Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Movember is the Coolest Month

So, it's come to the end of the month when all the best men show their true colours. They are, of course, divided into those who have done Movember, and those who haven't. It's been a pretty quiet month for it; quite how ALL players aren't doing this to raise the profile of such a worthy cause, I dinnae, but here are the key players this mo'season:

Gareth Ainsworth is now digging his spurs into the sweaty flanks of Wycombe's lumbering collective carthorse, having been made permanent manager; we had some dismal results to kick off, but at least have won the last two in a row, making a dramatic harrumphing leap from relegation zone to 19th. Here's Gareth looking like the heroic, wild-eyed desperado he is and proving that Movember is not all about a few high-profile Prem players.
Peter Crouch wears the month's moustache with a confident mid-century air. Honestly, this man could saunter happily through the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s and feel completely at home. He looks like someone you can trust, whether that is to poach a goal, sort out the sale of your car, or possibly run some sort of sepia-tinged covert spy operation.
Michael Owen, still surely a clean-cut little puppyfaced poppet in most people's eyes, especially as he's had such a blighted career since, looking weirdly adult and sporting what I can confidently testify as a 'Motorhead' (having done extensive online research on the matter). God love him for this outlandish and totally unbashful effort! And apologies for this slightly terrifying, apparently bed-cam update (NB: the rumours that I took this photo personally are completely without foundation).
Special notice goes to Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott for their youthful, but totally hopeless, attempts, which remind me of those boys at secondary school who were growing moustaches aged 15. As demonstrated above, you have to be a real man, with at least a hint of face-crag, and look like you've been around the block a few times, to pull this off properly. Theo looks like he's going for an interview at a mobile phone retailer in Carshalton, though Aaron does better with the vibe of a gay Belgian clubber. Good attempt, chaps!

    Friday, 28 September 2012


    The new season. I'd sooner be referring to a dream reunion of the cast of The Wire than talking about the new, or now not-so-new, 2012/13 campaigns, so flimsy has my enthusiasm been so far. It's all the O-/Paralympics' fault: so unexpectedly joyous, so sporting and so surprisingly addictive. Little did I know I'd be hiding behind my fingers at the men's 5000m wheelchair final, sobbing at the long jump, falling in love with Oscar Pistorius, dry-throated at the swimming, and agog at the men's diving finals (hhm, actually, I could've predicted that one...). Not forgetting, of course, the Team GB's ladies football team, all brilliant and honed and beating Brazil, and making me weep at the thought of them being proper role models for girls.

    The resplendence of London's summer sports fantasia shone a light on the top flight's flagrantly-moneyed swagger, and made it look as ugly as hell. Granted, my first attempt to re-engage was with another England international display that was more bland than a milk pie with extra bread sauce, but that massive commitment, energy and loveliness shown by the summer's athletes is just not reflected in the country's big game. It's certainly not down at Adams Park, where now ex-manager Gary Waddock blamed the players for Wycombe's lack of success. On the bright side though, everyone's favourite Blues' hero/gravelly pubrock singer is now in charge!
    But at the moment, the only thing really keeping me going is more Fantasy Football - I'm quite determined to beat all the boys in both my leagues with my tactical nous.

    So, football needs a facelift (and in John Terry's case, perhaps a whole heart/head-lift). Solutions are obvious:
    1) Women's football EVERYWHERE
    2) Top-flight players to become ambassadors for charities - ALL players!
    3) Cap salaries, natch
    4) A footballer's choir! YES. Gareth Malone, this is your next series!!
    5) There's only one clear solution to rescue the increasingly doldrum-tastic MOTD, now that Lee Dixon has SHOCKINGLY decamped to the cheap-suited salesman vibes of ITV. Here she is:
    Just imagine that it's the Emirates behind her. I've got tingles!

    Tuesday, 25 September 2012

    What (And Who) Next For Wycombe?

    So it's about turn again for Wycombe, after the sacking of Gary 'the Wadfather' Waddock... I've done an reaction piece for eminent League bloggers The Two Unfortunates here!

    Friday, 20 July 2012

    Article For Two Unfortunates

    I've written another article for esteemed Football League bloggers The Two Unfortunates in the run-up to this season. Here's my run-down of Wycombe's managers in the recent past!

    And if you haven't read my other guest articles, here they are too!

    Monday, 2 July 2012

    EUROTASTICS! Round-up

    So, with England out, the only thing to do was watch the other matches in a relaxed fashion, so neutral that I cheered on both teams each time, and dish out some awards, that mostly have very little to do with the football (other people do THAT stuff):

    TATTOOS OF EURO 2012: Hhm, not much of credit here. Some quite terrible artistic decisions made, to haunt their skin for eternity. Meireles of Portugal has plenty: his arms look like they're rotting. In fact (I know this is an old photo), here he is in full-on zombie mode, trying to munch on that yummy human Ronaldo's head.

