So first things first. How come no one has yet said anything about the ridiculous new turnstiles they’ve put in place at the Bridge? You know the ones, they have to be manned by stewards because they don’t work properly. As with all genius ideas, on paper the plan was perfect: Replace humans with robots and save money, time and union interference. It worked in I, Robot, didn’t it? On no wait, they tried to kill us all and we had to be saved by Will Smith. Still, that was just a movie, in real life Will Smith just chillaxes with Carlton in Bel Air. It’s true, Robots don’t need maternity leave, but on the flip side they need to be reprogrammed every fifteen seconds and as such require exactly the same number of employees as they’re intended to replace. So we’re back where we started surely? Well yes, except this time, when the employee is letting you through the ga… hang on, come back and beep it aga… hang on, there you go; through the gate, they’re only given one overriding card between them… Hang on, Tony, you got the card? Yeah, pass it over here cheers, there you g… hang on… beep it again, there you go; and ingeniously the whole entry process trickles slower than the murky seepage from a badly-applied nappy.
On Sunday this seepage took twenty five minutes and meant thousands missed the kick-off against Arsenal. Apparently this was because of the unexpected scenario of everyone turning up to the match at the same time. The machines are designed to cope with 40,000 fans, but only if they turn up slowly and evenly over a two hour period. I mean I like the pint and pie deal as much as the next man (unless the next man’s Ronaldo) but I don’t want to hang around Stamford Bridge for two hours before a game. And you know what? If I have to choose between a) listening to some gobshite tell me ‘the game kicks off at 4pm’ as I sidle my freezing backside down the row of seats, and b) getting in two hours early to sit next to that same gobshite as he natters away about the importance of getting to the game on time, while I freeze my backside off, I’m going to choose the former. (To cap it all, a six year old boy told me that ‘half time is only fifteen minutes’ as I sidled back to my seat one second after kick-off. Yeah, fifteen minutes kid. You try getting served at that bar, necking a pint of Fosters and sucking down a balti in fifteen minutes and see how you feel. On the plus side it gave me enough gas to make the rest of his match cosy.)
But what a match! Classic Drog. Very nearly creating the inaugural MacDrog, (named in reverence of John Buchan’s poaching hero) a rare phenomenon where a player poaches the trinity of left foot (grouse), right foot (stag), header (salmon) all before half time. And he would have done too if Ivanovic had managed to get some height on his 44th minute cross. Still, resounding performances from Terry, Cashley, Ivanovic, Ballack and Cech meant Arsenal couldn’t do much with the hefty possession they enjoyed. Which is as it should be because we all know Man U are about to embark on their run of mercilessly ground-out victories and tortuous late goals. In the end, Arsenal were left with little more to do but offer cheap jibes at the alleged indiscretions of various members of the Chelsea squad. Ingeniously they chose to reword the popular tune “You Never Win Far Call” which unwittingly provided the whole stadium with an immediate chant to shut them up. Next time make it a challenge boys, both on and off the pitch.
But what to make of these saucy, alleged, revelations? I must admit, my initial thoughts were: If the difference in performance between this season and last is the after hours attentions of one young lady, then let’s book her in to the England camp in June, right? But then the nation’s moral compass got its knickers in a twist and before you knew it, the fabric of society needed a prolonged squirt of Febreeze. The way I see it, it boils down to a simple question: Is it of public interest, or is it just interesting to the public? Because if it’s the latter, then we’re all being a tad hypocritical about morality.
That a player’s sexy capers are of national interest is highly questionable, the only possible argument being, in a World Cup year it might scupper our chances of success. And yet, if that’s the sole requirement for something to qualify as ‘of public interest’ surely we could legitimately pry into every aspect of the players’ private lives. Are they spending too long on the loo? Do their wives snore? Do they floss enough? Do they floss too much? And do they sniff what they find on the floss afterwards? Just because something’s interesting to the public doesn’t make it of public interest.
Naturally you get concerned parents who claim that, as role models, players have a responsibility to the kids. Those poor little kids who backchat as you make your way to your seat. It’s difficult to claim you have the kids’ best interests at heart while slapping the private details of other people’s extra marital affairs all over the tabloids. What’s probably more likely is you enjoy a good nosy. To paraphrase David Ginola’s haircare ad: He’s a footballer not a marriage councillor, let him be a role model on the pitch. Where, emphatically, he has been.