Blind Predictions #1

BlindManSignAs I’ve now gone a couple of months without footy, I reckon it’s time to up the stakes. So in the next few days I’m going to place some bets to see how I fare against a proper gambler who both knows what he’s doing and how each side is faring.

In the meantime, I reckon I can still gauge the fortunes of the top clubs based on their previous form and general hunches. In the interests of objectivity, I am going to leave out Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Southampton, because I have accidentally stumbled onto some of their details (or been force fed them by lunatic fans). The rest, I honestly don’t have any idea about.

So here are my predictions for September based on my footy knowledge and pure guesswork. Chances are I’ll be as wide of the mark as a Per Mertesacker bicycle kick. But you never know…..

#1 Arsenal will have at least four key players out through injury. A couple of these won’t return for the entire season. I’m going to go for Danny Wellbeck, Jack Wilshere, the OX and Aaron Ramsay. Chances are the Gunners are also going to be struggling for goals.

#2 Brendan Rodgers’ job will be on the line after a poor start lacking any form of cohesion. The new players won’t be up to scratch despite Liverpool trusting him with the GDP of an average-sized Latin American country. Oh, and Sturridge will be injured.

#3 Man City will be stuttering their way to success. The overall impression will be that they should be much better given the money they’ve spent, but simply can’t be arsed to break sweat. Without Aguero they would barely have a point. They will also be rubbish in Europe.

#4 Man Utd will be defending like a bunch of schoolboys and hardly managing to pass the ball to each other, yet to widespread consternation they will still be sitting in the Top 4. Van Gaal will blame this on a lack of signings and stress that things just need a bit more time to gel.

#5 Tottenham will be looking good but struggling to score. They’ll soon hit a purple patch then fade. Levy will already be lining-up the next manager.

#6 One of the so-called lesser teams will be having an amazing start and terrorising the big boys. Southampton had their turn last year. I’m going for West Ham under Bilic.

#7 Sunderland will be bottom of the table and already steadying themselves for a backs-to-the-wall campaign that’ll last until the very last day of the season.

#8 Newcastle’s fans will have already started their ‘Kick Out Mike Ashley’ campaign on the terraces. They’ll still be the masters of suicidal defending.

#9 Jose will be claiming the whole world is conspiring against Chelsea and, very probably, looking for another job by the start of October.

#10 A foreign striker for one of the smaller teams will be unstoppable. As I have no idea who anyone has signed I’m going to have to choose a club off the top of my head. So I’m going to go for Aston Villa. It’s about time they had a half-decent season.

Signs of Cold Turkey #1

On Sunday night I dreamt that I had a dog called Alan Brazil. Why my mind
settled on the ex-Man Utd and Ipswich forward I have no idea, but I like it. imgres-2

Just think of the possibilities in the park: “Fetch Alan Brazil! Fetch!”

“No Alan Brazil! Sit down Alan Brazil!!”

It’s got all sorts of genius. Although it does mean I would have to pick up Alan Brazil’s poo. Hmmm.

No! I am settled on the idea. If I ever get a dog I am going to call him Alan Brazil. Or maybe Remy Meade?

Moment of Clarity

The sign on the pub said “Chelsea vs Arsenal, LIVE, Saturday 19th“. My immediate thought: “Not sure I’d want to watch that, not the way Chelsea’s season’s going. Arsenal will probably kill them. And they’ve got Peter Cech..”

It was only a momentary flicker. Yet it revealed everything. WhyWithHands

Despite my daily struggle to dodge footy I still know exactly how Chelsea are faring this season. And, like all long-term Chelsea fans, I still assume they will always lose to Arsenal. Sure, I don’t know the exact scores or who’s been playing like a buffoon but I know for certain that they’ve had a woeful start to the season and are somewhere in the bottom half.

How do I know this? First, because I worked in an office a couple of weeks ago and the first thing anyone said to me was “Your season’s gone a bit pear-shaped hasn’t it!” This was backed-up by a string of footy-related gags from the blokes sharing my desk.

The best was from a Saints fan. “I’m not going to reveal anything. I’m just going to say that we’ve had a crap start to the season but even we’re above you.”

That about said it all. That is, until yesterday when I made the mistake of opening a friend’s Facebook post. It simply said ‘best day ever’. I thought he was getting married or having a baby. It turned out that his mate is a big Everton fan and they’d just beaten Chelsea 3-1.

“For the love of…. ”

So despite isolating myself from football for the best past of six weeks, I am still stuck in the position of worrying about the ebbs and flows of Chelsea’s form. I’ve spent decades doing the exact same thing, only with information. Now I’m able to do it without ever trying to find out anything about them.

