Wayne Rooney. Photo: Getty
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It’s hard to remember a time when Rooney hasn’t been injured

I hardly slept for weeks during the run-up to the last two World Cups, terrified he wouldn’t make it.

I am always getting T S Eliot and John Lennon mixed up. Easily done. One said he measured out his life in miles and the other in coffee spoons, or was it teaspoons? Any road up, I have measured out my life in injuries.

I don’t just mean my own injuries, though they are markers in my long-legged life. Now, I say to myself, was that before or after I had my new knee? I also date stuff by saying: hmm, it must have been ten years ago, certainly before I had my seizure. That happened on a south of France beach when I passed out, woke up in Cannes general hospital.

But it’s nothing compared with the dreadful, worrying, awful injuries to my heroes, which have happened at regular intervals in my football life.

After Man United got knocked out of Europe by Bayern Munich, the clever clogs in the back pages, who suck their pencils and think of a number, gave Wayne Rooney only five out of ten. They said he was rubbish, didn’t look fit. Dear God, I thought, give him a break. He’s had a poorly toe all week, poor lad. Now he’s got a tight groin.

It’s hard to remember a time when Rooney hasn’t been injured, or recovering from injury. I hardly slept for weeks during the run-up to the last two World Cups, terrified he wouldn’t make it (I was ghosting his autobiog, and yes, his injuries and lousy World Cup form did hurt sales).

At one time, the whole football nation was holding its breath in case Beckham pulled his metatarsal. Can you pull one, or do they break? I used to know. I cut out diagrams from the back pages and pinned them on the bedroom wall, then started worrying the moment I woke up.

Bryan Robson, Captain Fantastic, didn’t they call him, or was it Captain Marvel, was always getting injured before cruciate games, I mean crucial games, getting my medical terms mixed up. We were on tender hooks, another medical term, until he actually appeared on the pitch. Which he usually did. He put himself through pain for our sake. He should have been known as Messiah, not Marvel.

Gazza, goodness, he was a heavy load to bear. I used to close my eyes when I watched him play, knowing that at any moment he was going to do something stupid. Sometimes it was funny, like picking up a Mars Bar thrown by some rival fan who had been shouting “fat bastard” at him, and eating it. At other times it was a mad, wild lunging tackle of an opposition player, the goalpost, the mascot, or the referee, which usually resulted in him being the one injured.

Back in the Sixties, I lay awake at night hoping Jimmy Greaves would not get injured. This rarely happened on the pitch: he didn’t move fast enough to get hurt, restricting himself to strolling around the penalty area, as if not bothered, but his little eyes glinting, taking everything in, being a natural-born poacher.

Off the pitch, though, weird things happened to him. He once got himself a new Jaguar, leaned over into the rear seat, something went in his back, and bingo – he was out for ages. Oh, the worries he caused me.

Today, there seem to be more injuries than in the past. It could be the modern flimsy boots, which give so little protection, or the speed of the game, yet the players themselves are supposed to be fitter, healthier, can run further and longer. Most teams, at any one time this season, have had at least three regulars out injured. Arsenal have been missing Walcott, Wilshere, Ramsey. Man United have had van Persie to worry about as well as Rooney. Wenger was asked the other day about Arsenal’s injuries. He hinted that personal medications could be to blame, players using hair restorers, slimming pills, sex pills – all unknown to the club – which could be having nasty side effects.

Oh no, that’s all I need. With the World Cup coming up now, I have to worry what they get up to in the bathroom and the bedroom, not just on the pitch.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 May 2014 issue of the New Statesman, India's worst nightmare?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons and Getty
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“Rise like lions after slumber”: why do Jeremy Corbyn and co keep reciting a 19th century poem?

How a passage from Percy Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy became Labour’s battle cry.

“If I may, I’d like to quote one of my favourite poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley,” Jeremy Corbyn politely suggested to a huge Glastonbury audience. The crowd of nearly 120,000 – more accustomed to the boom of headline acts than elderly men reading out romantic poetry – roared its approval.

“Rise like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number!” he rumbled. “Shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you: ye are many – they are few!”

The Labour leader told the crowd that this was his favourite line. It’s the final stanza of Shelley’s 1819 poem, The Masque of Anarchy, written in response to the Peterloo Massacre earlier that year, when a cavalry charged into a non-violent protest for the vote.

Though it was not published in Shelley’s lifetime – it was first released in 1832 – the poem has become a rallying cry for peaceful resistance. It has been recited at uprisings throughout history, from Tiananmen Square to Tahrir Square.