    HAIR OF EURO 2012: While the old fogeys on the Beeb might scoff at boys who care about their appearance whilst being on a world stage, I am full of nothing but admiration for Wayne for using making some product before he got onto the pitch. But Hair of Euro 2012 must go to Ronaldo, who reportedly had his hair retouched up by a stylist in half-time of the quarter-finals. And why not? How else can you maintain that excellent take on the 1920s matinee idol look? Both with his impeccable coiffure and his passionate, singular leadership, he's like a glistening, heroic Rudolph Valentino-type; I can imagine him giving Oscar speeches in a thick Mediterranean accent for roles in soft-focus silent action movies about swarthy horsemen. Here is a picture of him looking mean (but with an immaculate side parting):
    MOST HELPFUL NAME:  Petr Cech. For obvious reasons.

    ARTY TV ATTEMPTS: ITV's ill-judged montage sequences DURING the matches. It's not an episode of Dawson's Creek, you imbeciles! Better was a BBC shot of a tear trickling impossibly slowly down the cheek of a sad German lady after SuperMario's second goal in the semis.

    TUNE: Dur, dur dur DUR dur dur durrr durrrr. If you can't work out what that was, you haven't watched enough of the Euros. Jack White's riff in Seven Nation Army kept appearing, in the crowd and over the tannoy - not even the proper version! Repeatedly. The vuvuzela of Euro 2012.

    ADORABLES: Xabi Alonso of Spain and Miguel Veloso of Portugal. Men with short hair and beards = GOOD. And speaking of beards, well done to totally beardtastic team, Greece, for Services To Hirsutism in Football.
    TRENDS: Beards, obviously. Muscle tape. Speeches about being nice to each other at the beginnings of matches, hurrah! Useless 5th officials. Spain being well good.

    • 'Posing. Preening. Prolific. Ronaldo' Jonathan Pearce, with awe
    • 'He's a big, long, stringy thing' Jonathan Pearce on Cech, insultingly
    • 'Usually playing Spain is death by a thousand cuts. Slice. Slice. Slice. Slice.' Guy Mowbray, darkly
    • 'Portugal are out of their feet' Martin Keown, confusingly
    SHIRTWATCH AWARD: Gianluca Vialli, showing the Northern Europeans how it's done in a no-nonsense mid-blue suit for the semis, sharp as a suck on a lemon. And he has a BEARD.

    LOOKEY LIKEY: Mr Big from Sex and The City has obviously dumped Carrie for her neuroticism and shopaholic tendencies and escaped to a new life as the German manager. LOOK!

    Sunday, 24 June 2012

    EUROTASTICS 4! England v Italy

    Lawks. My hair is standing on end, my stomach is in turmoil, my hands are raw, my head hurts, and I've made the room smell weird. It's not bird 'flu, I've just watched England get knocked out of an international tournament again!

    Kicking off with a near-smasheroo from the Italians, and then a slight fumble-o-rama from Glen Johnson, the first half was pretty marvellous, especially that purple patch from 5 to 25 minutes, or should I say white patch. It was lovely to watch the boys fluttering around like wood white butterflies, with a light touch on the ball. But just like those wood whites, whose population on our soil is declining fast, England's performance faded throughout the second half, just clinging on for dear darned life by the end of extra time.
    By the time there was a shot of the subs, I was GRATEFUL to see Andy Carroll on the touchline, though of course his small bag of party tricks (1: standing 2: leaning 3: heading, very well 4: flattening Italians) were only beneficial for so long. I thought we defended quite fearlessly and brilliantly - how else didn't the Italians score with all those ludicrous chances? Terry and Lescott fended off the terrifying Balotelli, who with his current haircut is basically a human circular saw, and who would bolt from his line like a glistening, hotly steaming horse, nostrils flaring alarmingly. But defending is only half the battle, and elsewhere we were giving away balls like sweets at a children's party. Hodgson looked more and more spooked by the second, and Wayne's magic was not quite there, though that overhead kick at the end of 90 minutes was heart-stopping. The brass section sounded increasingly like party blowers in the cold light of morning after the night before.

    Penalties, though of course nerve-wracking, felt different this time. It had been such an Italy-heavy match that (at least as a spectator...), it REALLY didn't matter if we got knocked out. Not like 1990, or 1996, or 2006. It's weird to say it, but I felt quite RELIEVED when that last penalty went in. We clapped Italy, who obviously deserved to win by several country miles; it would have been embarrassing for England, bless their hearts, to go onto the semis to be pulverised by the Germans. Now I can just ENJOY it (and recover my health).