When I first ventured into Stamford Bridge the club was a joke ruled by a crazed version of Papa Smurf. The National Front newspaper was openly sold on the terraces, the back row of The Shed (the home end, bottom right hand corner of the pic, below) was an open sewer, we never won a game (not even against Newcastle) and our best player was Pat Nevin. Prior to that it was Colin Pates but he made a big money move to Arsenal so that they could stick him in their reserves. images

The Shed also had a unique form of fire protection. Basically, the roof was so pants that all the rainwater collected in one spot and flooded onto the terrace like a man-made Niagara. It came in very handy during a Man Utd game when a chip van caught alight. The flames didn’t stand a chance against that torrent. We all knew it too. Not a single person bothered to move.

That was in the mid-80s. It was a time where it was virtually impossible to buy a Chelsea shirt and the ‘club shop’ was a converted newsagents in Fulham Broadway. You had a choice between a scarf, a programme or a flag. Or maybe a wooly hat in the winter. Not that you could get past the ranks of police horses to make it through the shop door anyway. Stamfordbridge_zps4992b751

The team was rubbish. The stadium worse. The Birmingham City of the South. Now? There is literally no escape from Chelsea. Thanks to the Internet the club is everywhere.

But it’s not just them. I also know that Tottenham won their first game of the season yesterday and that Rooney scored a hat-trick over the weekend. This has all come through looking at random notes on Facebook that seemingly had nothing whatsoever to do with footy.

So, the big question now is whether I stop looking at Facebook entirely? For a start, it would save me from the thousand-or-so cat videos that are uploaded every day. Or any of those huge psycho-speak banners that pretend to hand you enlightenment with such twaddle as “Only a fool would follow the foolish into foolish, foolishness.”

Then again, maybe I could create my own version based upon the lessons of the past month.

“A man who avoids footy can only find footy.”

Hit or Miss?

football-checkerboard-ballsDo you miss it?

It’s a question that’s been put to me a number of times in the past month. Truth is, I can’t decide.

If you take the concept to mean ‘the fear of missing out’ then, no, I don’t believe I’ve closed myself off to a deep well of inspiration, joy or stimulation. The fact that I don’t know who scored what, or who’s been sacked, or where Everton are in the league, really doesn’t bother me.

I also don’t feel as if I’m missing out by no longer having to relentlessly follow the footy scores on my phone or delicately needing to engineer ways of watching Match of the Day over the weekend.

My chats in the pub or over the dinner table haven’t once been harmed by my total inability to talk about footy either. I have simply become slightly more adept at spotting the approach of footy-talk and diverting the conversation in another direction.

Yet at the same time life has definitely changed. These days I read the newspaper from front cover to back, so that I can judge when the football news is approaching by folding over the top corner of the last few pages.

I also can’t listen to the radio at any time near the hour mark and need to have my headphones primed at all times when working beside other blokes, just in case they happen to start talking about the fates of Liverpool or Southampton (in case you’re interested, Jimi Hendrix is brilliant for this).

When watching the TV news I’m essentially as jumpy as a seasoning cat and constantly sticking my fingers in my ears or thrusting my hand out to block the screen while loudly barking ‘la, la, la, la, not listening, not listening’ and pacing out of the room.

It is, frankly, ludicrous.  headphones

But here’s the rub: in recent days I have found myself increasingly drawn to the snippets of footy-related news to have defeated my radar. It’s only been a couple of very tiny stories about Rooney and Hodgson, and neither has actually contained any information. They’ve basically just been plugs for news features inside The Times and Independent.

The difference is I’ve looked. I’ve wanted to know. A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have considered this and instantly turned my head. But I looked and wanted – actually wanted – to know.

In psychological terms this can be written off as ‘compulsively trying to engage with rewarding stimuli’. Essentially, I am trying to shave the edge off my footy withdrawal with a short, safe burst of Rooney news.

If that is the case, however, then surely I must be missing footy to some degree? How else can you explain my decision to want to read about Rooney, when I’ve now clocked up a month of totally avoiding him and his ilk? The only way I can accurately describe it is to say that I don’t want to look but can’t stop myself. As the head shrinkers say, it’s a compulsion.

Or is it? I actually believe it goes far deeper.

SOCCERJOne thing I have learned from this lunacy is just how omnipresent footy is in our society. From the TV to the Internet, to advertising hoardings, the signs outside pubs and children’s clothing, there’s hardly anything that hasn’t been touched by the Premier League to some degree. Don’t believe me? Walk into a shop – any shop – and see if there’s anything footy-related on show.

Put it this way: this week I discovered that England beat San Marino 6-0, with Rooney equally Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record in the process. This is despite not knowing there was a game beforehand or looking at the sports news. How did I find out? Through reading a website recipe for butter-steamed Greens and quickly glancing at a sidebar.

So do I miss footy? Not on a conscious level. But subliminally, I fear there truly is no escape.

Now I need to find out why.