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Monday, October 5, 1998 Published at 18:32 GMT 19:32 UK

Sport: Football

Footballers' wives - the shocking truth

Pop stars Louise and Posh Spice and actress Lesley Ash all have something in common apart from having successful and high-paid careers.

They are all members of the new breed of footballers' wives - or are about to be in Posh Spice's case.

And unlike many of the soccer spouses of old they are not reliant on their man for their fortune and fame.

[ image: Louise: Mrs Jamie Redknapp]
Louise: Mrs Jamie Redknapp
The stereotype used to be that footballers' wives were often former models who had little else to do but spend their time - and their husband's money - beautifying their mock tudor mansions for another photo-spread in Hello magazine.

The only peril in this idyllic existence was the danger that a tabloid would catch the footballing husband playing away from home with a page three girl or two.

But this picture is far from balanced according to soccer pundit Shelley Webb, who is married to the former England international Neil Webb.

Hear Shelley Webb on the perils of being a soccer star's wife
She has completed a book of interviews with 14 of her fellow soccer wives which she says illustrates that players' partners do not always have it easy.

Footballers' Wives Tell Their Tales reveals that life away from the pitch is enough to make many women as sick as a parrot.

Wives often have to cope with the problems of invasion of privacy by the media and the frequent uprooting that comes with each transfer to a new club.

It is part of the job that the couple are often apart. Their relationship may also be put under strain when the husband is struggling with injury and bad form or adapting to the realisation that his playing days are coming to an end.

Soccer groupies

However, Webb says the worst hazard is the pack of female groupies who swarm around soccer stars wherever they go.

"You can be out for a quiet meal with your hubby and they come up and proffer a piece of flesh for them to sign," she says.

"Then they sidle up again drop their telephone number in his pocket and you are sitting there with him. I hate to think what happens when you are not there."

[ image: Beckham and Posh:
Beckham and Posh: "A marriage made in heaven"
With pressures like these mutual trust is an important part of a successful football marriage. But Shelley Webb says that is not all that is required for a partnership to work.

"The women who have survived this mad world have their own identities," she says.

"Susie Barnes, John Barnes' wife says that for a time she used to just sit and wait for him then she realised that was ridiculous and went and got a life of her own."

As a result Shelley Webb regards the romance between Posh Spice and David Beckham as a "marriage made in heaven" - despite a series of newspaper allegations about the Manchester United star's off-the-pitch exploits.

"She has got her own career, her own money and she knows what the fame game is about," she says.

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