There's a scene in The Young Ones where the licence man turns up and Vyvyan decides the best way to hide the evidence is to eat the television. That's how honesty in football operates
A quick story about Harry Redknapp going back to his days as West Ham's manager and a press conference at the club's training ground. There are reports of him taking Marco Negri on trial from Rangers but Redknapp looks bewildered. He is striking a pose that Robert De Niro would be proud of. "Negri?" he wants to know. "Who? No, don't know what you are talking about." That's the moment someone points out that if you look through the window you can see Negri outside, getting some stuff out of his car. "Oh," he says. "Oh, that Marco Negri."
Sometimes in this business the best policy is not to take everything at face value. At times, as every manager will tell you, there are newspaper stories that are plain wrong. On other occasions the denials have more spin than a waltzer and, no matter how cynical you become, it's not an easy thing knowing what should, or should not, set off what, in America, they call the BS meter.
Roberto Mancini's public strategy until the night Mario Balotelli left Manchester City was to insist that they would not sell him no matter how many controversies he brought their way. Of course it was. If he had been honest, admitted that Balotelli was driving everyone round the twist and the club would be happy to send him on his way, it would have advertised the fact he was for sale and driven down the price. So Mancini went through the pretence when the message City were really sending out was that if Milan wanted to sign him they would have to come up with a pretty decent offer.
Silvio Berlusconi, meanwhile, described Balotelli as a "rotten apple" and said there was no way, as Milan's president, he would want a player with that reputation. Now Balotelli is at San Siro, Berlusconi says it was just part of the transfer tactics. "It was a strategy, the idea of [Milan's negotiator] Adriano Galliani, to ensure the price did not go up." Both sides, in other words, were willing to say whatever was necessary. Each had a plan. Neither told the truth.
This is the way it works in football. The licence man turns up in The Young Ones and Vyvyan decides the best way to hide the evidence is to eat the television. A journalist asks a football manager about something he does not want out and the manager tries to hide the evidence another way.
Just consider the ocean's worth of red herrings that routinely crop up in Sir Alex Ferguson's team news updates. "Do ICI send an email to another biochemicals company telling them their new discoveries in drugs?" Ferguson likes to ask. "Does any major company tell its opponents what they are doing?" It's a culture of deliberate misinformation and, frustrating as it is, Ferguson has a point. Even sitting this side of the fence, it's easy to understand why it happens.
The problem, however, if you play by those rules is when the story is about something a bit more serious than a made-up hamstring strain or some out-of-luck striker from Rangers. Redknapp was almost trembling with rage when he responded to the Daily Mirror allegations last Saturday in which three unnamed players were quoted talking about a club trip to Dubai turning into a glorified stag party. It was, he said, a complete fabrication. Yet the chairman, Tony Fernandes, and the co-owner, Amit Bhatia, who frequently comment on club issues via Twitter have kept schtum about what is a particularly damaging story. The Mirror, you might imagine, would be facing legal action if the story were untrue. Yet there have been no solicitors involved and no other recriminations. So the question after that is whether we trust and believe Redknapp. It can all get very foggy.
It's the same for Ferguson when he says there are "no issues at all" with Wayne Rooney. Ferguson certainly sounded like he meant it, but then you remember how aggrieved he has sounded in the past when similar questions have been about other players – David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastián Verón, to name just three – and the Manchester United manager has gone into full cover-up mode. Ferguson famously talked of not selling Real Madrid, or "that mob" as he described them, "a virus" never mind Cristiano Ronaldo. The story eventually came out that an agreement was already pretty much in place and United rushed out a statement saying there was "no substance" to it. Since then all the various parties have talked about it being set up a year in advance. This is why it's probably worth being open‑minded when it comes to Rooney.
Paddy Crerand, a member of the 1968 European Cup-winning side, is now the main pundit on MUTV and, by his own admission, as rabidly pro-United and pro-Ferguson as they come. Yet even he slipped off-message during an interview for News at Ten. Crerand was asked, very matter-of-factly, whether we could take Ferguson's word for it. "No!" he replied, laughing. "No!"
There are, after all, a lot of people close to the subject who are saying very different things and some reliable information to give foundation to the stories about Rooney's fitness issues (for starters, turning up overweight at the start of the season) and the friction that has intermittently existed between manager and player.
