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2 September 2017

The big international stars are abandoning UK football

In the old days, Brits dominated the transfer headlines.

By Hunter Davies

The season, so far, whajafink?

Some huge transfers, for trillions, such as Neymar from Barça to PSG for… what was it now?… can’t remember… and when I do, it will seem utterly piddling.

Our top clubs, such as Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea, have enormous wealth, and they play in the best, most exciting league in the world, blah, blah, and yet the really big international stars don’t come here. Just the cheapo, £50 million, hardly known foreigners. Mostly to Arsenal. The standard of football, the women, the shopping, the programmes on Radio 4… none of these wonderful British attractions appears to tempt them. Instead they go to PSG, Real Madrid, Barça and Bayern Munich. What fools.

Not like the old days, when Brits dominated the transfer headlines. I remember in February 1905, when Alf Common went from Sunderland to Middlesbrough for the first £1,000 transfer, thinking that’s it, football has been ruined by money. Alf Common was a jovial Geordie, famous for his attempts to lose weight. A bit like a later Geordie hero, dear old Gazza.

But let’s salute today’s Prem. I am so pleased a Town is back in the top league, and doing well, so far – Huddersfield Town, who are so far unbeaten. “Town” is a traditional football surname. JB Priestley would have been pleased.

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Some new players are already establishing themselves, such as Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool, though a bit of a mouthful for the back of a shirt.

New Name. When I was at primary school during the Second World War, on the bus home we used to say to each other: “Are you a PLP?” If someone said no, we’d say: “You are not a proper living person!” If they answered yes, we’d say: “You’re a public leaning post!” And then lean on them. Don’t forget, there was rationing, even of childish jokes. I was thus delighted, four weeks ago, when Brighton paid a club record fee (£10m, hardly worth writing the cheque) for the Dutch midfielder, Davy Pröpper. Just think of the fun I could have had, aged eight, if I had been living in Brighton. “I’m a Propper supporter, are you? Har, har.”

More new commercial names plastered over our football. I hates ’em.The Football League Cup has changed its name, yet again. It used to be the Milk Cup, the White Van Cup, the Autodidact Cup, the Rumbling Tum Cup; now it has suddenly become the Carabao Cup. I can’t pronounce it, far less know what it means. Is it the name of a Canadian deer? A chewy chocolate bar? To save you, I will look it up. Oh, God save us. Turns out to be a Thai energy drink.

Plus a new advert flashing away on Prem perimeter boards. I even noticed it at Wembley when I went to see Spurs, which I am not talking about. “GO DADDY” it kept encouraging us all. To do what? To try a new sauce on our chips? Or is it a dating site for the elderly male? Not that I need one. I am exhausted with the dates I already have. GoDaddy – which I now see is how they propperly spell it – is apparently a domain site. Me neither.

Hair Highlights. David Silva of Man City has shaved his bonce, and looks a jerk. Chris Hughton, Brighton manager, has grown a little beard, hoping to be mistaken for Gary Lineker. Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester goalie, has bleached his hair. He is blonde, naturally, and it looks quite good, but he has not got the body to be the new Ronaldo.

The sound on Sky football is still a joke. I can’t hear the words above the sound effects, and BT is driving me mad. During Saturday late games, it will insist on suddenly flashing all the earlier results. I go mad, jumping up and screaming, trying to block my ears and my eyes, while still holding my glass of Beaujolais. I set the video for Match of the Day, as I go to bed at ten, and resolutely avoid knowing all the results till the Sunday morning. Bastards.

Hunter’s latest memoir, “A Life In the Day”, is published by Simon & Schuster

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This article appears in the 30 Aug 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The decline of the American empire