Nicknames are bad names. So says David Brent, iconic comic creation of Ricky Gervais, hitherto a fan of jokey workplace monikers until he finds out that Toad Of Toad Hall & Bluto are two assigned to him & are circulating widely around the office behind his previously unwitting back. They certainly can linger. At school a boy named Kevin Goodwin would habitually have the dried green remnants of a runny nose trailing down perilously close to his top lip. As a result he was known to all as Snot Goodwin & even today, well over 40 years since I last saw him, I guarantee anyone of my vintage recalling his memory would not refer to him as Kevin, no matter how many mountains he may have climbed in adult life. As it was then so it is now. Snot has stuck. At college there was a girl whose actual name I can no longer remember. I do remember her nickname though. The Swansea Swallower. It’s a cruel world. She was a rabid Thatcherite so that tempers any potential sympathy somewhat. Was the nickname accurate? I am unable to shed further light. She had a Welsh accent but I have no idea if she was actually from Swansea.
The world of the British football dressing room has long been notorious for both the durability & lack of imagination of the assigned nicknames for its occupants. Tag on a y or an o (or less frequently an s) to the end of the subject’s name & Bob’s your uncle, or should that be Bobby’s your uncs? Holly. Clarkey. Wisey. Speedo. Steino. Furs. The personnel at Stamford Bridge changes, the cliched nickname formula remains. Even the late, great Peter Bonetti, widely referred to as ‘The Cat’ given his feline agility in goal, had that altered to Catty by his team mates. We all give in to it in the end. Nearly twenty years after leaving for Leicester City Dennis Wise is still Wisey.
However, hearing coach Frank Lampard (Lamps to most or Lampty if your name is Jody Morris) refer to new signing Ben Chilwell as Chilly is making me shiver. The preeminent figure in the current dressing room giving the royal seal of approval means it is unlikely to go away. Does this mean Mason Mount is known as Mounty or Reece James as Jamo? Possibly, even probably, & I had hoped the new foreign arrivals might herald a further shift from the nickname status quo. One of them conveniently has a y tagged on the end of his surname. Take a bow Eduard Mendy. Timo Werner is a no-go & good luck with amending Kai Havertz to fit the template lads. The fact is that foreign names generally don’t lend themselves to the continuation of the trend. Chelsea have had a lot of oversea players in the last 25 years so I suppose it is inevitable that any opportunity among the home grown lads to revert to the norm is grasped eagerly. Ben Chilwell has made a splendid start to his Chelsea career. Two years ago Blues social media ‘experts’ were loudly trumpeting his cause when potential new signings were discussed. A dip in form at Leicester last season led to a widescale volte face & suddenly it was Telles or Tagliafico they were heralding, anyone but Chilwell. Now Ben’s name is back in lights but when he has an inevitable dip in form, however mild, these intellectual & emotional incontinents will doubtless be screaming for him to be tied to a lampost & tarred & feathered outside The Butcher’s Hook before you can say Chilly. Best ignored on the whole. Chilwell is a more than welcome addition, although Tagliafico would at least have avoided the curse of the English nickname, while the Old Trafford dressing room now has its work cut out maintaining the nickname bantz hilarity with Alex Telles. Chilly it is though. Will we never be set free from this tyranny?
Nicknames in school years may be short of subtlety & frequently strip the recipient of any remaining shreds of dignity but compared to British football they are a beacon of originality. How did footballers fare themselves in schooldays, in tags given by them to others & vice versa? Sadly I have only a couple of examples. The only professional footballer to attend our school was Chelsea’s very own Clive Walker, but he had left years before I got there so if he had a playground nickname I have no idea what it was. In a recent joint interview with former ’80’s colleagues Colin Pates (Patesy) & John Bumstead (Bummers) it was clear though that Clive had not avoided the dressing room curse himself. They still refer to him as Walks. He did famously earn another nickname on the terraces courtesy of an unfortunate off the field indiscretion in the late 1970’s but we’ll draw a discreet veil over that. As indeed Clive should have done at the time.
