Hunter Davies' "The Fan" column.
Hunter Davies' "The Fan" column.
I’ll be pleased when Movember ends and this pathetic attempt to grow moustaches for charidy is over. As someone with a real, manly, educated, cultured tash, I think it’s just laughable. Have you seen Peter Crouch with his pubic fluff? Put it away, Pete. Or Michael Owen with his stick-on?
I’ve had mine for must be . . . well, I can’t quite remember. There was a stage when I used to shave it off in the winter before I went to the sun, in order to get my top lip brown. Then I’d let it grow on my return.
There’s a snap of me from the Sixties, complete with long, bushy sideboards. My children say, “Oh, you looked like George Best.” I say, “No. George Best looked like me.” Which is true. Chaps of a certain age, at that time, did look much the same. We copied each other.
It was never really a fashion statement for me. I had such a heavy growth in those days and I was always cutting my upper lip so I grew the moustache to save time.
Most of the Stoke City team and players at many other clubs have been trying to grow a moustache with varying degrees of ludicrousness. Robert Huth looks officer class. The rest are well dodgy. I bet their wives and partners have been cringing, waiting for December.
Did you see the Juventus team, who stuffed Chelsea 3-0 and caused the fall of Roberto Di Matteo and the arrival of that berk Rafael Benitez? They had decided to grow beards. How splendid they looked, how swashbuckling. I do believe it increased their strength and confidence and helped with two of their goals. Can beards get assists?
Andrea Pirlo, the magnificent magician who helped Italy destroy England at the Euros in June, has grown such a fabulously bushy beard that he looks like the sailor on the packet of Player’s cigarettes. Even at 33, he is so graceful, creative and clever and he destroyed Chelsea practically on his own – thanks to his beard.
I looked at him, as I did at Crouch, and wondered: “Did he begin it?” Someone in the Stoke team must have said, “Come on, lads, I’m growing a tash. Who’s up for it?” It would have to have been a leader, someone people look up to, not necessarily the captain but a strong personality in the dressing room. Was that Crouchy at Stoke? With his pedigree of top clubs and England caps, compared with Stoke’s journeymen, and his verbal fluency, as he is quite couth, he probably commands respect.
In the Juventus dressing room, I bet Pirlo is a living god, even if you now tell me that in reality he is shy and introverted. He just has to comb his hair on the other side or wear lipstick and the impressionable will follow.
Follow the pack The thing about footballers is that they are sheep – they’re incredibly wealthy, gifted, vain, over-indulged and spoiled, yet they still have a herd mentality. Once you get access to their pen, you can do almost anything with them.
They live such an insular life, cut off from the world, that if some chancer gets in, offering them a brilliant pension or tax scheme, marvellous investment opportunities, some designer gear (origin unknown) or some models up for a good time, then once one falls for it, others follow. A plausible con man who can persuade one of the stars that if you text this number, you can place as many bets as you like and no one, not your wife, mistress, agent, or the press, will ever know your name or number or how much you have lost – sorry, how much you have won –will have the whole dressing room losing hundreds of thousands of pounds in a matter of weeks.
Near us, two streets away, there is a converted church, very nicely done, and the local rumour is that half the flats have been bought by Arsenal players. They don’t know it, of course. I mean the Arsenal players. Someone else is handling their property portfolios, buying stuff they will never know about. Man United players have blocks in Florida and Dubai they will never visit.
When I was writing about Spurs back in the 1970s and wages were fairly piddling, they still managed to hand over cash in envelopes to some dodgy geezer who put it down on an unbuilt flat in Benidorm. (The point of the cash was that you had to go through the Bank of England to export money and pay a premium.)
Half the dressing room had bought a suspiciously cheap TV set from the same Flash Harry. When they heard he had been arrested, they all rushed home after training to erase the serial number. A tash and a beard is at least pretty harmless.