Corbyn’s turn on the Pyramid Stage was not the first time he’s used it. He recited the stanza during his closing speech on election night in Islington, and the audience began quoting along with him:


It was also used by comedian and celebrity Labour supporter Steve Coogan at a rally in Birmingham:


During Corbyn’s second leadership campaign, his ally Chris Williamson MP told a public meeting that this part of the poem should be “our battle cry” . He delivered on this the following year by reciting the poem to me in his Renault Clio while out on the campaign trail in England’s most marginal constituency (which he ended up winning).

You can hear it echoed in Labour’s campaign slogan: “For the many, not the few”.

Corbyn’s election guru, James Schneider, told the Standard at the time that “it would be a stretch” to say the slogan was taken directly from the poem, but that “Jeremy does know Shelley”. Yet even he took the time to recite the whole stanza down the phone to the journalist who was asking.

Corbyn is famously a fan of the novelist and author Ben Okri. The pair did a literary night at the Royal Festival Hall in London’s Southbank in July last year, in which the Shelley lines came up at the end of the event, as reported by Katy Balls over at the Spectator. Okri announced that he wanted to recite them, telling Corbyn and the audience:

“I want to read five lines of Shelley . . . I think there are some poems that ought to be, like you know those rock concerts, and the musician starts to sing and the whole audience knows the lines? And sings along with them? Well this ought to be one of those, and I’d like to propose that we somehow make it so that anytime someone starts with the word ‘Rise’, you know exactly what the lines are going to be.”

Which, of course, is exactly what Corbyn did at Glastonbury.

“We have this huge, abundant literature on the left and it’s hardly known”

The former left-wing Labour leader Michael Foot loved the poem and recited the lines at demos, and Stop the War – the campaign group Corbyn supports and chaired – took a line from it as the title of its 2014 film about anti-Iraq War action, We Are Many.

So why does the Labour left rally around some lines of poetry written nearly 200 years ago?

“It’s a really appropriate poem,” says Jacqueline Mulhallen, author of Percy Bysshe Shelley: Poet and Revolutionary (Pluto, 2015). “Shelley wrote a poem about the fact that these people were protesting about a minority taking the wealth from the majority, and the majority shouldn’t allow it to happen.

“He was writing at the beginning of industrial capitalism, and protested then, and 200 years later, we’ve still got the same situation: food banks, homeless people, Grenfell Tower, more debts – that’s why it has great resonance when Corbyn quotes it.”

“Shelley said there’s loads of us, it’s just a little corrupt crew – well, of course that applies now”

Michael Rosen, the poet and former Children’s Laureate, also describes the poignancy of Shelley’s words in Corbyn’s campaign. “You’ve got a sense of continuity,” he tells me. “Shelley was campaigning for freedom, for free thought, for free love. He was campaigning for a fairer society; it was a time of incredible oppression. He said there’s loads of us, it’s just a little corrupt crew – well, of course that applies now.”

Rosen celebrates the poem’s place in the Labour movement. “When any of us from the left quote people from the past, we’re saying that we have traditions... We’re making a claim on our authenticity,” he says. “Just in the same way as the right and the establishment draw on the pageantry of the Queen, or talk about Parliament or quote Winston Churchill. These are our traditions, which are different. You hardly ever come across it, either in newspapers or history lessons or anything.”

Rosen, a friend of Corbyn’s, believes his speech brings a left-wing tradition alive that is often forgotten. “We have this huge, abundant literature on the left and it’s hardly known. What’s great about Jeremy calling on it is to remind us . . . This stuff sits in old museums and libraries, gathering dust until it’s made active and live again. It’s made active and live particularly when being used in an environment like that [Glastonbury]. He was making the words come alive.”

Read more: 7 things we learned from Jeremy Corbyn on The One Show

The Masque of Anarchy’s final stanza has been recited at high-profile protests throughout history – including at the 20,000 garment workers’ strike in 1909 in New York, the student-led demo in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, anti-Poll Tax protests, and at Tahrir Square in Egypt during the Arab Spring, according to Mulhallen. The way civilians were treated by the authorities in many of these protests echoes what happened at Peterloo.

So does Corbyn’s penchant for the verse mark a similar radical turning-point in our history? “It’s indicating a change in attitude that people should start thinking about redistributing the wealth again,” says Mulhallen. “People are becoming much more aware.”

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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