The Peter Pan Figure Unable to Turn the Other Cheek

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Byline: MARTIN LIPTON

TO SAY Graeme Le Saux has a short fuse would be an understatement on a par with describing the Ides of March as a disappointing time for Julius Caesar.

The Channel Islander is unquestionably the most intellectual member of the England dressing room - odds on to be the first footballer invited to chew the political cud on Question Time or out-argue Tom Paulin on Late Review.

Yet, for all his academic ability and maturity off the pitch, as soon as he runs down the tunnel he reacts with the calm detachment of a two-year-old, almost as if he would throw his rattle out of the pram if he was told the halftime tea was cold.

In short, Le Saux is the ultimate footballing dichotomy.

For all his intelligence and inquiring mind, he would be most pundits' first choice as the England player likeliest to lose his rag in a game. As he himself has said: 'It's controlling the beast, really.' At Stamford Bridge on Saturday, not for the first time, he demonstrated how he is unable to rein that beast back and that, even at 30, he still jumps at any provocation.

That is not to deny that Robbie Fowler's gesture was anything other than crude, unedifying and deeply offensive, another in the long-running, asinine and patently false slurs on Le Saux's sexual orientation.

The logic behind it is typically football. Graeme Le Saux reads The Guardian, collects antiques, comes from a middle-class background and is a self-confessed republican.

Therefore he must be homosexual - even though he is happily married to Argentinian-born Mariana with a two-month-old daughter, Georgina.

The problem is that, for all his ability to discuss philosophy and sociology, Le Saux is simply unable to dismiss the insults for what they are - pathetic and infantile.

His pride bruises so easily it is permanently discoloured, a fact as true now as it was when he left Chelsea for Blackburn six years ago, having burned his bridges with manager Ian Porterfield by reacting to his substitution by throwing his shirt at the dugout and then bursting into tears in the dressing room. …