(the face of modern bookmaking)

The weekend reports of Wayne Rooney’s alleged gambling debts left out one very crucial element ; it seems the slow-witted Manchester United striker is in arrears to none other than England teammate Michael Owen. From the Fiver’s Barry Glendenning and Paul Doyle.

The Fiver’s been accused of many things in its time, but never of being a dirty welsher. And if anyone has the brass neck to claim our wagers aren’t paid for up front … well, that mountain of crumpled Grand National and US Masters betting slips we’re currently shovelling on the fire in a bid to keep warm proves they’re wrong. Sadly, it seems Wayne Rooney isn’t quite so honourable, if there’s any truth to tabloid claims that the England striker is refusing to pay a £700,000 debt he ran up as part of an England gambling ring organised by one-man bookie benefit Michael “Mug Punter” Owen.

But while mysterious “England insiders” have been saying that “Wayne feels very annoyed that no one discouraged him from chasing his losses” , the player himself has been quick to dismiss talk of a row with his England strike partner over the alleged unpaid debts or anything else. “Any suggestion of a rift or dispute between Wayne and Michael is completely without foundation as far as Wayne is concerned. Wayne and Michael remain the best of pals,” declared a spokesman for Rooney’s management company Proactive Sports.

As far as Wayne’s concerned, eh? And while Michael Owen has remained tight-lipped so far, denials that Rooney is a fairly incredible (even by his standards of wealth) £700,000 in the hole, it may provide some small comfort to Sven-Goran Eriksson, who intends to speak with the pair, along with other senior players, over allegations of hissy-fits and fisticuffs in the England camp. Whether or not he’ll sort things out is anyone’s guess and – unlike Wayne Rooney – the Fiver’s done with fruitless speculation. After agonising at great length yesterday, we bet £10 on Ruud van Nistelrooy to score first in the MU Rowdies v Arsenal match. The eventual first goalscorer was 6-1 shot Wayne Rooney – who now owes the Fiver £70.