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World Cup 2006: When England's WAGS went wild in Baden-Baden – and took the blame for failure

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When the English papers arrived carrying details of their first night on the town, the WAGs began to view those reporting on them with suspicion. Their paranoia was hardly helped by the fact that several senior hacks were staying in Brenner’s Park alongside them. “Some of them saw that as a problem,” says Oliver Holt. “Aaron Lennon’s family were particularly adamant that we should not be there.”

Those who were solely there to cover the WAGs were equally unwelcome. One female journalist who’d booked into Brenner’s Park undercover, masquerading as a Brit on holiday, was rumbled and asked to leave the hotel.

Another hackette who bedecked herself in WAG accoutrements and followed the girls on a day out to a theme park was collared by the real deal and advised that some of the other girls would “rip your hair extensions out”.

Things came to a head on a late night in Garibaldi’s when, says Andy Lines, “everybody was pissed and singing. One of the players’ missus took exception to me for some reason and screamed across the bar, ‘Why were you born so f**king ugly?’ I was marched out of the bar by security, with 30 or so WAGs waving me goodbye and singing ‘Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio’.

“But we’d arrived four or five days before the WAGs and I was already friends with the owner. I pulled out my mobile, called him and within a minute I was being ushered back inside to the cheers of my colleagues.”

We watched as one of the paps went straight up in [Ashley] Cole’s face and snapped away. It made everyone look bad

- Andy Lines

Their relationship with the paparazzi took the opposite course. Says Lines: “At the start there were five or six paparazzi out there and the paps were doing deals with the WAGs. There was one WAG – not Carly Zucker – who turned up for a jog in town wearing a revealing top. We saw her with one of the paps later on, looking at the images on his camera and saying, ‘Send that one, that one and that one’.

“But it’s a double-edged sword. These paps were quite unpleasant people. I was with a press photographer and we saw Ashley Cole sitting outside a restaurant on the other side of the street, having lunch. So the photographer took out a long lens and snapped a couple of shots. Then we watched as one of the paps went straight up in Cole’s face and snapped away. It made everyone look bad.”

Says Andrew Stenning: “The WAGs knew the paps like to work in close, on a single target. So they’d start coming out in a pack, like the advert with Here Come The Girls on it. Also, a lot of the main action was going on in places like Garibaldi’s and Maxi’s, where they couldn’t get in. The only photos you saw from those nights were taken by members of the public on mobile phones.

In the end, most of the paps went home. The paparazzi had been conquered. But now the WAGs faced a trickier opponent – a critical world press. While the British tabloids were reluctant to aim barbs at the golden goose, the opposition piled in.

“They spend more in 10 minutes than most of us do on our wardrobe in half a lifetime,” sneered Bild. “Not even the stores of Vuitton and Gucci can keep up with the daily attack of the hooligans with Visas,” moaned Spanish paper ABC.

Those who were at closer quarters disagree. “The WAGs did very little apart from enjoy themselves in the way well-off young women would,” says Holt. Nevertheless, the trope had now taken hold and though the WAGs cried in public after England’s defeat by Portugal they were glad to be going home.

Rives had spent £28,607, while Curran’s bill of £25,321 included 60 bottles of £75 pink champagne

All that remained was a quick morning’s shop, during which an almost desultory £30,000 was spent, a last drink in Garibaldi’s, where Tortora presented them with a cake decorated with images of St George, and settling up at Brenner’s. This took longer than anticipated because of the extras the WAGs had racked up on top of their £26,000 room bills. Rives had spent £28,607, while Curran’s bill of £25,321 included 60 bottles of £75 pink champagne.

In Baden-Baden the WAGs are remembered with fondness. “It was a great pleasure and lots of fun,” says Goertz-Meissener. ““Baden-Baden is a big party’ is what I heard all the time.”

However, the opposite was true in the highest echelons of English football. Says David Davies: “I remember one day in Soho Square not long after we’d come back when a meeting was held to discuss whether the WAGs had contributed negatively. There were a few people in the room who did believe that.” Adds Oliver Holt: “You could say that Baden-Baden and Sven paved the way for the authoritative Fabio Capello.”

Did the FA make a mistake allowing the WAGs to Baden-Baden? Brian Barwick kept his own counsel. “Obviously I have to respect what players like Steven and Rio have said,” he admitted. “Having said that, if you are going to have people like Victoria Beckham and Cheryl Cole in a single place you are going to have press interest, and the players did want their partners to be there.”

Says Davies: “The WAGs was a great sideshow whose importance and significance was blown out of all proportion. If anyone believes that England did not win the World Cup because of wives and girlfriends they are quite welcome to that but I don’t agree, and I’ll ask them this: “Who won the World Cup of 2006? Italy. And what happened the day after the match? Italy flew to Rome, the steps went up, the door opened and out of the plane came Marcello Lippi and Fabio Cannavaro, holding the trophy. And who came out of directly behind them? The rest of the players and their WAGs. The Italian WAGs had been there too.

“In Baden-Baden, a lot of people had a lot of fun – but it did not cost us the World Cup.”

This feature originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!