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19 December 2013

The Fan: topless goal celebrations

In the old days, goal celebrations were gentlemanly affairs – and what's wrong with showing a bit of skin?

By Hunter Davies

I wrote a really good column about a month ago. The joy was unconfined as I put it away, finished it all off – what a surge of emotion – so naturally I jumped in the air, ran round my room, then I tore off my shirt and rushed topless down the stairs.

The grandchildren, who were sitting drawing with their coloured crayons and eating muesli, their favourite occupation, carried on drawing and eating muesli, too young of course to understand how it feels to score a really good column. I went out in the street, looked for a crowd to jump into or even someone to hug. The postman was coming out of No 9 next door, so I jumped into his arms: what a fright he got, spilling all his Christmas cards. It was only then I realised how cold it was. I started shivering and couldn’t find my shirt or get back into the house, so had to ring the bell. My wife wouldn’t open the door. Eventually she appeared at the front window, holding up a yellow card, freshly coloured by the grandchildren.

I do so understand how players feel when they have scored a goal and I think it is really rotten that the ref always gives them a yellow card, two of which leads to being sent off, which is so unfair. What harm are they doing? How else are modern players meant to show their feelings?

In the old days, you walked back to the centre spot, perhaps the captain gave you a quick handshake, and that was it, on with the game. I have images in my mind from the 1960s of Bobby Moore with his shirt off, but this was after a game, swapping shirts with Pelé, en route to the dressing room.

Now we have all this emotional cuddling and kissing, not like traditional Englishmen. By the left, as my dad would have said, set the dogs on them. Either you have a group love-in, when they all pile on top of each other, often the whole team. Injuries do happen and it can take ages to unravel them, yet a ref never penalises them – oh no. Or you have an individual clutching his badge, which is totally phoney, as you know they will be off in the morning, given a half decent offer, or pointing at the name on his back, which is just showing off.

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But when a single triumphant player takes his top off, he’s in the book. Why does he do it ? A need to wave something, feel free and naked, show off his toned torso, or just because he has seen others do it? That bit-part Morrocan player Oussama Assaidi, who came on for Stoke last week and got the winner against Chelsea in the 90th minute, had his top off in seconds and probably didn’t mind a yellow. A moment of glory, unlikely to be repeated.

But star Prem players do it as well, unable to help themselves. They don’t, after all, get many chances to let free. All those millions, the monster gated mansion, three top of the range motors, all the girls they can eat and yet they get so little joy.

Look at them, such miserable sods, bags under their eyes, weighed down with stress and pressure. So come on, we must allow them to celebrate that miraculous moment when the point of all their hard work and training, discipline and sacrifice, is at last achieved – the scoring of an actual goal. And yet they are not allowed the simple act of shirt-removing.

Oh it is so cruel. How they must envy those Geordie chaps at Old Trafford last week who spent the whole game half-naked, despite the bad weather, cheering on their heroes beating Man U. How did that start – fans stripping off? I don’t remember it in the past. Copying the goal-scorer? Proof they are tough and true supporters, unbothered by the cold? Showing off their torsoes? Ironically, as they are mostly lardy.

They don’t get penalised for doing it, which is good – in fact, I think they should be rewarded. Now that football is getting another £1bn from BT, where do you think it will go? Into the pockets of the players and agents. Yet it should go to the fans, if it is true as Barclays tell us that we are football. Reduce all ticket prices. With free tickets for topless fans.

Right, that’s another one done. No triumphant display this time. Boring, midweek away-draw sort of column … 

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12 December 2013

The Fan: Buy one decent item, not a load of second-rate stuff

By Hunter Davies

At the latest count, wandering round my fun-filled room and my fun-filled mind, looking down the hall, opening drawers and cupboards, I reckon I currently have 20 different collections on the go. There’s my suffragette postcards, number ones of newspapers and magazines, my Lake District postcards, Beatrix Potter first editions, plus my two big collections – the Beatles and football.

What I have learned from 40 odd years of collecting rubbish, sorry I mean treasures, is that the more collections you have, the more chance you have of finding something to buy in any old junk shop, any old where.

The other thing I have learned is that from a value point of view – which I am not interested in, as I do it for amusement – it is always best to buy one decent item than a load of second-rate stuff. A rule I advise, but personally never follow.

In the days when I collected stamps, I knew that buying five Penny Blacks at £20 each was financially stupid. I should be buying one Penny Black for £100. A good one would always go up in value, whereas poor stamps with thins and missing margins (technical terms, don’t worry), would always be poor and worth little. 

But it was fun, having five Penny Blacks to ogle. 

So André, don’t you wish Spurs had acquired one superstar, even at a colossal price, rather than seven half-decent stars at the same price for whom you are unlikely ever to get your money back ? 

Because of the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for £86m, Spurs were able to spend £110m on – oh God, I’ve got to check their names, yet I’ve just been watching them play Man United. I had heard of only three of them before they arrived yet I like to think I am aware of all the up-and-coming stars in Europe, as God knows I spend enough time watching them on telly. 

I did know about Christian Eriksen, who almost four years ago got into the Danish team and was hailed as a new wonder. 

I also suspected there could be something not so good about him or he would long since have been bought by a major club. 

I’d heard vaguely of Roberto Soldado, scoring goals in Spain; and Paulinho, as he had just got into the Brazil team. But the other three – Nacer Chadli, Étienne Capoue and Erik Lamela – I had no image of. 

Still haven’t. If I met them in my porridge, I’d not be able to identify them.

Spurs bought the seven players because they could, because they had the money coming, and it was fun to stock up. Which is what I think to myself when I buy cheap footer programmes in charity shops, only to find I already have them when I get home. Just as Spurs did, continually buying the same sort of boring, pedestrian midfielder.

I might, of course, get home and find a hidden gem, something overlooked by other collectors, which is presumably what Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, hoped. Lamela and Soldada were in fact quite expensive, around £30m each, but surely Eriksen, at only £11m, with his obvious talent, could be fattened up, toughened up, and might eventually be like Luka Modric and sold for double. Bale was sold for over ten times what they paid. Fat chance of that happening again.

The team were not total rubbish in their draw with Man United, compared with their humiliation by Man City, but I suspect in January, if the seven new players were put on the market again, none would fetch even half what they cost.

I don’t suppose Villas-Boas had much say in it, but Spurs have ended up losing their only two good, really valuable players  – Bale and Modric – with nothing to show for it, sinking towards a middling, piddling position in the Prem.

With hindsight, it would clearly have been better to have bought one or at most two expensive, world-class players – if, that is, they would have come – rather than a handful of cheapos.

I do get fun out of looking at my tatty, cheapo collections, playing with them, hanging them on my walls. Cheapo players, though, they still have to do the business, not just look pretty on the bench.

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