The bread and gruel of life is leavened by football for pudding

I hate it when there are no Prem games.What is a sad, pathetic, Billy-no-mates creature to do except mope around, lorst. My whole Saturday and Sunday revolves round going to or watching football, squeezing in between what people call real life. As if football was pretend life - what do they know?

I liked Woody Allen in an interview the other day saying that if he gets to 15 takes but it is six o'clock, he packs up and goes home to watch the game. The precise type of game was not mentioned, but a game is a game is a game. Bugger real life.

I do more work, get more done, on an action-packed Prem weekend, desperately packing stuff in, before and after and in between the games, concentrating so hard on the bread and gruel of life, knowing I have pudding to come, hurrah.

All this, the clearing of the top two leagues, just for the minor, piddling matter of an England game. Though why the Championship has to be abandoned as well, I don't know. Can't remember when one of their players last made the starting line-up. Jay Bothroyd, while at Cardiff, was named in the squad last year for the friendly against France, and did come on as a second-half sub. But when has a Champ player ever started for England ? Don't tell me. Write to the Spectator.

So England against Montenegro became not just the pudding but all meals and afters for the whole weekend. Poor little Montenegro. It has about the population of Sheffield, so how could they cope with the might, wealth and power of England? I was in Montenegro earlier this year - stunning coastline, beautiful medieval fortified harbours I had never heard of, such as Kotor - but when you leave the town, go up into the barren hills, it's like going back 100 years. Few signs of modern life, far less a football pitch.

And yet for the game against England they had the usual flashing advertisements for, for - hold on, I wrote it down somewhere - for South Bank University and the University of Sunderland. No disrespect, as footballers always say, about to be disrespectful, but advertising rates in Montenegro must be awfully cheap. I might advertise my set of World Cup 1986 Panini stickers next time - only three missing.

I so wanted Montenegro to do well - and they did, humiliating an England team supposedly filled with world-class stars, although not for long, in the case of Wayne. Once again, England came away with a dreary draw against a greatly inferior team from a small country. They have crept into the Euro finals next year - but I expect them to be stuffed. Early doors, their heads droop, their hearts sink, their bodies shrink as they cease to be the prime Prem players we know they can be - for do we not see them every week of the season, playing like Prem players?

Heavy petal

Why is this, you ask? What goes wrong when they play for England? Why did good professionals like Scholes and Jamie Carragher decide they couldn't be arsed? You can blame Capello, not understanding the English psyche, or the language. The poor little petals getting bored stuck in their luxury hotel for sometimes five days - ooh, one does sympathise. Having to drag themselves to Godforsaken countries with primitive stadiums and rubbish pitches and then play unknown, unpronounceable cloggers to whom playing England and seeing the gorgeous Wayne in the flesh will be the height of their careers, if not their lives.

I think what happens is that they suffer the same syndrome as we, the fans, experience. When there are no Prem games, for two full weeks, they feel discombobulated, out of sorts, their routines ruined, dunno what to do with themselves.

They know, as we know, that in these endless qualifying Euro and World Cups games the opposition will be inferior, no question, just look at the world rankings, just look at their pay packets. Their little hearts sink at the very thought of having to perform - knowing they will be criticised unless they give them a good stuffing, which they very rarely do. Like us, they want to get back as quickly as possible to real life - what am I saying,
I mean real football life.

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 17 October 2011 issue of the New Statesman, This is plan B