    ENGLISH HERO: Joe Hart, just utterly unflappable, and often caught grinning at madly tense moments, like he was just enjoying himself hugely. I liked his yoga lion face in the penalties. Surely our captain for the next tournament?
    IRRITANT: Mark Lawrenson, who is becoming more and more like the embittered uncle at your Christmas party, full of barbed, mildly bigoted remarks and general idiocy. 'Or you can tweet', he sneered, 'if you're sad', to some remark about how to stay in touch with the Euros, possibly insulting hundreds of thousands of viewers. Obviously he's not the sort of man to do anything as pathetic as use Twitter, do yoga (like Shay Given) or use hair product (like Wayne Rooney), as he reminds us from time to time on screen, with his mean, drooping fizzog. Promote Martin Keown, quick!

    HOMOEROTICA: Balotelli, advancing, and Hart, walking backwards, eyes locked, faint smiles playing upon on their lips, as they headed for the goalmouth for the first penalty. HIGHLY SEXUALLY CHARGED! Also, Balotelli getting his magnificent thighs massaged by two supplicant physios before penalties. HEAVENS.

    SHIRTWATCH: A quiet night, but Alan Shearer snuck in a curious double-layered collar.

    ADVICE OF THE NIGHT no. 1: 'get one of the strikers to sit on him!' - Alan Shearer, urgently, on how to cope with Pirlo. Think you would have needed the whole team to flatten him like a pea under a mattress-pile of players, subs and coaching staff. Or just Andy Carroll, of course.

    ADVICE OF THE NIGHT no. 2: 'We've GOT to get hold of that football!' - Shearer again, futilely.

    TATTOO OF THE MATCH: Diamante. Like a load of 90's rave stickers have melted onto his right arm. DREADFUL.

    Tuesday, 19 June 2012

    EUROTASTICS 3! England v Ukraine

    Phew. Well. There we are. Usually the reaction to going out of a tournament rather than going onto the quarter-finals, this was the array of utterances at the final whistle of tonight's saggy balloon of a match. Despite Adrian Chiles' best efforts to sell ITV as the home of thrills-a-minute England games, much tonight's experience was a bit like going to Legoland on a wet October half-term.

    Up north for some workshops and gigs, I watched the first half with my singing compadre Sarah in the pub garden of a York suburb, ready for a rampant match bathed in glorious post-Olympic torchy sunshine. The screen was way too small and the crowd rather too muted to give it some lairy atmosphere, so after a first half in which the pub's barbecue was the only thing that sizzled, we dashed back home for comfy sofas, the company of sleepy in-laws and some restrained shouting at the telly. I really can't think of much to report: Rooney's sweet celebration in honour of Andy Carroll's hair product (castor oil? It's the only explanation); Terry's miraculous scoop-out in Ukraine's non-goal, with the fifth official failing to see that it was over the line despite being practically IN THE GOALMOUTH; Scotty Parker taking balls in the face and ear with nary a hint of recognition or anguish (my HERO!); a wondrous save by our surest player, Joe Hart. Obviously it was nice for Rooney to score, even in a no-brainer like the Ukraine triple deflection he got, and I so WANT him to be crowned Wayne the Lionheart, Lord And Ruler Of Our Noble Land, but there was much less of that spark tonight. Pfftth.

    CLICHE OF THE DAY: Interviews with players are always such tedium; with media training probably injected into their very veins every morning, perhaps forced to watch archive interviews 'A Clockwork Orange'-style with their eyes pinned open, every damn interview always comes back to Cliche Corner. Even Steve Gerrard's 3-minute embarrassed shrug of a post-match interview still managed to contain the phrases 'we take each game as it comes'; 'you need a bit of luck along the way'. One day, a player's dull eyes will flicker, arise out of the fug of media doping and say 'You know what? You're right. My goal was fucking GENIUS! I'M a genius! I'm the best one in this team and they ALL know it! Oh yeah, and of course Spain are better than Italy.'

    TATTOO OF THE DAY: Well-meaningly earnest, punctuation-lacking scrolls on Joleon Lescott's torso. The one on his chest reads 'Don't listen to one who has known me because to have known me would mean there is a new me'. Which isn't as bad as 'Roses are red/violets are blue/I play for England/Whoop doop de doo', but only by a whisker.

    HAIR DISASTER OF THE DAY: It looks like someone has draped a beaver's tail over Ashley Cole's cranium. Davy Crockett gone all wrong.

    SHIRTWATCH: Gareth Southgate sported very good socks and shoes this evening. It's all about the details in men's fashion, and Gareth KNOWS it.

