London, near England - 28 February 2008
Arsenal Football Club were left reeling following another hammer blow to their chances of winning the Premiership. Last night, the French international defender and club captain, William Gallas was sectioned under the mental health act. A spokesman commented: ‘This is an unusual step but the action was necessary for the safety of the individual and those around him.’
Investigations reveleaed that William Gallas’ mental fragility was long standing and deep rooted. Our intrepid reporter tracked down his parents in Asnières-sur-Seine:
‘Mais oui, Willy would often scream and thrash around on the floor if his elder sister played with his favourite blue train engine.’
‘But that’s not unusual behaviour for a toddler.’
‘Certainment mais Willy was 23 years old at the time.’
Gerard Houlier of Olympic Marseille also remembers Gallas’ fiery temperament: ‘He once head butted the head coach for berating him for a single, misplaced pass in training.’
Jose Mourinho also endured a volatile relationship with Gallas: ‘He disliked playing at left-back. We often had to make him sit in the ’naughty corner’ until he relented. Gallas never really forgave me for giving away his beloved number 13 shirt to Michael Ballack. This was a punishment for turning up late for pre-season training. The last straw came when he threatened to score an own goal or concede a penalty in a crucial game against Manchester City. The guy is mentally unstable and we feared no-one on their right minds would buy him.’
Fortunately for Chelsea, fellow Frenchman Arsene Wenger miraculously ‘had not seen’ any of these previous incidents and paid £5 million plus Ashley Cole to secure Gallas’ services.
Initially, things went reasonably well for Gallas who thrived on the Arsenal captaincy and quickly established himself as a favourite with Arsenal fans at The Emirates.
Sadly, the wheels started to come off for William Gallas in February 2008. Back at Old Trafford, the scene of the ‘death of the immortal 49’ers’, Gallas endured a torrid afternoon in a 4-0 FA cup defeat and was tormented for 90 minutes by Wayne Rooney.
Gallas lost control after Nani taunted Arsenal by indulging in a quick demonstration of ball juggling skills. This showboating was brought to a premature end by a swift and full blooded tackle from Flamini and later, by a viscous reprisal, from Gallas himself.
A week later, Gallas was tipped over the edge by a combination of unfortunate events at St Andrews. Following Eduardo’s horrific injury, missing a chance to seal a crucial win 3-1 over Birmingham, then being denied a penalty, Gallas finally lost control and his sanity by another controversial refereeing decision when a injury time penalty allowed Birmingham to secure a 2-2 draw and deny Arsenal two vital points.
Gallas, the club captain, left his position and sat down distraught in the opposition half. Psychologists think this may be a cry for help and a regression to the ’naughty corner’ punishment. When James McFadden converted the penalty, Gallas launched an unprovoked attack on an advertising hoarding, obstinately remained on the pitch and had to be lured back to the dressing room by Wenger, Pat Rice and two men in white coats.
Gallas’ late night arrival at the mental institution triggered the departure of another high profile football star with well publicised problems. Paul Gascoigne, 40 of Gateshead, immediately discharged himself after a brief chat with Gallas: ‘God I thought I had problems. I realise I am battling the demons in my head and trying to overcome long standing addictions to drugs, alcohol and false breasts but compared to Willy, I just feel like a fraud even being in here. Let me out now but please, just don’t tell him I’ve nicked his blue Thomas the Tank engine.’