My best friend at college had been to school in North London with Terry Gibson, later a striker with Spurs, Coventry, Man Utd & Wimbledon. At school he got his name in lights amongst his peers by disrupting an assembly, mooning the teachers from a balcony area immediately above the stage, in the process displaying an arse decorated with a profusion of hair impressive in one so young. He was known as Spiderman after that. Whether colleagues at the four top division clubs he frequented ever got past calling him Gibbo is unclear. In the modern Premier League dressing room some specific & immediate manscaping would doubtless be called for before Terry & his formerly hirsute buttocks were allowed through its metrosexual door.
A lovely woman called Julie used to sell books to me in my buying days at Blackwell’s, sometimes lightening the gloom of the surroundings in Oxford’s second best bookshop with tales of footballers she had known. She also revealed that at school she had made such a noise wearing a heavy pair of shoes that she been nicknamed Stompie. Many years later a friend phoned her from the Etihad Stadium halfway through a Man City game telling her he was sat next to an old school colleague of hers who wanted to say hello. The phone was duly transferred. ‘Alright Stompie, how are you?’ were the first words in a couple of decades Julie had heard from the lips of one time England winger & her aforementioned former classmate Trevor Sinclair (Sincs?) .You see, nicknames really don’t go away. As with Gibson’s Spiderman antics at least Stompie was unique & earned. Where Frank & the team’s use of feeble nicks like Chilly is concerned I can only conclude with that well worn teacher’s rebuke throughout my schooldays, a phrase doubtless also employed in the Goodwin household when monitoring poor old Snot’s incompetent nose blowing efforts all those years ago.
Must do better.
05/12/20 Chelsea 3 Leeds 1
I am an admirer of the work of actor Ralph Ineson, a talented & versatile performer in scores of television & film productions for many years. Much of it is inevitably if unfairly overshadowed in the eyes of many by his masterly depiction of odious sales rep Chris Finch in The Office. He comes across as a good bloke too as far as I can tell. Dog lovers always get a pass here. He clearly hates Chelsea though. I can still recall some predictably salty comments following Chelsea’s 5-1 Carling Cup victory at Elland Road in 2012 . These seemed justified on that occasion, provoked as they were by nouveau Chelsea fans in a pub mistaking the great Kerry Dixon for a certain former Arsenal full back with the same surname. Chelsea hating goes with the territory for Leeds followers & is largely all grist to the mill. After all, we all hate Leeds & Leeds & Leeds, Leeds & Leeds & Leeds & …. well I think you get the picture. Chelsea songs are traditionally long on vivid expression & short in lyrical content. The resentment has clearly grown in the fifteen years since the teams last met in the Premier League. Chelsea’s spending power & bulging trophy cabinet upsets far more than just Leeds fans. Equally, disgust at the knowledge that the magnificent team Don Revie built at Elland Road in the ’60’s & ’70’s was underpinned by foul play on & off the pitch extends way beyond the Fulham Road. Bribes were offered, we only know about the ones refused by the whistleblowers. These include the late Bob Stokoe, approached by Revie in person in a dressing room at Bury in the early 1960’s. Stokoe exacted sweet revenge years later by masterminding one of the most famous & universally celebrated FA Cup final upsets in history when his Sunderland team beat dastardly Don’s mighty whites in 1973. Mighty but dirty. Dirty Leeds .
We’re none of us perfect. Not even Ralph Ineson. As a grown man I am as discomfited by the unequal nature of wealth distribution in football as elsewhere, but I didn’t create it & being the object of casual, hackneyed, chippy northern bigotry & hatred gets a bit tiring after a while. Leeds fans have a well earned reputation for malevolence over the years. I have also frequently been embarrassed by acts of puerile excess from Chelsea fans at times throughout the decades since that notorious 1970 FA Cup Final between the two clubs. My own record has been less than saintly, especially during the course of a live match. For that reason I never use social media during a game. Nobody is interested in my tweets anyway but really, why does anyone do this, how about concentrating on the football? It is the essence of self indulgence. Nothing is achieved by rushing to pronounce & publish while emotions are heightened, & even countless likes & retweets never changes the result. Ralph was stirring the pot before & after the game too.
