I have a punchable face; I also look like one of those people who drive slowly down the middle of the motorway - according to a letter I got last week. Strange, isn't it, what people hold against you? For about ten years I wrote a column in Punch where I referred to my wife as the Old Trout. Silly, juvenile, dunno why I did it for so long, just as I dunno why I use the word "dunno" when I know it's very annoying. Every week, I would get an abusive letter, saying it demeaned not just my wife, but all women.
My wife is getting irate letters these days herself. She's written a book about the diary of a woman, which readers love; but when they get to the end and realise it's fiction, there are always two or three every week who grow furious, feeling they've been cheated (though it does say clearly on the cover that it's a novel). Some even say that they'll never read her books again.
There's not a lot of logic, or sense, or fairness, to these sorts of dislikes, but we all have them. You wouldn't believe the number of players I hate for their silly hair or silly voices. In fact, it's part of the entertainment they provide. We pay a fortune to watch them, making them millionaires, thus entitling us to have no qualms about rubbishing them. "If you can't take the shit, then don't perform in public, be a politician, write or act for money," as my old granny used to say (no, not the one who went out with Wayne Rooney, the other one).
Currently, here's who I dislike, mostly for potty, petty reasons, which means I might change my opinion completely, perhaps by the end of this piece.
Only two months ago I loved Jose Mourinho: what a breath of fresh hair; did wonders at Porto; so cool to stand sideways to the dugout, as if oblivious to his team. Now I just wish he'd shave his stupid face, and stop chewing gum and blaming teams he can't beat (such as Spurs) for being defensive. If he's so clever, as he's told us, why can't he be clever enough to see how silly that was?
Alex Ferguson: well, he's a bully, we all know that - all the millions like me who have never met him. Andy Cole: I hate the fact he says he's now "Andrew Cole". What a poseur. And he always has a moany look. I don't like Robbie Fowler's face, or Trevor Francis's voice. Roy Keane: nasty piece of work, you just have to look at that sickening half-smile when he trots out. And David Beckham: I've gone right off him; he's so petty when he gets beaten or makes a mistake, lashing out like a spoilt child. I now believe that in the years when his free-kicks were magic, half of them were lucky, judging by the way nowadays he can't kick straight. Sven-Goran Eriksson: don't get me started. I have only to see his impassive face on the bench to start foaming at the mouth.
Currently top of my likes list, kissy-kissy all round, is Sam Allardyce. I adore his name, his accent, his big burly unglamorous frame, his little earpiece during games, his obsession with background scientists and experts; so endearing, so sweet, even if it's all cobblers and it'll be out just as soon as things go wrong. Arsene Wenger: not just for being by far the best manager, but for how he conducts himself. When it comes to cleverness, Mourinho is still in the backward class.
Cristiano Ronaldo - who cannot thrill to his play, and also how he plays, never surly or nasty or cynical? At the same time, I also like Robbie Savage. I enjoy his rage, his wrong sort of hair for his character, his stupidity when he loses it, thinking: "Oh goody, something really awful is going to happen." As long as he's not doing it to one of my team, in which case I boo him, like any other normal, half-witted fan.
James Beattie: I am amused he's become a gay icon, so I now watch him carefully - to see the attraction - and yes, he is a bit of a rural hunk; he'd make an attractive farmhand or sailor. Les Ferdinand: I do like his face (so regular) and his manners.
Rooney: so glad he's reappeared. I like his ugliness, his pasty face, his lack of self-obsession (such a relief from Becks), and his lack of respect for senior players. Now he has got a punchable face. Come on, you can see the marks.