Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

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.