All due respect indeed. Also to the patrons of the pub who clearly responded to it in the right spirit. Would a bar worker wearing a Chelsea shirt in a pub near Elland Road on matchday leave in one piece? Just asking. After all everyone is so much friendlier up north….
Ooh you’re hard as David Brent would have said. By your own admission everyone in the pub, including your son, had a good night. Nobody died or even got glassed yet you make a dark & hollow allusion to acts of violence had you been there. Why? You weren’t there. You lost. It happens. Get over it. Grow up.
It is possible to dislike another football team & acknowledge facts. The current Leeds team have a refreshing approach & really took the game to Chelsea at times in the first half. The future looks bright. You need enemies in football & they have been missed. Naturally I still hope they lose every week & defeat in the return match at Elland Road will still be as bitter a pill to swallow as all those suffered up there in my youth. For me they have often been a horrible club with many horrible fans, which is exactly what many say about Chelsea. You can still glower with rage at Chelsea Football Club & acknowledge the facts too though Ralph. Frank Lampard’s team is shaping up well at the moment & this was a thoroughly entertaining match. If Frank & Bielsa can move on from the Spygate/Play Off shenanigans between Derby & Leeds two seasons ago perhaps it’s time your bitter lot did too. Once again the abuse towards Lampard from rival fans this week has been absurdly disproportionate & raised about as many laughs as a Xmas episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys. Ralph was far from the worst but as defeat loomed & the euphoria at his team’s early lead & bright play evaporated he was reduced to this sad, rather pathetic aside:-
Never mind mate. A case of one up the bum no harm done for your lot in the long run surely? Anyway, you’ve thrown a copper kettle over a pub. What’s Frank Lampard ever achieved compared to that?
Answers on something rather larger than a postcard please.
What a run from Timo Werner! ⚡️
The Newcastle defence couldn't stop the German who sets up Tammy Abraham to score 👏 pic.twitter.com/XcHZUmvBpb
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 21, 2020
Chelsea, Chelsea, Top Of The League, Chelsea, Top Of The League!!
For an hour or two anyway. Good work chaps.
Odd lot West Ham fans. Back in his Upton Park days they belittled Frank Lampard as an overweight imposter, a victory for nepotism over talent due to his dad & uncle Harry Redknapp running the show, even infamously deriding his footballing abilities to the great man’s impossibly youthful teenage face at the now legendary Scott Canham fan forum featured below.
They subsequently squealed with delight at their club’s apparently impeccable Dick Turpin impression after Claudio Ranieri brought him to Stamford Bridge in 2001 for £11 million. Two decades & innumerable career highlights later their continued saltiness can only be attributed to the fact that none of these highlights were achieved wearing West Ham colours. Perhaps they should have appreciated him more when they had the chance. I do have some sympathy with them today though. If their owners had any sense then the overriding negative response of Hammers fans to the greatest goalscoring midfielder in English footballing history would ensure that an image of Frank Lampard in claret & blue days alongside other players past & present would not be appearing on the new graphic at their ground. Sadly for Irons followers the club is still run by Lady Brady & the Porno Twins so that is exactly what has happened. Not content with ripping the heart & soul out of their club by removing them from Upton Park, their spiritual home, they now thumb their nose further with a move of staggering stupidity & insensitivity. Funny for everyone else, sure, but are messrs Sullivan & Gold determined to enrage & alienate their own team’s followers at every opportunity? What next – a Paul Ince statue?
My favourite Frank Lampard moment against West Ham took place in 2009 when referee Mike Dean, that living emdodiment of ego overpowering intellect, absurdly made him take the same penalty three times at Upton Park, all of them tucked away with aplomb. Dean seemingly disallowed the second penalty for encroachment into the penalty area by a West Ham player, thus punishing the team taking the spot kick for an offence committed by an opposition player! Remarkable. The combination of an increasingly hysterical home crowd & a cretinous match official unveiling his usual unwelcome potpourri of arrogance, incompetence & desperate craving for attention would have proved too much for many. Inevitably Frank rose above it.
He usually does.