    ADORABLES: Sarah deemed Scott Parker 'well fit' (to which he would have swept her off her feet, done a bit of swing dancing with her before taking her on a cheeky loop de loop in his Spitfire, had he heard), although she also thought Andy Carroll had something about him, which obviously means her judgement is suspect. The only thing about him worth knowing is to make sure you don't go for a ball near him, because you will be crushed by his lumbering barn-door weight. Oof.

    Friday, 15 June 2012

    EUROTASTICS 2! England v Sweden

    Yeah, it was never in doubt! Easy! Well, apart from the fairly turgid first half and hapless defending of much of the second, obviously...
    I watched this one with another high-rise view, this time from the east of the city in Mile End, surrounded by shouty boys, beer and pizza, taking advantage of James and Steve's ginormo telly turned up to, as Steve put it, 'pub volume', for extra atmosphere, y'know. It was fun to hear the argy-bargy of the chaps, and their takes on various players (Andy Carroll: 'Rollie-Smoking Binman'; Oxlade-Chamberlain: 'sounds like a posh sausage'; John Terry: hhm, probably not for Fever Bitch readers' delicate eyes...), and the wild lurching from gallows humour to delirious optimism. 
    The England boys seemed to revert mostly back to their lumpen selves for much of the game, apart from Carroll's big moment, tearing apart his shirt to reveal some sort of superhero logo as he leapt 50 metres into the air to head the ball in off his oily mane. Elsewhere, there was some rocky stuff from Cole and Gerrard, and some flashes of nonsense from John Terry, who also ran like, well, ME (NB this is not a compliment. I run like a GIRL). Out with the old, in with the new, I say: let's slough off all that dead meat! It was all about our young whippersnappers, with Walcott's wonder-goal and fizzing runs, and early '90s House Party-era throwback Danny Welbeck with his bonkers blind-twist-backheel number, like some brilliant renegade move from Strictly Come Dancing.
    TATTOO OF THE MATCH: Andy Carroll's back. And not in a good way. Like he accidentally wandered into the hut of a fairground cod-mystic fortune-teller who got happy with the felt-tips. Just horrific.
    ADVICE OF THE DAY: 'Put Ashley Young in the wall, doing nothing; just being a wall!' Lee Dixon, exasperated

    SHIRT-WATCH: the two most articulate pundits at the Beeb this evening were the ones shouting to make themselves heard on the touchline with Gabby. David James looked like a systems analyst from Caterham on night out uptown, with a noisy striped number; Martin Keown, astonishingly, is ageing well, especially with those tight trousers, decent haircut and jaunty hand on hip. Perky!

    CRAP ARTY JOKE OF THE DAY: (a riff on an excellent Twitter joke from this evening) That Roy Hodgson's a marvel. Not only does he read books but he employs authors as well. Who'd have thought a controversialist author, post-colonialist poet and magic realist avant la lettre would all score! God bless Houellebecq, Walcott and  Carroll!
    ADORABLES: Quite liked Mellberg's beard. Hearty and Swedish, like a herring fisherman from Smaland.
    ROY HODGSON EXPRESSION-WATCH: Much nail-biting and wishing he could hide his face in a copy of Beware of Pity. But also clapping!

    Monday, 11 June 2012

    EUROTASTICS! England v France

    The first England match! Brilliant. No London pub full of steaming, beery men for me; I decided to enjoy the first one in solo slumber slumber party fashion, complete with blueberry facemask, chocolate and nail-painting, at home in my living room. Up here on the 5th floor in Camberwell, you could see the city's grimness in full force, and the weather surely reflected the nation's mizzly feelings in the run-up to the game. None of that usual blazing sunshine and raging optimism. That said, it seemed a pretty promising line-up for England - as promising as you could muster from our diluted team; Roy Hodgson had probably considered bringing along a couple of cardboard cut-outs along on the plane to pop on the pitch just in case.

    Of course, the 'low expectations' shtick was only kept up for about 10 minutes. Once Ashley Young broke free for the first attempt towards goal, I swear I could hear the whole country thinking 'we can do it! We can get a goal, in this match and the next and get through to the quarters and WIN THE WHOLE BLOODY THING!', and people turning to each other in pubs and saying 'I knew Hodgson was the right choice. I mean, he reads books, for goodness' sakes! BOOKS!' We just can't help ourselves.

