarf seems to be picking up the same light as the faces … something about Hugh Saturation (never heard of him) … gradient … levels,” he said in more coherent sentences than I’m suggesting here. ‘”Presumably it’s the girl holding the right hand side of the scarf (left side of the photo), but you can’t be sure because you can’t see her hand. That hand could be doing anything. ANY-THING,” he added, stressing the second ‘anything’ in a theatrical Carry On style, “it looks like the scarf is just floating there. There’s something not quite right about that side.”
Concerns were also raised about the more obvious ‘Downing’s mutant hand’ thing to the right of the photo. His hand is also a worry. “First of all it’s massive and it’s also in a very unnatural position. It looks like he’d have to break a thumb to get into that position and this is a man who barely broke a sweat for Villa last season. I think he may have been holding a bottle and someone has inserted the scarf,” he explained – showing a good knowledge of how Premier League footballers like to spend their free time – “now can I get back to doing my actual job?”
So in conclusion, we – and by ‘we’ I mean the design team – think it’s a fake and I’m happy to nod along with that assessment. It doesn’t mean Downing isn’t going to Liverpool mind, it just means that after reading this blog post, we’re all a few minutes closer to the new season.