At the same time it does appear to have been exaggerated in some places. Ferguson's relationships with some players will always be up and down, as Rio Ferdinand, Nani, Anderson and probably several more of Rooney's colleagues can all testify. Being left out against Madrid was undoubtedly a bruising experience for Rooney and a reflection, perhaps, of how he has lost some of the old stardust, but it was always a leap of logic to think it automatically meant he would be off in the summer.
As for Paris Saint-Germain, they might have the money but there is something about that particular kind of joie de vivre that doesn't sit quite right. Where Rooney is from, "la" is another word for mate. True, the French do tend to be a bit more tolerant about footballers having the occasional puff on a Gauloises. It still feels like an odd place, however, to imagine Wazza taking root.
Rooney's camp, perhaps most tellingly, have not denied there are problems or taken issue with the stories that his future is uncertain. Other associates are talking openly about whether he might leave and it would be wrong to read too much into Ferguson wielding his banning stick again, expelling the Daily Mail and the Independent from Friday's press conference, other than him wanting to exert an uncommon form of control over the sports pages.
Those newspapers have not been shut out for reporting that Rooney might be sold, or is not taking enough care of himself, or has an erratic relationship with his manager. Otherwise it would have been a lot more than two. Instead Ferguson's temper was pricked because some of the information was attributed to "sources" at Old Trafford when, this season more than ever, he has been trying to eliminate leaks.
The Daily Telegraph discovered as much when it reported Ferdinand would miss the opening match of the season at Everton because of injury. It turned out players from both clubs had been gossiping and David Moyes knew anyway. Yet Ferguson banned the newspaper for three months and singed the eyebrows of one if its reporters with a blast of invective the next time he saw him. All of which brings us back to the original point. Sometimes in football the simple fact is they don't want you to know the truth.
The Professional Footballers' Association will hold their dinner on 28 April and, for Arsenal, it threatens to be a day of considerable indignities. Earlier, they play Manchester United when Robin van Persie could confirm his first Premier League winner's medal. Then a quick change into his dinner jacket and off to see if he has been voted player of the year.
Van Persie's form has dipped recently but he is probably still the marginal favourite bearing in mind Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini cite him as the player who has made all the difference in the title race. Luis Suárez has more league goals, 21 to 19, but Van Persie's have won 19 points compared with eight for the Liverpool striker, whereas Gareth Bale has been the player of 2013 so far but was a notch or two behind until the turn of the year.
It's difficult really to get a Rizla paper between the three of them and what a flawed system it is when the voting slips go out on Monday with two months and more than a quarter of the league programme still to go. If we are going to treat this award with such importance then surely it should be decided at the end of the season. Instead the votes are collected from 11 March to 2 April. It's an award, in other words, for roughly 80% of what happens.
At least the Football Writers' Association hold off until 2 May. In Germany, however, the Verband Deutscher Sportjournalisten is decided once the season is over and the winner announced before the following campaign. It's the same in Portugal. Marca declares the winner of the Trofeo Alfredo Di Stéfano in June. The Oscars du Foot takes place in France a week or two before Ligue 1 closes for the summer but still a month on from what happens in England. Is it really too much to think Gordon Taylor and his chums could find a way to judge their own competition properly?
That was some statement by the Danish football association, the DBU, to banish Nicklas Bendtner from the national team for six months after he was caught drink-driving. Denmark have two points from their first three World Cup qualifiers and are second-bottom of their group. They will now be without their best striker for at least five matches, but decided they had to take a stand.
"The DBU has asked the player to consider carefully whether in time he will again be able to live up to the expectations both the [DBU] and the public are entitled to have of him as a person and an international," a statement read. "The DBU respects any player's right to privacy but also has rules and expectations. We invite Nicklas to spend the next six months considering his future."
It's an admirable stance and tempting to wonder whether the FA will follow a similar route now every England player has a copy of their 16-page "code of conduct", with its 33 dos and don'ts.
The new set of rules have not been really tested yet but that time could be approaching.
Raheem Sterling has been charged with assaulting a woman and the trial is fixed for 20 May, just before Stuart Pearce's squad set off to Israel for the Under-21 European Championship.
Sterling denies the offence and, if acquitted, he will be on the plane. It's the other scenario that could all become a bit messy.