    But bless their hearts, England truly did keep those spirits toasty during the whole game, with plenty of feisty play, gutsy defending (Scott Parker winning the award for Best Gung-Ho Lunging - tally ho, Scotty!), and nice work from the likes of Milner and Little Oxtail-Chamberlain. Lescott proved the worth of his bafflingly high hairline on 29 minutes with a lovely header off that polished pate, before Nasri got one back for the French, making them hover, sleek and sharkish around the goal for a bit. It was a cheering game, especially after those very 'meh' friendlies: good-humoured and civilised, at least until the East European temperatures started making the oldies sag. In the second half, there was a short spell of genuinely good passing from England, almost to chicken tikka standards, or whatever they call it. Hur. It got a bit nervy towards the end, but was really rather fun, and I got to clap and shout my best managerial advice to my heart's content without anyone sniggering at me. Even ITV didn't do badly, bar their crap curry house-style scoreboard graphics: I actually found the punditry and engaged discourse of Jamie Carragher (chewing on his Scouse consonants as if they were gobstoppers) and Patrick Viera quite refreshing after the boorishness of the Beeb's boys all year. Anyway, to Friday: onwards and upwards, chaps!

    TATTOO OF THE MATCH: Glen Johnson's sleeve.

    USELESS COMMENT OF THE DAY: 'EXCELLENT feet' - Andy Townsend, earnestly, on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

    CLICHE-WATCH: 'Keep calm and carry on'! Clive Tyldesley, chirpily.

    SHIRT-WATCH: Carragher: middling; Viera: safe, classic; Southgate: disastrous 1980s cityboy

    CRAP ARTY JOKE OF THE DAY: What sentence can you usefully say at both Wigmore Hall and the Donbass Arena, especially if you have a lisp? 'I enjoyed the beautiful Arabesques of Debuchy.'
    ADORABLES: The newbies, Oxtail and Henderson, the latter rocking a wholesome Gary Barlow look. Scott Parker's noble retro countenance is struggling in that ghastly heat.
    ROY HODGSON EXPRESSION-WATCH: He cracked a smile in the post-match interview! A SMILE!

    Saturday, 21 April 2012

    Death On Two Legs

    I'd been looking forward to my perfect football commute all season (a quick bus-hop from teaching at Trinity College), but by the time it came round, I wasn't exactly salivating. Charlton bagged promotion last week, but if they won at home today they would be champions with two games to go; we were still 4th bottom, spluttering around as if in the quicksand of my youthful nightmares (after watching too many episodes of Gentle Ben; I was a timorous child). An absolute drubbing was surely a dead cert.

    Approaching the ground didn't help matters. The thunderous clamour from inside the stadium was gladiatorial, our boys surely shivering in the tunnel like less handsome Russell Crowes. The Valley looks like the ground of champions, and I'd forgotten (having last been there when we'd beaten them in the League Cup quarter-finals in2006) how goddamn big and shiny it is. As we came out onto the away terrace, it exploded into glorious technicolour: the roars of the Charlton thousands, brilliantly red seats and luminous pitch together feeling like a sherbet burst on the tongue. It makes Adams Park look like Bekonscot Model Village. The only way we beat them is on Bird-Spotting Points: they just had two ragged pigeons loitering around to our cast of red kites. In your FACES! The David-Goliath vibe didn't stop there: clearly the Charlton defenders have been on the protein shakes this season, towering hulkingly over our wee strikeforce as we moved forward.

    But move forward here and there Wycombe did, and we had a few decent moves, though for much of the first half we proved why we were in the relegation zone with some deafening clangers, including a front-runner for the Most Embarrassing Corner In The World Ever Award - massive wastes of set-plays which might have been our only chances. Charlton kindly ruffled our hair, set the ball down and showed us how to do it, with a converted free-kick to make it 1-0. Heads sagged, and visions of the sorry pummelling to come flooded in. But, chiming their hearts with the tribal death-house beats of the WWFC faithful's drums, they managed to keep ferreting away.  With perfect timing, Beavon kept up appearances in the top scorers chart (surely quite bafflingly given our position, but we have had a silly bloody season) by heading one in just before the whistle. Marvellous!

    Whether Gary Waddock bollocked them 'til their ears fell off or gave them each personal back-rubs at half-time I don't know, but Wycombe were pretty great in the second half, working tirelessly and hogging most of the ball; the home fans, amazingly, were getting a little moany and frustrated. I hardly dared utter that we doing rather better than them, for I knew that would jinx it. But my thoughts must have been enough, for with ten minutes to go, and largely against the run of play, 'Calamity Legs' McCoy, my least favourite player on the pitch (the ball would arrive at his feet and he would look around like he'd JUST ARRIVED ON EARTH), did another awesome fuck-up; a few moves later it was 2-1 to them, and The Valley rocked on its hinges.