Charlize Theron & David Mellor
There have been many adaptations of Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s 18th century fairy tale Beauty & The Beast. Those of my vintage remember the ’80’s TV series starring Linda Hamilton & that bloke off Sons Of Anarchy. David Mellor, sometimes a Chelsea fan, sometimes a Fulham fan, QC & MP for Putney between 1979 & 1997, doubtless displayed a theatrical bent on occasions both in Parliament & court. Had it been transferred to the stage the combination of Mr Mellor & Hollywood A lister Charlize in another variant on the B&TB theme would have been a casting director’s wet dream. In reality there is only one reason to band this oddest of couples together here. Both have been linked erroneously to the wearing of Chelsea shirts, one publicly, one privately. One I would happily see clasped to the bosom of the Chelsea family, the other preferably disappearing out of its bottom.
The Charlize question is resolved quite quickly, & sadly would appear to be answered in the negative. The 2003 Oscar winner, awarded courtesy of her extraordinary performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, is known to be a keen football fan & did a lot of publicity for the 2010 World Cup in her native South Africa. She may have been presented with a Chelsea shirt in Pasadena but unlike Will Ferrell & Matthew McConaughey I am not aware she has ever visited Stamford Bridge, indeed the one London Premier league ground she has been spotted at since was the Emirates watching an Arsenal- Man Utd match. Welcome anytime though Charlize.
It ill behoves someone of my unbecoming physical appearance to cast aspersions on any human being, let alone a fellow Chelsea fan, but I think we can make an exception on this occasion when considering the standard Tory blueprint jamboree bag of styleless pomposity, elitism, wholly unwarranted self adoration & breathtaking snobbery that is David John Mellor. I seem to recall someone once describing a meeting with the erstwhile Minister Of Fun as like being hit in the gob with a tub of Brylcreem. They say you end up with the face you deserve. Were this glibbest of cliches to be true then one would require a sick & twisted imagination akin to the deluded fantasist Carl Beech to dredge up the full extent of a life of depravity necessary to explain Mellor’s remarkable television appearance during the Brexit fallout. Standard ageing Tory Boy face like a slapped arse merged with an unflattering, tight, collarless white shirt & an extraordinarily coiffured barnet, social media quickly nailing his breathtaking new look as an unholy mix of Andy Warhol & Alan Carr. All very unkind of course. On Warhol & Carr.
Is Mellor all bad? In the interests of balance I would have to say no, despite him starting his political career working for the delusional liar & crook Jeffrey Archer, then joining the Thatcher government ranks at the tender age of 32. This was the most brutal, vicious & self serving post-war administration we have had to endure thus far, though possibly not for much longer if the incompetent in Macchiavellian clothing Dominic Cummings continues to pull the idiot Bullingdon ballsack’s strings for any length of time. Mellor’s record in government did have its moments in truth, as he played notable roles in the introduction of tape recording police interviews before they could be considered admissable in court, & the passing of legislation to faciliate reinvestigation of miscarriages of justice. There was also the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 which increased provision for protecting animals used for the purposes of vivisection. Not exactly Francis Of Assisi but in a malign era for British politics participation in the passing of any vaguely humane &/or liberal legislation was noteworthy. He was also rebuked by Thatcher during his stint at the Foreign Office after angrily berating an Israeli army colonel in front of television cameras for allowing his troops to brutally mistreat Palestinian civilians. The carpeting from the leaderene followed his refusal to apologise afterwards, which threatened to cause an international incident. After his return to the backbenches he led a revolt campaigning against handgun use in the wake of the Dunblane massacre in 1996. Intellectually & politically he was streets ahead of the inbred buffoons supposedly running the entire show now.
