I'm withered, wrecked, worn-out and knackered
It can be tough being a football fan. But no one said it would be easy. No one promised joy all the way. All we ever hoped was that it would be organised. There's Sky and ITV and BBC and all those other initials spending trillions on the rights to show football games, yet we end up with two weeks with hardly a match, followed by a Sunday with so many matches that I am left totally withered, wrecked, worn out, not to say knackered.
They don't seem to be aware that we have ordinary lives to lead, jobs and duties, families to which we are committed - well, vaguely connected. They just expect us to drop everything.
Last Sunday turned out to be a marathon, three live matches in one day. Surely someone should have told the FA or Sky that the night before we were having Amelia, my grand-daughter, aged seven months. I can't get up for her, can I, if she cries or wants fed. Do be reasonable. I've got to be at my brightest for all these live games.
Then I'd had a drama with my fax machine. My old one packed up, for no reason. The basic charge for repairing it started at £76, plus parts and postage, so I'd gone out on Saturday to Tottenham Court Road and bought a brand new one, latest model, also a Sharp, for guess how much - £90. Mad, isn't it? Life is so organised that it's easier and cheaper to discard something the minute there's a blip, whether husbands, wives, or domestic machines. I got up really early to set up the fax, work out the instructions, when people started ringing me about John Lennon - Sky News, Channel 4, ITN News. If anything breaks about the Beatles, especially on a Sunday, and they can't get any other self-appointed expert for a quick quote, and they're really really desperate, they'll ring me. I usually say OK, being a kind person, willing to help fellow hacks across the road. This time I said, go away, you're doing my head in, don't you know what day it is.
First up was Man Utd v Leeds. A monster, a Premier match that could decide the nature of the universe as we know it. Just as they were explaining that Beckham has been grounded, my wife said, here, could you hold Amelia for a few moments. What are you doing woman, I said. This is more important than life or death. I can't mess around with babies at this stage in the Evolution of Planet Earth. It's a Man U, don't you know.
The Reverend Sydney Smith - funny spelling, was she the first woman vicar? - said that his/her idea of heaven was eating pate de foie gras to the sound of trumpets. I've often tried to imagine what mine would be. Football would come into it - possibly watching Man Utd versus Barcelona to the sound of the Sergeant Pepper album while drinking Fleurie and eating a roast leg of lamb. Oh, what bliss.
I gave out a cheer when the commentator Alan Parry said that Dwight Yorke was playing, having just returned from playing in the Gold Cup in the West Indies, where he was "representing Jamaica".
"Trinidad and Tobago, you fool!" I shouted. Far too loud. It woke up Amelia and I got a bollocking from my dear wife. When the game settled, I became fixated by Harry Kewell's hair. It's long, and getting longer, most unusual in this age of skinheads and shaven bonces. It shows he is an individual, some one confident about himself, not copying all the others.
Then it was straight into Tranmere Rovers v Newcastle, the FA Cup quarter-final on ITV, with my best favourite commentator, Big Ron. Until now. I think I could go off Ron. He used "reading the script" three times, all pretty meaninglessly.
The game was annoying as well because both teams were in black and white. How could they have allowed that? But I was fascinated, as we all are, by Challinor of Tranmere, with his incredibly long throw-ins.
Years ago when I was following Spurs, Chivers was famous for his long throws, which were aimed at the head of Gilzean. But he got pissed off when people would go on about it, as if he was only in the team for his throws. Pat Jennings was equally irritated by people asking him all the time about his big hands. He did have this natural gift for saving a ball with one hand - and holding it. Amazing. But he used to get upset that people were suggesting he was some sort of freak. So he'd deliberately use two hands, even though he didn't need to.
I wanted Newcastle to win. Romance, really. Newcastle is one of those clubs that we all like, second only to the team we really, really like. They have such brilliant, supportive fans, such a great history, that we want them to do well. I also like their having a manager and a captain who come from Newcastle, ie, who are both local lads. I can't think of another Premier League club that can say that. It will probably never happen again, in this mercenary age, the way the football world is going.
The final live match of the day was another quarter-final, Everton v Aston Villa. In this case, I didn't care who won. It meant I could concentrate on thinking about Everton's American forward, Joe-Max Moore. Is he the only footballer in the League with a double-barrelled Christian name? Then I worried whether Tore Andre Flo is hyphenated or not. Then I thought back to Ian Storey-Moore of Nottingham Forest. Has he been our only player with a double-barrelled surname?
By the time I had answered my own dopey questions, I had fallen asleep, after six consecutive hours of live football - only to wake and find that Amelia was on my tummy, wanting to play. Sorry, petal. Three live games. Result: one half-dead grandad.
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