    We left, having applauded our lot and theirs, as the announcer (they'd been waiting a few extra minutes for the final whistle at MK Dons vs Sheffield United) bellowed 'CHAMPIONS!!!!!' and the ground lustily and un-tunefully sang along to Queen's most commercially-savvy single. Still, the crown isn't for Services to Choral Music (South-East Division) so well done, Charlton. You have a ground that really should be in the Championship, a Wright-Phillips, and lots of Very Large Defenders. Wycombe, on the other hand, will be forlornly singing one of three other Queen songs tonight as we look to our last two games (against promotion-clutching Sheffield Wednesday and play-off-fumbling Notts County) and results in our favour to give us any hope of not going down. Take your pick:

    1)  Death On Two Legs (A Night At The Opera, 1975)
    2) Another One Bites The Dust (The Game, 1980)
    3) Loser In The End (Queen II, 1974)


    Friday, 6 April 2012

    What's Wrong With Being Sexy?

    Just been catching up on Gabby Logan's BBC doc 'Sexism in Football?', a diverting titbit totally ruined by use of Eva Cassidy's ubiquitous and winsome version of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' in the closing minutes. Urgh!

    It's really interesting seeing what sort of women are about behind the scenes in football, from the journos (my favourite is The Guardian's Marina Hyde, not interviewed, who wrote brilliantly about the last World Cup) to the executives on the boards of UEFA and the FA. And shocking to hear some of the stories, often from the uncomfortably recent past, about women being taunted or excluded. Funny how it can still be difficult for some of the more neanderthalic chaps to see ladies doing important things in football, you know, what with them not having bollocks and having never played the game professionally. What, just like all you pie-gobbling belly-wobblers, who must imagine yourselves galloping onto the pitch tossing your expensively-coiffed manes, doing that Peter Crouch wonder-goal with your eyes closed and your hands tied behind your backs game after game? And, as ex-WWFC manager Lawrie Sanchez (not looking quite as dashing as I remember and then some: I was wearing sky blue-tinted goggles in 2001) said, there are plenty of professional managers, Wenger et al, who have never played football professionally. So there. It strikes me that as the audience - both through the turnstiles and at home on the sofa - becomes more womanly, it makes sense that ladies are visible in the working world of football world. And anyway, Gabby is by far and away the best MOTD presenter going: I'd take her over Smug Gary and Cardigan Colin any time (though I would then miss Colin drawling 'Hwerlves' for the hapless bottom-feeders of the Prem most Sunday nights...).

    'What's wrong with being sexy?' As Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnell innocently protested upon shock at the original Smell The Glove album cover, I think I should start a new campaign to help redress the balance: for More Sexiness in Football. Not of the female kind, obviously - thank goodness Wycombe have dissolved their ghastly cheerleader halftime show. Shudder. And not Ruud Gullit's kind either. My campaign will have a five-point agenda:

    1) A return to buttock-skimmingly short shorts, eg of the '80s variety:
    2) More rockabilly haircuts and uber-stylish, anti-high street photoshoots in magazines that you can only buy in the ICA:
    3) Goal celebrations that turn into full-on snogs and quite possibly heavy petting:
    4) Footballers being seen doing more stuff like this:
    5) Less of this (FYI, this is NOT sexy and NEVER will be):
    The campaign starts here! I expect to be fronting a serious documentary for the Beeb VERY soon.

    Sunday, 25 March 2012

    Boy Band versus Old School

    I recently wrote of Wycombe’s historical rivalries (read it at the Two Unfortunates’ blog!); as well as our regular grubby spats with Essex weasels Colchester United, we do have proper local adversaries this season in MK Dons. Having lorded it over the rest of our county for 117 years, Wycombe fans are right royally riled that we are not undisputed Kings of Buckinghamshire any longer. Harrumph! MK Dons, a new team from the Ballardian horror-show that is its specially-built 1960s town, are the unconvincing, manufactured boy band of League football – let’s call them Another Level. This leaves Wycombe, in comparison, (especially with our grizzled rockster Gareth Ainsworth at the helm), the journeying heavy rock band, forever on tour of small town pubs, reeking of sweat and debating our favourite Saxon album. I went along to see how the foes matched up.

    It promised to be a lipsmacking match: Wycombe’s bipolar nature – making us a yo-yo team within our division/season as well as potentially between Leagues – has settled down of late and we’re riding on the back of some goaltastic wins which have lifted us out of the relegation zone. MK Dons, wearing very on-trend kits that were a bit Stella McCartney/Olympicswear with their ‘deconstructed-England-flag-sports-luxe’ look, were looking to dig their heels into the play-off position.