In an era when the administration he served largely treated football & its followers with at best disdain, at worst naked hostility, he returned to Chelsea as a supporter after a spell watching Fulham, which he credibly claimed was provoked by the vile racism that had infected the Stamford Bridge terraces throughout the late ’70’s & large chunks of the 1980’s. You would suspect with his political clout & legal contacts he was a useful ally during chairman Ken Bates’ steadfast rearguard action against property developers striving to evict the club from Stamford Bridge. Thatcher may have hated the game but her successor, John Major, was another Chelsea fan & following the Taylor Report there was a welcome thaw in government/football authority relations. I used to see Mellor on the way to evening matches occasionally, tumbling out of a taxi before strolling towards the ground from the Chelsea Conservative Club a few doors down from Vivien Westwood’s shop, an ungainly figure in unfashionably flarey trousers (though doubtless the suit would have cost a pretty packet) & quite possibly the only man in London less likely than me to be given a welcome in the latter establishment, in its 70’s guise as Sex essentially the birthplace of punk. By the mid ’90’s Mellor had succeeded another bumptious egotist, Danny Baker, as the host of BBC’s popular football radio phone in 606, presenting himself rather uneasily as a champion of the match going supporter, unthinkable a few years earlier, laughably unconvincing at the time. ‘I know many of you guys like a can of beer on the way to a game’ he once announced chirpily after someone had phoned in complaining about public transport restrictions on alcohol consumption on matchday away trips. Just one of the ‘guys’ eh Dave? I think I’m going to be sick. He had long been a source of queasy embarrassment to this Chelsea fan by then but my feelings were far from universally shared in SW6. He was high profile & a prominent visible presence near Bates on matchdays back then. People would stop & ask for his autograph on the Stamford Bridge concourse. We had gone from glamorous (if fleeting) visits to the Bridge from Hollywood icons Steve McQueen & Raquel Welch in the 1970’s to John Major, Seb Coe & Mellor by the early ’90’s. God preserve us. The late Tony Banks at least restored a semblance of political balance though none of them were ever going to rock a Chelsea shirt like Raquel had in her session with the legendary photographer Terry O’Neill, another Chelsea fan, sadly recently deceased. Not that Banks, Coe, Major or Mellor were ever likely to have donned a Chelsea shirt. Or were they?
On the surface this front page represents a relatively light hearted tissue of lies compared to disparaging the dead at Hillsbrough, hacking into the phone of a murdered teenager or more recently employing the most successful fusion of man & weasel in history, the malodorous Tony Parsons, the only person I have ever known to transfer his footballing allegiance from Spurs to Arsenal. His road to Damascus conversion from Labour to Tory ( & constant subsequent rimming of his former Islington neighbour Boris Johnson) is almost less remarkable given its running parallel with a big money transfer from The Mirror to The Sun. Great at telling us what we think is Tony, once the reptilian Murdoch has told him what to say & think in return for wadges of cash. Verily a working class hero is something to be. Maintaining a pattern of logical, consistent intellectual thought & behaviour having proved beyond him Parsons has now plumped to permanently indulge his avaricious appetite for money grubbing shithousery. Perfect for The Sun. A marriage made in Hell, like the bent organ’s liaisons with the late sex offender Max Clifford. Back in the day Mr Clifford would regularly have access to the front page to spout a flood of bullshit to advance the fortunes of himself & his client. Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster anyone? That was Max. And the Mellor in Chelsea strip was another, as his former lover Antonia de Sancha had regrettably employed the disgusting Clifford by this time. Had any of the cash guzzling liars involved in this sham story had any real sexual imagination they would know that any decent fan of this era would have got far more of a charge from working their dubious bedroom magic with the unfortunate young lady sporting the Chelsea shirt rather than them. Especially a short sleeved 1970 FA Cup winning cotton replica shirt of the sort available in the club shop during the 1990’s. So rumour has it….
