100% my own work

Now even halfwits can create footie stats. I blame the internet

I blame computers for this obsession with stats, though I shouldn't as I'm at last coming to grips with them. I feel faithless to my trusty Amstrad, on which I have written ten million words, but now I'm using the latest Apple iMac, I think that's what it's called. Or is it Eye Mac? Computers mean that even halfwits can create stats - and then throw them at us, whether we want them or not.

In football, as in all sports, the geek has always been with us, sucking his pencil and working out the goal average of Preston North End in 1888.

(NS stat: So far Hunter has not mentioned Carlisle United, which is the first time in three-and-half articles, including extra time.)

Sky is the worst offender, running flickering lines of boring, irrelevent information just as you try to concentrate on the game. When the BBC's John Motson gives out all his statistical crap, which you know he has got written down in front of him, it's funny because Motty is a joke not to be taken seriously.

(NS info bar: Hunter has now written 233 words, none of which begin with X or Z or contain a swear word, even d*mn.)

Thanks to computers, programme makers can put in loads of stupid info and, bingo, create a new stat that is even more boring than the one they began with. They also have state-of-the-art cameras which can measure the length of a free kick, draw lines across the pitch while the game is taking place, count up the number of passes, their success rate and the hairs on Wayne Rooney's chest. Isn't science wonderful? No it is not, it is bloody annoying and distracting.

They also have cameras which can measure the length of a free kick and the hairs on Rooney’s chest. Isn’t science wonderful? No

(NS fact: Hunter has been writing this column since 1996 and has served under four editors, the first of whom, Ian Hargreaves, had no interest in football. Then came Peter Wilby, who followed Leicester City, poor sod; after whom came John Kampfner, who was a Chelsea fan, so he said, but we know about Chelsea fans; and now we have Jason Cowley, the first NS editor in living memory to be a real expert on sports, so better watch your Ps and Qs, Hunter my old son.

I love books on football, and in my collection of 2,000 on the subject, I have tons of volumes which are full of facts. But you know what, I read them for the pictures, the pen portraits, the social history, the changes and innovations, the characters and dramas, not reports or facts and figures. The minute I've seen a game, in the flesh or on TV, no matter how exciting it has been, ten minutes later when my wife asks me who won, I have to stop and think. Oh yeh, the game, it was really good, hold on, it ended, er, yes it's ended, now what's for tea, ma.

(NS info bar: Hunter has so far not mentioned the Beatles or Paul Gascoigne and this season he has not mentioned them in 23.55 per cent of his columns.)

I also hate all this texting that goes on, especially on Five when they have a big Euro game. They will encourage idiots to text in their idiot opinions and then some otherwise quite intelligent person, such as that Scottish bloke (what's-his-name, small and thin and weedy, used to be a winger?) comments. God I wish I could use the internet, but that's next week's lesson at the training school in Regent Street.

(NS super stat: Hunter Davies has managed to retain 80 per cent possession of his faculties, has had five shots on goal, but only one on target, and now has to stop as he's got to 660 words, which is all the rotten editor will allow him.)

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 November 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Change has come