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LIFE'S TOUGH BEING THE KOP'S SPICE BOY! SAYS STEVE MCMANAMAN.

Steve McManaman would happily have turned his back on his loathed `Spice Boy' image for a pounds 12million Barcelona adventure.

Scouser McManaman, target of jibes that he is part of Anfield's soft centre, wanted to prove that he is tough enough and professional enough to thrive in the most brutal league in the world.

The chance may have gone this time, but it's clear Liverpool are finally ready to part with the genius Roy Evans once descrivbed as ``priceless.''

McManaman, like all his Anfield pals, detests the `Spice Boy' jibes and suggestions that he was never fully committed to the Liverpool cause.

"There has been so much rubbish talked about the so-called Spice Boys," he says. "It's all nonsense.

"If you believe all you hear, there's a group of Liverpool players more interested in the high life and the catwalk than the football pitch. Naturally I was included in this group.

"If I close my eyes and listen, I can hear people saying `Footballers these days are more like pop stars'. But that's ridiculous. We're professional sportsmen. We have to train, be fit and look after ourselves. Otherwise we couldn't play at the top level.

"Footballers have become far more high-profile during the past 10 years. We're recognised far more and we end up on the news pages as well as the sports pages because of our celebrity.

"Because of this scrutiny, we're under more pressure than ever. "But the fact is that players don't have much time for things apart from football.

"Jamie Redknapp and David James did a bit of modelling two years ago, but that had no bearing on the way they played.

"The Liverpool lads haven't been out together as a group since last Christmas. The old Liverpool teams used to have regular club days out. We don't do that."

The fact that McManaman's agent also happens to be Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller hasn't helped him play down the comparisons.

A move to the take-no-prisoners world of Spanish football would have been the making of McManaman and help him shake off persistent claims that he cannot cope with the close attentions of a man marker.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Irwin, Mark
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 15, 1997
Words:360
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