Craig Bellamy has never been one of the game's sympathetic characters. He is a grandmaster at stealing PR disasters from the jaws of personal victory - see that fist-fight in Sierra Leone when visiting his own charity foundation last summer - and last Sunday followed the usual pattern.
Written off as a bit-part of the Manchester City project, he proved his playing mettle by scoring two exceptionally taken goals and then besmirched himself by lamping an intruder clearly already under the control of Manchester United's security goons. But that was not the only ugliness on show. His dubious - considering the opposition - aeroplane-style goal celebration featured his wing-span on show and with it one of the modern footballer's most prevalent pecadilloes; the all-over arm tattoo.
Where once, during his Newcastle days, it bore the legend "Cameron", the name of one of his three children, his right arm is now completely engraved in an Indian ink tribute to medieval Welsh rebel Owain Glyndwr. It bears resemblance to the gargoyles you can find on any church from that era and must raise the odd eyebrow in the Carrington showers from those not versed in the story of 1402's Battle of Pilleth. Cameron still gets a billing on his dad's arm, he just has to compete these days.
The tattoo artist is now an avowed friend of the footballer. Any Baby Bentley-driving Mock-Tudor dweller must be on first-name terms with a body artist. David Beckham, as ever, has been a trend-setter, with his arms now smeared in the work of needle merchant Louis Malloy, a Mancunian who has also decorated the torsos and limbs of Ricky Hatton and three Spice Girls. Included on Becks' body are etchings in Sanskrit and Hebrew as well as a Knights Templar whose presence was explained as a symbol of a love of playing for England. Who knew that Beckham too is a keen medieval historian? Well, it seems that the tattoo is actually in honour of a character from TV series "Prison Break". That seems a bit more like it.
Beckham's love of the tattooist's needle has been flourishing for some years. Euro 2004 saw him unveil a set of wings on his neck, which, when matched with his skinhead hairdo meant he now resembled the type of bloke you'd avoid at a fairground. In the real world, this type of decoration would preclude one being asked back for a second job interview.
There are plenty of other examples of this growing trend of silliness. Wayne Rooney's right arm reads "Just Enough Education To Perform", apt given his lack of formal academic qualifications yet actually the title of an album by raw-throated Welsh rockers Stereophonics, a personal favourite of Rooney. Stephen Ireland meanwhile chose to deflect attention away from his ill-starred dalliance with wearing a toupée by having his back covered in a bluey-eagle's-wingy type of thing. And who could forget Steve Sidwell's tempting of bitter fate by having his wedding vows inscribed across his spine? At present, Steve and wife Krystell remain happily spliced though he may be relieved he didn't bother to have the words of his Chelsea contract added in there.
And the trend is ever-growing. Envious dressing-room glances are clearly being cast and SMS messages exchanged as to the numbers of tattooists with worrying names like "Painless Dave". Catch any Premier League game and you will see at least one player whose arm is swathed in Celtic bands, tropical insects, mythical beasts and tributes to family members. Body art is clearly not an industry affected by global recession. Once the preserve of heavy rockers, prison-dwellers and able seamen in the Merchant Navy, an expensive and intrictate tattoo is a must have for any footballer who wants to feel part of the game's in-crowd.
I write, of course, as a person with neither the bravery or the physique to desire to show off a tattoo. When considering the current trend for painful decoration of one's body, I am always reminded of a quote from the film "Performance", a 60s zeitgeist orgy of sex and violence, where Mick Jagger, playing a reclusive rock star, is told "you'll look funny when you're fifty". The same, I fear, will be true of many of the ill-advised indian-inked protagonists we watch in today's stadiums.