Everything in football now has a sponsor, from monster new stadiums and the sleeves on football referees' shirts to - I can announce today, with pride and pleasure - the world's very first sponsored football column. From now on, it will be called "The Eddie Stobart Fan".
Or THE EDDIE STOBART FAN. Perhaps even E*D@D?I&E!. Graphic designers will be working on the new logo, once they have finished shredding all notepaper and signposting saying "Highbury". Emirates Airlines is paying £100m to have its name on Arsenal's new stadium for the next 15 years. The transport company Eddie Stobart Ltd is paying only £9.99 per season to have its name on this column, but, hey, it's a trendsetter. Built into the contract are bonuses for increased readership, numbers of letters to the editor printed and, if I do well in Europe, any columns that get syndicated.
I've already taken delivery of my sponsored motor, bearing the famous Eddie Stobart livery. At the moment, parking is fine, as we are still in the Lake District and there is a very large field right beside our house. This is empty at the moment, as the Herdwick sheep are being sold at Cockermouth market.
Next week, when we return to London, it could be awkward. If I do manage to park it outside my front door, that will mean ten houses on either side will be in darkness. Have you seen the size of these 12-wheeled articulated trucks with a trailer behind? Awesome. You can play five-a-sides inside, unseen, no bother. I plan to ring both Spurs and Arsenal on my return, in case they are holding any secret trials for new players and don't want the paparazzi from the Camden New Journal to find out.
Mine is called Coleen. All Eddie Stobart trucks have women's names. It's named after Wayne Rooney's girlfriend. On her return from her spend, spend, spend spree in New York on her pre-pre-pre-Christmas shopping trip, she wanted to put a little back into society. It is, of course, thanks to the modern-day sponsors, fighting each other to have every inch of football flesh and football-related objects covered in their name, that Wayne was able to become a millionaire while still aged seven, playing for Our Lady of Goodison primary school's first team.
Ah, such a sweet, romantic piece of football history, soon to
disappear for ever, just like Bolton's Burnden Park (now Reebok
Stadium); Stoke City's Victoria Ground (Britannia Stadium); Bradford City's Valley Parade (the Bradford & Bingley Stadium); and Leicester City's Filbert Street (Walkers Stadium). When Everton eventually move, their spanking new ground will be called the Granny-a-go-go Massage Parlour Stadium. That was the highest offer they could get, poor sods, but they're not exactly high-profile any more, now Wayne's departed.
I do have to wear the Eddie Stobart company tie and uniform while typing, and for the photo shoots for the in-house magazine, when I get to pose with Ffion. In 1998, when it looked as if William Hague might become our Great Leader, his fragrant wife had an Eddie Stobart truck named after her. William himself turned up to do the unveiling, of the, er, truck. I'm not sure if I'll have to pose with Ffion or her truck. The latter is a bit of a shed these days, but the former has quite a few thousand miles on her, especially now that her literary hubby has a fresh vroom in his piston.
Hold on. That's Eddie himself on the phone from Carlisle. He's just heard the latest news. The Bradford & Bingley Stadium and the McAlpine Stadium have each had another name change. They plastered their logos all over the shop, made us all get used to saying their silly names, mucked up all the programme notes and football results, and really really annoyed James Alexander Gordon, but now they are off. I dunno. That's sponsors for you.
Eddie now thinks he'd prefer to sponsor one of the stadiums up for grabs, instead of a potty little footer column. I can keep the tie, but he wants the truck back. Right, anyone - your name here for £9.98? OK, 10p. Right, I'll accept washers . . .