    The first half was solid, if not scintillating, Wycombe doggedly working away under the gaze of Adams Park’s resident three red kites, wheeling serenely overhead like benevolent gods. I speculated that we should adopt them as either mascot or new nickname. There was an early penalty to the Dons; Nikki Bull distracted their striker by looking – especially in the glorious sunshine – like his tanned blonde form should be on Bondi Beach catching a few gnarly waves rather than in front of the terrace end down the back of an industrial estate in the Home Counties, and saved it brilliantly. Now that Gaz Ainsworth is eyeing up pipe-and-slippers territory, Captain Nikki is definitely the most characterful and heroic figure on the team.

    The second half (following a wedding proposal by one fan to another at half time: congrats, Keith and Wendy!) began with an MK Dons goal that utterly took the wind out of WWFC’s sails, and clearly the fans’ too. I swear you could hear the air sag out of us slowly over the half like a retired set of bagpipes. Moaniness (and slight boredom on my part) kicked in and I began to see why we are still nicknamed the Chairboys and not the Kites: Wycombe looked less like graceful, keen-eyed raptors and rather more like zombiefied armchair botherers, stupefied on X-Boxification. Amazingly, a supporter in the family stand (the supremely quiet end) got up out of his seat and walked half the length of the pitch to berate the terrace end for being muted. Very odd!

    Miraculously, from out of the desperate torpor of the closing stages, we had a few set-plays, and one final corner saw Nikki Bull barrelling up and attempting a header, and Stuart Beavon taking advantage of the general mêlée. Cue Bull storming round to the fans at the front to do a wall of high-fives. We left feeling like we’d won, and there was many a salutary hashtag of #BeavonforEuro2012 (people are wearing ‘I’ve got Beaver Fever!’ t-shirts, for god’s sake!), and tweets about us being the only proper team in Bucks, ya boo sucks, etc.

    So, old school rock or boy bands? I'm not saying. I'm just off to listen to some Judas Priest...


    Tonight's MOTD2 embarrassment: Lee Dixon and Alan Shearer looking all uncomfortable and joshing as Shay Given unabashedly extolls the virtues of yoga to help him keep trim and youthful; as if doing yoga is the equivalent of popping into a nail bar on the way to a burlesque class, finishing up with a night at Tiger Tiger getting lashed on Archer's and lemonades and dancing on a podium to old Whitney belters. For shame, chaps! Get your metrosexuality on, for the love of God*!


    Wednesday, 14 March 2012

    Unexpected Rivalries: Two Unfortunates Blog and Gareth's musical news

    A heads-up on my latest article for wondrous Football League bloggers, Two Unfortunates, on Wycombe's rivalries with Slough Town and Colchester United. Check it out here!

    In other news: Slash 'is a Wycombe Wanderers fan' says BBC 5Live! I don't quite believe it, but by God, it makes for a far better claim than BBC Breakfast's Bill Turnbull. And it means our celebrity fan beats the hell out of Colchester's (read my article!!). Listen to an awestruck WWFC captain Gareth Ainsworth (whose musical escapades I REALLY must write about one of these days) interviewing his axe-wielding hero in a surreal meeting of minds here!

    Monday, 5 March 2012

    Four-Year Plan: Get Goals, Win League, Buy A New Helicopter

    I watched the quite astonishing documentary, QPR: The Four-Year Plan, last night, which is surely a football doc for our modern times. It followed the club 2007-11, following their buyout by a conglomerate of largely rich, spoilt popinjays; whilst the title suggests that over four years, QPR worked their way patiently and measuredly to the top, really the title should have been 'QPR: The Three Year Plan Of Trying Out Every Manager Until You Find One You Don't Feel The Need To Insult, Followed By A Successful Year And Promotion, Almost Scuppered By Dodgy Dealings By One Of Our Crazies'. For three years, the power-hungry team, led by Flavio Briatore, lorded over the club, sifting through managers like cards in a pack, elbowing their way into the dressing room to try and make changes, and seeming to have no idea how a club should work. They wanted to play at this football lark, like a real-life version of Championship Manager mixed with Monopoly, and were just gallingly rude and obstreperous. Poor Gareth Ainsworth, now Wycombe's very own legend but previously a QPR mainstay, hovered quietly around in the background for a bit, occasionally having to do another stint as caretaker manager, before being rescued by us, knights in shining blue quarters.

    The documentary laid bare the three-tier system: egocentric yacht-owners at the top, the players and manager (well-paid but exuding the air of good honest journeymen, one and all) in the middle, and right at the bottom, the fans, struggling to pay the most expensive seats in the Football League and surely following the managerial meddling (5 in one year!!!) with furious bafflement. My favourite moments were the threats of peasants' uprising: lunkheads singing derisory songs at Gianna Paladini as he smiled uneasily, surrounded by minders; and lustily singing 'fuck off, Flavio', to which the outrageously arrogant one simply said to fans 'find me the names of those who sang that. I want their names or I sell the club'. He needs taking down a peg or two (or at least the keys to his helicopter taking away).

