I’m just looking at the front page of Thursday’s Guardian sport section and it makes a sight for appreciative eyes. There are Henry and Gilberto celebrating Arsenal’s passage past Real Madrid to the quarter finals, and ‘trooping dejectedly’, as they say, off the pitch behind them is Zinedine Zidane. He looks an old man, and let’s face it, he is. But the key thing is his hair; he’s bald on top, with some clearly on the sides, in other words wearing his baldness with pride. This shows maturity in its avoidance of the modern bald-all-over look, which is the ‘Bobby Charlton/Ralph Coates’ cover-up haircut of our times. Well done, Zinedine, and thanks for not scoring.
I seem to be arriving home at nighttime for a regular series of TV programmes where it’s smart to swear. If it’s not Gordon Ramsey strangling his fxxxxxg turkeys, then it’s Sir Alan Sugar’s participants telling everyone what fxxxxxg good project managers they are. This is the usual bourgeois nonsense of ‘them’ telling ‘us’ what’s good for us, and how - in this particular case - we should all cry freedom by swearing in public. I may be wrong, but from what I saw on Wednesday night I don’t recall Sir Alan, from good Jewish working class roots, going in for any such verbals himself. But on the basis of that assertion I read in the Guardian in the past year or so that we can expect to see an erect phallus on TV within the next decade, may I predict that our football commentaries will soon be under pressure to reflect the ‘reality’ of their world: ‘Fxxk me, that was close, Mottie’. ‘Too fxxxxxg right, Mark, and I have to agree with the crowd that, unless we’re all very much mistaken, referee Halsey is a wxxxxr.’
Let’s hope Monty Panesar can successfully spin a few more out in India and return home to the freedom of Luton. And presumably to the kind of good food he’s used to. A note of despair arrived from the FT’s man in Australia, Sundeep ‘Sunny’ Tucker with the word that fortnight ago that Panesar had gone down with a bad stomach: ‘what’s his mum been feeding him on all these years, chicken nuggets and ketchup?’
I don’t get what’s happening to Jose Mourinho of late. He’s lapsing into the kind of Portuguese moroseness you get from staring at the Atlantic horizon and imagining you’re the last place in the world, while listening to endless renditions of the fado. His latest line about ‘everyone hates us and we don’t care’ sounds like vintage Joe Kinnear in the great days of the Wimbledon Crazy Gang. Face it, Jose, we only hate you because Boris Yeltsin didn’t know what to do with Siberia one day, and some young bloke who had a background in selling jeans on the street and a bit of oil took it off his hands. Personally, I think you’re a good bloke. You’ve been polite and interesting in the couple of press conferences I’ve met you in, and - the clincher - your dad was a goalkeeper.
For those fed up with the lack of mystery at the top of the Premiership, could I refer you to the commanding heights of the Conference. The wide points gap between first and second says we are about to witness the return to the football league of Accrington Stanley. So legendary have they become that everyone across the generations knows them, yet even those of the certain age required (you’d be pushing 60) can scarcely believe they were ever there. What proof do we have that this most Garcia Marquez of football teams was, is and yet may truly be?