Mellor’s extra marital dalliance proved an amusing diversion for the nation in the late summer of 1992, bringing forth a torrent of ridicule for both the hapless Heritage Secretary, aka the Minister for Fun, & the unfortunate de Sancha, by all accounts a rather nice person with a low key acting career that had purportedly included a role in a soft core porn film where she had been embroiled in a tryst with a one legged pizza delivery man.* Many thought this an upgrade on the aesthetically unpleasing Mr Mellor. Though Antonia conceded his intelligence & charm, along with his bank balance, had been substantial enough to turn her head, more commonly the prospect of sexual congress with the honourable member for Putney turned only stomachs. Ms de Sancha has long since confessed that the more lurid claims that subsequently appeared in the tabloids were untrue, but Mellor is still remembered by many these days as the politician who wore a Chelsea shirt during sex. It did him no harm with sections of the crowd at Stamford Bridge. Having lain doggo for weeks at the beginning of the 1992-3 season, as the tabloids feasted on his discomfort, he eventually emerged as Autumn approached. Quickly spotted taking his seat in the posh seats in the middle section of the East Stand our man was greeted with a rousing chorus of ‘There’s only one David Mellor’ from both The Shed & West Stand benches, where I was sat, to his evident delight & my mortification. Even I had to laugh in truth, as he acknowledged the serenade with both arms raised triumphantly like he had scored the winning goal in the EUFA Cup final. He might have been better served by reacting with a greater sense of decorum given the hideous charade of the infamous, 5 bar gate press conference he subjected his long suffering wife, in-laws & children to in the aftermath of this ludicrous interlude, clan Mellor supposedly united together in an ultimately abortive effort to save his ministerial career. Many years later this farcical put up job was lampooned effortlessly in an episode of Little Britain. The inevitable divorce duly followed. Ironically, the final nail in Mellor’s political career at the highest level did not come from the de Sancha affair, as widely believed, but when he & his family were found to have enjoyed a gratis month long holiday in Marbella courtesy of his friend Monica Bauwens, daughter of the then finance director of the PLO. It is also ironic & nauseating that the scumbag newspaper that prides itself as the scourge of nonces everywhere regularly gave up its front page to a man like Max Clifford, jailed for 8 years in 2014 for sexual assaults on women aged between 15 & 19. The judge made it clear that he also believed Clifford had assaulted a 12 year old girl in Spain but this was not presented to the court because of the location of the incident. Mellor was understandably quick to revel in Clifford’s well deserved fall from grace, the latter’s death in December 2017 also inspiring the clumsiest but best deserved bad taste joke of that yuletide.
Q: What has 14 windows that will never be opened?
A: Max Clifford’s advent calendar.
Mellor’s man of the people schtick has itself long been exposed as a convenient contrivance. In 2010 he had a heated exchange with a chef from the River Lounge, a bar & restaurant near the plush home Mellor shares with Lady Cobham, his long term partner, repeatedly telling the man to ‘fuck off’ having labelled him a ‘fat bastard’ & perhaps most tellingly instructing him ‘go & do your £10 an hour job somewhere else’. Power to the people. 4 years later Mr Mellor celebrated his partner’s CBE award by abusing the cab driver on the way home, referring to him as a ‘sweaty, stupid little shit’ adding ‘you’ve been driving a cab for 10 years, I’ve been in the cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s Counsel. You think that your experiences are anything compared to mine.’ Given that the row was instigated by a disagreement over the route the cabbie chose to take is it too impertinent to suggest to the great man that on this occasion the 10 years hard labour behind the wheel should indeed have held sway? Incidentally, Mellor has not practiced at the bar since 1979 so the boast about being a QC is grounded on a fallacy. He chose to invoke a thankfully now defunct custom that an MP who was also a barrister could choose to be acknowledged as a QC after being in Parliament for 15 years. He has done nothing in the legal world to to justify the award of the title whatsoever. Once again his adversary was told to ‘fuck off.’ Anyone would think the ‘guy’ had enjoyed having a can of beer on the way to & from a Buckingham Palace investiture. Were my fellow Chelsea fans who serenaded him in 1992 disillusioned at the true face of the man revealing itself two decades later? Not sure, probably not though. I am unaware how often, if ever, Mellor goes to Chelsea these days but the ghastly Michael Gove is now a regular. Dominic Raab, another elitist parasite, is a reputed fan too. These simultaneously corrupt & inept chancers have been shitting on the rest of us for so long that some people seem to have grown to like it. With slimeballs like those in the posh seats the failure of Charlize Theron to follow up her Pasadena photo opportunity with a stroll along the Fulham Road becomes less of a mystery.
Always welcome though Charlize. It’s much nicer in the West Stand Lower btw.
*It has subsequently been suggested to me that Ms De Sancha did not appear in a film where she had a tryst with a one legged pizza delivery man. She did, in fact, play a one legged prostitute herself, dallying with a pizza delivery man in the process. A pizza delivery man in possession of a full set of limbs. Sadly it isn’t on Netflix so it’s all hearsay anyway. Apologies to all.
