Saturday 27 August 2022

The Good Foul

Newcastle United full back Kieran Trippier defended his foul on Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne during last Sunday’s 3-3 draw in the Anti-Human Rights derby at St James’ Park, suggesting it was right that his red card was overturned by VAR. 

“I’m not the kind of person to deliberately injure another player” he told Guy Mowbray. 

Very commendable, Kieran, although I note you that are more than happy to play for an ownership that beheads people. 

Sorry. Shame on me. Can I not see the possibility that Kieron is trying to bring down, not just De Bruyne, but the regime from within, beginning with this declaration of morality? His signing on fee and wages? Bah! Just part of the plan. 

I should be more open to the goodness of human beings: it may be tempting to disapprove of Newcastle manager Eddie Howe doing the job while pretending not to hear certain journalists asking for his opinion on the alarming death rate conducted by his Saudi employers, but might he too be  working underground, playing the long-game, taking secret messages from like-minded activists covertly positioned in the training ground, the canteen, laundry room, the Men Only Freddie Shepherd lounge?

The challenge of course, is to not to get distracted by the improvement on the pitch, the suddenly plausible prospect of European football, of one day actually beating City. Or fitting into the surroundings like compliant citizens, quite happy actually with how things are turning out. Not being the kind of people to deliberately harm the golden goose. 

Sunday 14 August 2022

Chris and Tel - Gettit?

For someone who exhausts the patience of my dearest ones with terrible puns, it comes as a massive jolt to the system when I miss one. My favourite Only Fools and Horses Christmas special is from 1987, To Hull and Back, yet it was only after I'd watched it numerous times over numerous years that I learned that the title was a play on words of (yes, I know, you know) 'to hell and back'. Like Trent Alexander Arnold’s part in Real Madrid’s Champions League Final winning goal, I’d somehow failed to see what was right in front of me. At the film’s centre is a hellish journey over land and sea, from London to Hull to Zeebrugge to Amsterdam and back again. Near the end, Del even complains "I've been to Hull and back!" It should have been as obvious as Uncle Albert’s over-theatrical act of instant recovery the second Del applied to him his healing back massager in front of the market stall crowd. 

There have been other examples of my television-based pun ignorance - BBC's All Quiet on the Preston Front stands out - so with my own history of word-play inadequacy, it is perhaps understandable that I have delayed the release of my biography on Chris Waddle and Terry Venables, which I want to call ‘Chris and Tel.’

I'll level with you, it's the pun that motivated me to write the book. In the way that some managers are minded to build their teams around a couple of star individuals, I was prepared to play hostage to the guaranteed few seconds of initial customer appreciation. Other managers build from the back…I was plotting success from the front cover.    

In fairness to me, there is more to my work than the title (I hope), and it’s not like it I haven’t ever spoken to either of my subjects. Chris was a novice Burnley manager when he found me in my porter's outfit at the Watford hotel I worked at in the mid-late 90’s, and asked me for a flipchart stand and pad so he could conduct his team talk in the Aldenham suite with greater credibility. Unfortunately, the last one had just gone to Cabuchon, a jewellery company - news he received with minimal grace.    

Venables I haven't actually met (I did say 'either'), though I was one of the few to note to his low-key walk to the Middlesbrough dugout on his return to White Hart lane on Boxing Day 1999, when he was helping out Bryan Robson. Or at least I'd assumed it was low-key, Tel emerging from the tunnel as play was ongoing. I admired it at the time, anyway; perhaps, really, his secret intention was to instigate a play-stopping standing ovation, him being a revered player there of course, and one of only three managers in the last 30 years to have brought a trophy to that stadium. Given that I want to write a book about him, I'll stick to the low-key theory.

I have no other muck to throw at these men, and certainly no stories of illicit liaisons with scorned or financially-ambitious lovers (episodes, in tabloid parlance, that would constitute a 'kiss and tell', yeah?) but to justify the book, there are a number of intriguing career clashes between them: both played for Spurs; both have managed (one more successfully than the other); both have played or managed abroad; both have experienced international semi-final penalty shoot-out heartbreak (one more responsible than the other); both have been pundits, both have branched out in the entertainment industry while still in football (neither that successfully). This is more than enough to get my teeth into. And I did get my teeth into it; there are pages and pages of fillings.

It's just that title. The strength has become the weakness. Will the nation see the joke? Will it pull them in? Or will they simply assume that I have called the book after the subject's names/nicknames? I'm hesitating, I can't deny it. I may need a few days, get lost a bit further in Glenn Hoddle's autobiog. Hod was not only one of my playing heroes as a kid, but on page 4 of his book, he says he gets his hatred of injustice from his mum. Can't wait for the chapter on his downfall as England manager.

Hoddle has called his book Playmaker, a perfect title for a midfielder who made the play. Not that that was always on show. There was the occasional sin of going missing when he was needed. But at least the London boy never started out at Hull, and would have to wrestle with his own book title in the future.                  

‘One more’ lonely night: Spain 2 England 1. Euro ‘24 Final

 I've already back-tracked on unflattering comments I made towards Alvaro Morata in these pages, so let me now add Marc Cucurella to tha...