The best, the rest and the journeymen

The return of Hunter Davies "The Fan" column.

The new season seems to have been here for, well, not long really. Still can’t get my head round Van Persie in a Man United shirt. When they move here from a foreign club, your eye and mind can accept it quite quickly, as you never saw them enough to make them a household face, part of the furniture. But when it’s one of your own extended family moving in with those awful people from the next street, you keep blinking.

Berbatov, he’s another I haven’t quite assimilated. It’s not that he looks strange at Fulham but that he looks strange standing up. Got used to seeing him only from the neck up, sitting on his bum on the Man United bench.

Still trying to clear up what the Premiership refs have now got on their sleeves. Looks like they are being sponsored by something beginning with EXI that has an aeroplane motive. Could it be that Exit, the voluntary euthanasia people, and they are ready to fly off and end it all after a bad game?

Alan Shearer, alas, is still with us but even more shaven-haired. He has a fine jawline, a steady gaze, comes out with such authority and power when he is telling us something utterly banal that I suspect he is now being played by an actor. Patrick Stewart, maybes?

Looks funny there, the word “maybes” but how else can you spell it? It’s what Geordies say, artfully turning maybe into a plural.

Joe Cole and Michael Owen, I honestly have looked everywhere for them, scanned the comings and goings, checked the small print in the last-minute transfers. Have they fallen down the back of the sofa, been chucked out with the waste paper and are now shouting and screaming at the recycling depot to be rescued? I went to the Kentish Town dump last week and it’s enormous. You could drop Roy Hodgson’s full 23 squad into one of the containers and no one would ever know.

Joey Barton going to Marseilles, gosh that was a good ’un, never expected that – I still feel it’s a joke tweet. One of the points made by everyone during the Olympics was how lovely and charming and polite our Olympians were – and so they should be, all that money having been spent on their private-school education, up at 5.30 in the morning to train all on their own, then doing their PhD during the day, blah blah, not like our spoiled multimillionaires. But one of the many points in favour of football as an occupation is that it does keep yobs off the street. Good luck with the Frogs, Joey.

Bonus culture

Only three weeks into the season, yet I am already pissed off by Sky telling us the Premiership is the best and most exciting league in the world. I can only assume that Martin Tyler, whom I do like as a commentator, is under orders, perhaps bonus money every time he drags it in. He even had the brass neck to tell us that Man City have the best players in the world. What is he on? I mean per hour, which would explain why he has to earn his bonuses.

So we all had to laugh when Chelsea, our best team last year, having won the Euro championship, if rather fortunately – got well and truly stuffed 4-1 in that Uefa super cup in Monaco by Atlético Madrid. If the Prem is the best in the world, how come Chelsea can be taken apart by a team that finished well down La Liga last season – 44 points behind the winners, Real Madrid, and 35 behind Barça?

And if we are the best league, why can’t we attract the best players? Obviously Messi and Ronaldo will not be coming, not till they are aged 49, overweight and limping, but surely someone could have tempted Falcao away from Atlético Madrid?

If you look at the transfers this season, what we have mostly got from Spain have been the dribs and drabs, journeymen and unknowns.

The eye-catching ones have been internal, such as Van Persie, Berbatov, Andy Carroll to West Ham, the two Fulham players going to Spurs – Dembélé and Dempsey. By already playing here, they have been brainwashed into believing they are in the best league. The fools.


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 10 September 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Autumn politics special