IN many ways it is a rite of passage to be expected by any rising Premier League football star, especially one who now has three lions on his chest: The attention of the red top press.

For some, former Southampton player Theo Walcott for instance, the attention can be positive.

His relationship and subsequent marriage to sweetheart Mel Slade was handled with sugar-coated sweetness.

For Shaw, his debut in the front section of a national kiss-and-tell red top has been far less saccharine.

For the Saints 18-year-old wonderkid, yesterday’s front page splash concerning his connection to Playboy pin-up Carla Howe marked his passage into the heady world of English football versus the British tabloids.

For anyone who has some understanding of how such papers work, The Sun on Sunday’s exclusive splash was all very predictable and regular fare. Shaw was caught texting – ‘sexting’ is the tabloid term – to the beautiful Carla, sending her selfies – one of him in an England shirt and another shirtless showing off his six pack.

But it wasn’t the fact he had been involved in communicating with the 23-year-old – who lives with her twin sister at the Playboy Mansion in California – but the fact he had supposedly then asked her to consider letting him have sex with the both of them – ‘a threesome’ – that enabled the paper to push the story to the front page.

‘England ace Luke begged me for threesome’ screamed the paper, complete with requisite photograph of Miss Howe – top unzipped just far enough to reveal her ample cleavage – and the selfie of Shaw wearing those Three Lions.

Inside the story took up most of pages four and five, where a “shocked” Carla explained she had been disgusted by the player’s request to bed both her and her sister together.

“I thought he wanted to start a relationship with me,” Carla told the paper, as she posed in red bra, stockings and suspenders for the feature. Elsewhere on the page she and “stunning” twin Melissa are photographed with Playboy owner Hugh Hefner.

Not that readers would have needed to be reminded too much regarding the identity of Miss Howe, as she has appeared in their columns with previous reports of her relationships with Man United’s Patrice Evra, pop star and rapper Snoop Dogg.

Sister Melissa has also appeared in the red top for her fling with, and here’s an irony that wasn’t lost on the paper, Ashley Cole, who Shaw has replaced in the England squad.

At least Carla had some words of comfort for the Southampton star, whose reputation she has now dragged through the gutter press, by adding that: “You can tell Luke isn’t like Ashley.....he deserves to be in the England team more.”

No doubt England manager Roy Hodgson will be grateful for her endorsement of his choice which has come in for some criticism.

Basingstoke Gazette: Luke Shaw

Apart from pointing out that Shaw hardly “begged” or “pleaded” for sex as the report maintained – anyone reading the texts between the two can see they seemed more like harmless banter – the biggest question here is not how an 18-year-old rising football star with a £30m price tag managed to find himself in communication with a voluptuous Playboy model – duh! – but whether anyone around him had warned that such actions were likely to end in yesterday’s predictable coverage?

The paper itself made much of the fact the England squad is warned it must not bring the team into disrepute and avoid engaging in, well just about anything that might end up looking bad back home.

If sending half naked photos of yourself to a Playboy model and mentioning sex acts was not actually on the taboo list, then certainly something similar would have been.

What then went wrong? Were the riot acts never read? Did Shaw, his head heady with his first England cap, not bother to read the small print or think such rules were just box-ticking?

Whatever the case, wiser heads should have prevailed on him, and fellow starlets in Brazil, that dangers lurk everywhere in winning smiles and heaving bosoms.

Those wiser heads would also have realised that there was a risk, a pretty large risk, that starting a communication, albeit long distance, with a beauty already well known to the red top tabloids was likely to end the way it did. But wise heads in football are hard to find, as the long list of kiss-and-tell ‘victims’ that have paraded through the columns of the British media can testify to.

For Shaw the timing was also unfortunate. The paper just might have held on to the story until the team had returned from Brazil if they had fought on and done well.

If he had returned a hero then it could have thought twice about raining on his parade. England’s quick exit from the tournament left the field open for Miss Howe to score a winner.

We do not know if Shaw will face any disciplinary action from the FA.

Probably not, just a sharp few words and lessons learnt. No doubt the lad is embarrassed, in part because his mum might have read the paper, and no 18-yearold ever wants those kind of texts to be read by their mother.

Certainly lessons will have been learnt, and perhaps Miss Carla will have done Shaw a favour. If he can get this much publicity from a few errant texts, then he knows what the future holds should he fail to be careful in his choice of companions.

No one from Shaw’s camp yesterday was prepared to comment on the articles, leaving the final word then to the lovely Carla herself: “He’s just like any other footballer.”

Now what 18-year-old rising star would want to argue with that?