    Chelsea operates like this on a grander scale, with poor, adorably delicious Andreas Villas-Boas unsurprisingly now out on his ear. Andreas was a silly appointment I'm sure, a bit too young for such a mega-club, but once he was there, you'd think they might give him a BIT of a chance. In our instantaneous culture of everything-on-demand, chairmans and owners (and I'm sure, fans too), expect immediate, mostly utterly unrealistic results. No one has the werewithal, or the stomach, for the long game.

    I'm not sure what Wycombe's Four Year Plan is. At the moment, our quite baffling short-term plan is to lose most of our games, some in extremis (Huddersfield walloped us 6-0, Scunthorpe 4-1 yesterday), with less occasional stonking wins (3-0 and 5-0 against Rochdale and Hartlepool respectively). Yet through a wetly crap season, our very own moneyed overlord, Steve Hayes, hasn't sacked Gary Waddock, and I respect him for that. Now, where's the door to my helipad...

    Saturday, 28 January 2012

    Modern Classical Music/Silent Football Experiment No. 2

    Ill on the sofa under the duvet for a red-hot FA Cup clash, so it's time for another music-football collision. I watched most of the Manchester United vs Liverpool FA Cup 4th with its usual 'naked' sound (ie ITV's slightly humdrum commentary) before trying a little bit of Debussy's Arabesque I, which worked momentarily, in the vein of classic silent film with ole' joanna accompaniment, but it was a little too coquettish for this match. Instead I moved into the 20th century (just) for some early Webern, easing into his 1904 symphonic poem Im Sommerwind. This worked a treat, with its late-late Romanticism taking the edge off the supposed aggression and tension in this North-West el classico; I hate all that pre-match media hype stoking up images of grudge-bearing gladiators in the ring, gnashing their teeth and slavering with racist thoughts, when you look at them and they're (mostly) a load of nicely-manicured boys just looking forward to a bit of a run-around. So the Webern turned the second half into a calmer, quietly euphoric state of affairs, with a few uncanny hilarities: some hints of homoeroticism between De Gea and Evra via some swoony string section frivolity; some perfect comedy when Gerrard was cued off the pitch to a massive cymbal crash, followed by menacing low double basses as Bellamy barrelled on; big chords for Kenny Dalgleish as he made furious hand gestures; and finally, the 'Hernandez theme', a flute and harp sparkling with youth and innocence. Fabulous!

    All this is a distraction from the less glamorous endz of the Football League, where Wycombe have been  zinging wildly about like an old-skool Pong ball between dramatic wins and losses: our last four results have been 0-3, 2-3, 3-0 and 2-5, today against Brentford. As a sorry-bottom-lipped WWFC supporter lass tweeted forlornly, 'I try to keep positive but the table doesn't lie.' Indeed. The team does though: prostrate, snoozing and flabby at the bottom of the League. UGH!

    Wednesday, 25 January 2012

    Contemporary Classical Music/Silent Football Experiment No. 1

    Now here's the way to enliven an drizzle-sodden midweek footy match on tv: turn the sound down and whack on some 20th/21st-century music. You wouldn't have thought that the incongruous pairing of Cardiff City vs Crystal Palace (Carling Cup semi-final 2nd leg) and orchestral works by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu would work, and I had just come from watching 'The Artist' in the cinema, but by golly, it worked a treat! The game transcended from an unglamorous fixture between Championship teams in the Cup competition that no-one cares about to a thing of impossible tension and daring, life or death stuff. The players, with one sweep of Bernard Herrmann-esque strings, transformed magically into dance-theatre performers of soaring balletic wonder; the manager's desperate flailings became exquisite choreography; Stuart Pearce and Chris Coleman, watching in the stand, were glowering villians accompanied by foreboding brass; and referee Howard Webb became, somewhat bafflingly, a romantic lead. The timing was hilariously apt, with emotional peaks of near-hysteria on certain attacking moves, or a flute line denoting the inner torment of a player doing a throw-in, who looked so confident but was made pitiably anguished by the music. Ha ha.

    This only works, of course, when you're a neutral. This was proved by my experience of JazzBall at London's premier jazz hangout, The Vortex, in which two trios free-improvised to an early England game in Euro 2008; I couldn't bear it and dashed to a friend's house at half-time to watch it properly. But still, maybe this is the start of a whole new ball game, with grimy fixtures accompanied by the doyens/doyennes of modern music: QPR vs Wigan, soundtracked by Ligeti; Hull City vs Millwall, underscored by Saariaho. Tee hee.