Dispatch No. 200
Two hundred in and I’ve got to write something momentous. Something commemorative. Wise, truthful and sincere. Time though, is running out. I’ve got an Arsenal blogger fantasising about disemboweling me and I’m worried about stringing words together. I mean, you’re all busy people. What can I possibly say that will make you look at football slightly differently this week? How can I provoke you? Make you laugh? Deliver.
The days have slipped by and now I’m down to hours and I’m blocked. For the first time in three and a half years I’m struggling. Have I said everything I ever needed to say? Have I finally reached the limit of my questionable capabilities? Why are my sentences getting shorter?
I know. How about a creative piece? One of those parodies I’ve always been so fond of. Yes, yes, a creative piece. One on Chelsea. My favourite hate. The piece is one I’ve been saving up for a good few seasons now in which I cast Fernando Torres as a double agent for Liverpool in a blue shirt working against his Russian paymaster/handler. It’ll be called The Striker Who Came In From The Cold and it’ll evoke all the starkness of a John le Carré novel with an obvious football slant.
That’s the kind of thing I do, right? The kind of thing I’ve done, week in week out for nearly four years. It’ll open with a self-hating Fernando setting the scene:
What do you think strikers are: heroes, stars and saviours? They’re a dirty parade of vain fools, backstabbers, too, yes; wimps, cowards and braggarts, people who play Cruyff turns and Müller poaching to brighten their rotten lives. Do you think they train like monks in London, balancing the strengths and weaknesses of their team?
And with that, I will use the mask of satire to mock the state of modern football. But it’s a thin veneer and the real problem is that Torres hasn’t gone on a proper run since he joined Chelsea. So the piece is redundant, stillborn, dead before I could even press ‘publish’. Damn you, Fernando. Why do you thwart me so?
And speaking of being thwarted, I’ve just lost my train of thought. Bonnie’s in the living room and she’s demanding to watch Cbeebies. Just as I’m about to watch the United match. “Not your football, daddy,” she emphatically declares. This concerns me. This is a vision of my future. A future in which my offspring barely muster a sniff of enthusiasm for the game. The only times she’s ever shown any interest are when Norwich play. She likes the “yellow ones”. Perhaps that’s a blessing. Do I persist in indoctrinating our kids into a life of abject misery supporting Spurs or should I be grateful Miss Theoharis is happiest when gleefully applauding a blur of innocuous yellow shirts from East Anglia? Oh good lord, now Jesse’s piping up. Nappy change. Back in a bit…
Back. Sans soiled Spurs babygrow. The boy is wise beyond his years. So where was I? Ah, yes. What to write for Dispatch Number 200. Shall I draw some connection between the squalor that manual workers have to endure in petro-states awash with dirty cash and the cutthroat efficiency of Manchester City’s forward line? I do that quite a bit, don’t I? Football writing’s version of a Dave Gorman Googlewhack. You want Garth Crooks and sieves? No problem. Roy Keane and Hugo Chavez? Easy. Blind spots and Redknapp? Been there, done that. Not this week though. This week has to be special.
I need a biscuit. A Nice one. Tea. A cigarette. Walk away from this and come back refreshed.
Think, think. Don’t force it. But I can see Nina’s eyes getting heavier as she watches some Judi Dench film. I have to work quickly. Nothing ever gets published until she guts it, scours it, questions every bit of lyrical grandstanding that is my eternal weakness. Her eyes are my filter. And I blame her for every typing error that has ever appeared on this website. Likewise, I concede that when it’s good on here, it’s down to her. It’s true what they say. Behind every virtual recluse/cynic is a much stronger and cleverer woman. Or something like that.
Digressing. Stop digressing. Get to the point. Write something vaguely inflammatory that will guarantee a deluge of spite and ignorance coming your way. Say something mean about Liverpool. Thumb your nose at West Ham. Praise Arsenal, even. They take it so personally, some of these football fanz. Keeps them coming back though, week after week after week.
But you know that’s not really my thing, those of you who’ve stuck around for all these years. I’d much prefer to rhapsodise on everything that we still love about the game. Pies and full-backs and Lineker’s ears. That kind of stuff. Whimsical. Ephemeral. Trivial and beautiful. Maybe I’ll write some kind of rallying call to supporters who’ve passively sat for years and watched their clubs turn into institutions of avarice. Light a blue and white touch paper and watch it all crash and burn so we can resurrect it from the ashes once the accountants have been vanquished.
That’s too idealistic, isn’t it? That kind of talk’s reserved for the young. Well, it used to be anyway. Before they all turned into skinny-jeaned vacants. Besides, I’m too tired after yet another night of broken sleep and whisper it quietly, but I really actually love Sky’s coverage of football. Can’t resist a Gary Neville nugget of insight or a Souness sideswipe. And I love it when Martin Tyler yells in big size 72 font capital letters that a game is coming up and “IT’S LIVE”, exclamation mark, exclamation mark.
So what will I actually write for this landmark post? Perhaps all I ever really needed to say was: I have a sofa. I watch football on it. Then I write. Every Monday. That’s why it’s called Dispatches From A Football Sofa, see. But that’d be too easy wouldn’t it? Or would it? Oh, who knows?
I’ve just noticed that I’ve reached my self-imposed thousand word limit. And still no idea. So, I apologise if you’ve been disappointed by this piffle. Thankfully, you could just go back and re-acquaint yourselves with the previous 199? There’re some proper corkers amongst them. That, or I’ll see you next week. Who knows? Fernando Torres might just score a hat-trick. Ah, yes. He’s injured. Curses.
Thank you to all who continue to read, comment, share and support. You know who you are.
Further reading: Dispatch No. 100: Nick Hornby Ruined My Life
Follow Dispatches on Twitter: @Sofalife