Inside the shorts of our top players you will find dummies, firecrackers and the thoughts of Chairman Mao

Miraculously, three out of our four fab, toppermost, world-class, all-time, multitrillion-pound clubs have managed to crawl into the next round in Europe.

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The half-season so far has been half decent, in that somehow, miraculously, three out of our four fab, toppermost, world-class, all-time, multitrillion-pound clubs have managed to crawl into the next round in Europe despite being so useless and rubbish early doors. Phew. Something to look forward to in the new year. Meanwhile, what have the other excitements been?

Our New Spanish Friend

Don’t you think Gary Neville already looks Spanish? That dark hair, those flashing eyes, that superior, haughty stare. He doesn’t need Spanish lessons to manage Valencia. All those years at Man United, mixing with soft, soppy Anglo-Saxon blonds such as D Beckham, we missed that he is really, deep down, a brooding Iberian.

Hurrah for Leicester City

Could they really do it, astound the whole football world, prove everyone wrong – and avoid relegation back to the Championship? Oh, we does all hope so.

Mighty Managers Hard to decide which manager has given us most fun, amusement and column inches, but hats off to both José and Jürgen.

The pleasure in Mourinho’s downfall, sorry, slight stumble, has been worth my BT and Sky subscriptions put together, ie, millions. Herr Klopp is not smiling as much as he did at first, but I can’t take my eye off him either. Players, these days, they are just so boring, so lacking in charisma and personality and, most of all, worthwhile comments and quotes. I think all clubs should have 11 managers, all sitting on the bench, taking it in turns to stand up and glare or glower, shout and scream. That’s the sort of entertainment fans want.

Image of the season

When Joel Campbell of Arsenal, who’s hardly appeared this season, managed to get a goal against Swansea, he started rummaging in his shorts. I found myself thinking, “Don’t do it, Joel, there are kiddies watching.” To my surprise, he brought out a baby’s dummy, and proceeded to shove it in his mouth and prance around, sucking it. I am assuming he’s just had a baby, or perhaps a puppy, or someone he knows has had one. He never knew he would be in the team, or score a goal, so how long had he secreted that dummy down his shorts? Since he was a lad in Costa Rica?

How many other players are rushing about the pitch with other symbols of how much they love their wife, children, Jesus or how much each of them supports Jeremy Corbyn hidden on their person? There used to be a South American who put on a mask when he scored. Forgotten his name and what the symbolism was, but I can still see his face, or at least his mask. What I want is for a player to produce the thoughts of Chairman Mao, then throw the book at the ref if he dares give him a red card.

Hair

Dull time for hair, they really ought to get a grip, a kirby grip – remember them? Girls held their hair in place with kirby grips during the war, when of course we had no oranges or bananas. Almost every player now has a sensible short back and sides, the only novelty being a thin, shaven line down the side. Oh I do wish dreadlocks would come back, or long Seventies hair.

Managerial Hair

They all have such lush locks, that’s how they get the top jobs, but Klopp’s seem to have got darker since he joined Liverpool. Or was he bleaching them in Germany?

Beards

Yes, of course they are still with us, how could you miss them; the weediest, least macho, least scary player in every team now has to have one – the bushier, the better. Could be useful for hiding things in.

Stoke City

Well done on signing Shaqiri and Bojan, two youngish, smallish players whose careers appeared to be going nowhere despite starry starts (with Bayern Munich, in the case of Swiss-born Shaqiri; and Barcelona, where the Spaniard Bojan was considered a boy wonder). Both have done good this season for Stoke.

Bojan was cheap but Shaqiri cost Stoke £12m, their record signing. Shows that so-called middling clubs can splash out these days – hence one of the reasons why all the top teams have struggled this season, liable to be beaten by anyone. All the obscene monies have had one side effect – the Prem has become a bit more equal.

Kevin De Bruyne

Manchester City’s Belgian signing was certainly not cheap, costing a reported £55m, but he does look cuddly. Is he Prince Harry’s secret younger brother?

Scoring Early and Scoring First Does it work against you? Southampton must have been buzzing when they scored in the first minute against Liverpool – only to end up being stuffed 6-1.

One to Watch Duncan Watmore. I did like the look of him in an early-season under-21 game. Coming on as sub and dashing around with a smoothing iron, he fair took my breath away, but I didn’t know his club. Turned out to be Sunderland. He is now getting into their first team and last week he was let off training to go and collect a first-class degree in business and economics from Newcastle University. He looks a bit like Prince Harry’s clever cousin. What is going on?

Cliché of the season

“He has it in his locker.” By which the mealy-mouthed commentator means that the player in question has it in him to be really good – ie, an ability to hit the ball and pass to someone on his own side – but for some reason is playing shite. Now I realise it could also mean that literally. In his locker, back in the dressing room, he has left balloons and firecrackers, which he meant to take with him just in case he managed a decent shot on goal. 

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 appears in the 17 December 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas and New Year special