West Ham is the biggest club in England


It’s Friday afternoon and raining. More importantly, I have now avoided Premier League football for an entire week.

It hasn’t been easy and involved all manner of weird evasion tactics. It’s also led me to the startling conclusion that West Ham is actually the biggest club in England.

How can I say this? Simple. This is a list of all the football snippets that have snuck under my radar since last Saturday:

  1. West Ham are near the top of the league.
  2. Jose has shouted at someone.
  3. De Gea is refusing to play for Man Utd.
  4. Big Sam doesn’t like West Ham.
  5. Joey Barton is going to West Ham.

See. Who knew, eh!? Those craft cockney street urchins.

I’ve also discovered that The Sun is basically a football newspaper. Today’s front cover splash was ‘I Don’t Wanna Play’ alongside a picture of David de Gea. Their website is also stuffed full of footy gossip and half-truths. So from now on I will have to avoid the site and the huge stack of copies at my local supermarket.

My other big discovery is just how amazingly good those pesky Internet marketers are at targeting you. How else can you explain English football stories randomly appearing on a US magazine website? As I work for the US magazine in question it makes life extremely tricky. It also poses the question of why they think I want to read about Man City instead of the latest hit movie in America?

Either way it’s something to keep an eye on. Will they come to realise that they’ve missed the boat and I’m no longer interested? Or are they going to continue flinging pictures of David Silva at me on the basis that I am: a) a man; b) British?

On a more inspiring note, I have already started to fill the football-sized hole in my life with other sports. The past three days have been all about Chris Froome, Carl Froch and Sam Burgess. I have no idea what will follow, but it’ll hopefully be more of the same.

As for this weekend: well, it’s going to be my first big test. The first round of games were pretty easy to avoid but this Saturday I will be visiting my dad and our usual routine is to drink red wine and poke fun at Newcastle’s suicidal defending on MOTD. So, I am going to have to somehow divert him onto another path with a movie or game show. Or I may just have to get so drunk I don’t remember any of the games. Which is generally what happens anyway.

One other thing’s for sure: it’s not going to get any easier. On Tuesday night I dreamt about footy and every day this week I have stumbled onto some form of footy-related gossip. This is only likely to increase as the season really gets underway and the news gathers momentum.

On Tuesday I had to make an evening visit to the supermarket. As I reached for the radio I noticed it was precisely 8.59pm and the news was fast approaching. So I sat in silence the whole way there and the whole way back (just in case). Such is the stupidity that has already started to infect my life.

Day 3

So far, so good. Apart from seeing that Joey Barton is going to West Ham on Twitter, the only football-related item I have glimpsed all day is a picture of Olivier Giroud’s forehead on the cover of the Indy. This was rapidly dispatched by my daughter with some keen scissor action along with the entire football section of the paper. My main issue now is that there’s a copy of the Evening Standard nestling on the kitchen table and I’m itching to read the cover story. I also need to work out a way of dispatching the footy news that doesn’t turn the rest of the sports pages into tiny, scattered ribbons.

Things I have discovered today:

  1. This is going to be far, far harder than I anticipated.
  2. It’s virtually impossible to pick up a copy of the Indy with your eyes shut.
  3. Tesco staff don’t take too kindly to having their neat stack of newspapers knocked onto the floor.
  4. Children are brilliant for diverting the blame.

Game On! (Well, kind of!)

On Saturday evening, as I relaxed in the sweet balm of England’s amazing win at Trent Bridge, I was hit by a momentous realisation. For the first time in the best part of three decades I had missed the opening day of the football season. I didn’t even know the games were happening.

Partly, this was because cricket had totally consumed my sporting attention. But it was also something else. Somewhere deep inside I knew I didn’t really care about the fixtures. Or the results. Not even those of Chelsea. And I have supported them since I was 12.

Despite this, my immediate response was to flick open my phone and check out the day’s results. This revealed that Chelsea had drawn 2-2 with Swansea and that Man Utd had fluked a 1-0 win against Spurs. Again. After that? Nothing. I went no further. Instead, I started thinking.

Just what is it about football that gives it such a hold? I have followed every other form of sport over the years but none have provoked anything like the same degree of slavish obsession. Is it socialisation? Tribalism? A deep-seated need to watch leather hitting an onion bag? Perhaps, it is the result of mass marketing? I really had no idea.

It was then I reached a momentous decision. An epiphany of sorts. Rather than think about it, why not put it to the test? Why not see if football is something I’m actually interested in because I like the game, or whether it is simply an elongated soap opera I’ve been taught to enjoy from an early age?

So, from now to the end of the 2015/2016 Premier League season I am going to try and avoid watching any form of top-level football. That means no Premier League, no Champions League and no Internationals until that godawful golden-crowned trophy is hoisted shoulder-high by its equally ridiculous ears.

As you can probably tell it’s a task I have taken on with no clear idea of the future ramifications. Not least, because I have just realised that it’ll mean I’m going to have to somehow avoid all forms of football journalism for the best part of a year. As for the pub? Well, I may have to drink myself into a coma to avoid the banter. Still, no change there…

To kick-start the process I have not taken part in any Fantasy Football leagues. I have also avoided all of the football highlights this weekend and haven’t watched the TV news or read any of the weekend papers. The most I’ve seen is a brief glimpse of Thibaut Courtois tripping a Swansea player. I’m guessing it was a dive, but I may be a tad biased.

Other than the Chelsea and Man Utd results I have learned that West Ham beat Arsenal through a Facebook post. Also, that Coutinho scored some kind of wonder goal for Liverpool. Apparently, LVG is looking for another player too, while Jose is still trying to lure John Stones away from Everton. Arsene, as usual, is having to defend a bad first day.

And that’s about it.

So as far as I am aware the table currently looks like this:
West Ham: 3pts
Liverpool: 3pts
Man Utd: 3pts
Chelsea: 1pt
Swansea: 1pt
Arsenal: 0pts
Spurs: 0pts

I have to openly admit that there’s a very good chance that I will crumble within the first fortnight of this idiotic scheme and spend a couple of days soaking up every kick, goal and offside chance I’ve missed. Not to mention the abuse of everyone who knows me. But I’m willing to give it a go.

Wish me luck!