Facial hair and Formica – we’re halfway through the season
I am sure you didn't notice, as you lead such busy lives - and I hate to be self-regarding, as I always give any column a miss if the columnist starts referring to his or her column, as if we care, as if we can remember - but the first letter was missing from this column last week. Heads have rolled at New Statesman Towers. But it provided an old graphic-design joke - the column began with a dropped letter . . .
Now, to business. As the half-season draws to a close, time to take socks.
A new era has dawned, not quite up there with the Arab spring, but reality has set in. No one expects England to do any more than what they
always do in major competitions, which is bugger all.
End of the golden generation. If you blinked, you missed them (or missed their goldenness) but, for a decade, we've been telling ourselves we were blessed with an extraordinary generation of gifted players, such as Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Terry, Lampard, Gerard, Cole and Rooney - oh, how lucky we were, the whole world must be green with envy. In the end , they won nothing, didn't even get near. I think by this time next season all but one will be mere memories.
Haircuts. I was going to give the half-year award to Gervinho of Arsenal, consistently intriguing - hello, are you there, still lurking underneath that nest? Then who should come storming up on the outside but that great overlapper, Benoît Assou-Ekotto of Spurs? He had flat braids or similar for ages. Then, he suddenly appeared with a mountain of fuzz, making Marouane Fellaini of Everton look as if he had a number-two crop.
Moustaches. In November, they were all growing one for charidy, though Gary Lineker never managed more than pubic fluff.
Blond lowlights. Poor old Fernando Torres - he's recently gone back to dyeing his hair blond and where has it got him? Still on the bench, that's where.
One Prem manager down, so far: old Brucie at Sunderland. All the wise heads have also been tipping that AVB of Chelsea will be a goner by Christmas. His crouching has got lower and lower as the season has gone on and I expect soon all we will see on the touchline is a molehill. What is mystifying is his lack of friends. He is the bench's Billy No Mates. No one talks to him or cuddles him when Chelsea score. Does he smell ? Do they have an assistant manager? Oh, yeah, Roberto di Matteo. I bet he'll be away by Christmas. And no one will notice.
Crowd chants. Nothing new that is repeatable but I did feel old when, at the Newcastle v Chelsea game, I heard the home crowd singing that ancient song that begins with "We hate Nottingham Forest". Is there still such a team? Just found them, lurking in the depths. How can anyone hate a team so unthreatening? It's a period piece and should be encouraged.
New names. Three players whom most had never heard of last year have done well - Kyle Walker of Spurs, Juan Mata at Chelsea and Phil Jones of Man United.
More new names. Two players I will also be watching - and mouthing - purely for their names. Blackburn have signed an Argentinian called Mauro Formica, which could be a fabricated name, like Carlos Kickaball, while Cardiff City have acquired the delightful-sounding Slovak Filip Kiss.
Now that it's winter, the close-up shots in the crowds are no longer of half-naked, pretty girls but of celebs we can't recognise. At a Celtic game, the camera lingered on a very old, grey-haired man with specs who turned out to be Billy Connolly. A podgy-faced feller watching Villa was revealed
to be David Cameron.
Tragedy. The death of Gary Speed has been hard to comprehend because football, through its brutal selection system, usually eliminates those with depressive tendencies. In the past, when something like this happened, it was often well after their careers were over, life was empty, no money, on the bottle, like Hughie Gallacher, the great Scottish star of the 1920s who played for Newcastle and Chelsea. He threw himself under a train. Speed seemed to have so much to live for.