♥ Boris Becker ♥
40 years ago today I started my first full time job as a trainee bank clerk at Barclays Bank. I had chosen them because (unlike NatWest) they gave me 50p to cover my bus fare following the interview, which survived one sticky moment when the pleasant lady conducting it raised the issue of my alleged passion for disco dancing. The school had sent the wrong pupil notes, those of my namesake, a boy a couple of years younger than me. Suffice to say this Philip Munday never made Travolta sweat, my exquisite James Brown pelvic thrusts back then a clandestine arrangement between me, my huge stereo headphones, cheap alcohol & a darkened bedroom. Then, & only then, would I discover ants in my pants & a need to dance. My banking misadventure lasted less than a year. The highlight at my first branch was the presence of Brian, the assistant manager. He would spend large portions of his day sat in the tea room smoking his pipe & ogling the scantily clad lovelies in that day’s copy of The Sun, pausing twice a day to spit out the coffee I made him & pronouncing it disgusting. I didn’t take it personally. Instant coffee powder is as instant coffee powder does, & like Brian I didn’t buy into doing the Maxwell House shake. Only a small step up from the bland nightmare of Mellow Birds, which certainly failed to make me smile. Brian was always good for an aged anecdote about his youthful days sharing a flat in London with Leonard Rossiter, a big name in television by 1980, star of Rising Damp, The Fall & Rise Of Reginald Perrin & a phenomenally successful & long running ad campaign for Cinzano Bianco with Joan Collins. Each advert would culminate in the Division 2 diva being drenched in this frankly revolting vermouth. I drank a bottle of it once on top having polished off a tidy amount of red wine & suffice to say spent the rest of the following day wishing Leonard Rossiter had also been around the previous evening to cause me to spill it all over my front rather down my foolhardy gullet. One day, contentedly filling the room with Bruno Flake pipe smoke & wincing at the prospect of drinking the coffee I had just brought him, Brian reminisced that he & Rossiter had once bumped into Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor in Covent Garden & had a chat with them. ‘Nice girl, bit on the chubby side’ was his considered view of the lady who brought Cleopatra to the silver screen & was once considered by many to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Given his preferred tea room reading matter perhaps he was just peeved La Taylor didn’t get her melons out amidst the Covent Garden fruit & veg. Suffice to say that Brian was not himself blessed with matinee idol good looks. The rot really set in after 4 months when I was transferred to another branch & it slowly dawned on everyone, including myself, that I was a truly terrible junior bank clerk. I once spent an hour trying to telephone a customer by repeatedly dialling their bank account number. Never did get through. My resignation was accepted with indecent haste & the admission from my boss that I was on the verge of getting the push anyway. This would have been some feat. Getting sacked took some doing in the banking world back then unless you were caught with your hand in the till. John was a testimony to this. He worked in the branch I had started in, but lived in a flat above the manager’s office in my second billet. During the Cheltenham Festival John invited some fellow racing enthusiasts round one afternoon & their cheering & stomping, clearly facilitated by some plentiful daytime drinking, led to an enraged Roy, the branch manager, banging on the ceiling with his walking stick. Peter O’Sullivan’s iconic commentary booming out at remarkable volume from John’s television & accompanying the raucous revelry was clearly not conducive to Roy discussing prospective mortgages & bank loans with bemused customers. John was a character, always friendly to staff & customers alike but frequently smelling of booze & seemingly half cut. He once tried to sell me a revolting, threadbare, filthy looking nylon brown suit for £4 that he had left hanging in the gent’s toilets next to his half eaten box of Ritz biscuits. The fact I was the best part of 6 inches taller than him did not diminish the enthusiasm of his sales pitch. Unfortunately the suit was not only the wrong size & hideous but hanging up in a room permeated with the stench of the combined shits of half a dozen male colleagues. For similar reasons I was not minded to dip into his Ritz biscuits either. I liked Brian & John but I hated Barclays. One local building business had their takings paid in daily by a nice man liked by all the cashiers. He broke his leg & was laid off work unpaid so asked for a small overdraft to tide him over. It was refused. When franking the post one afternoon I was asked to remove the bank logo from envelopes being sent to South Africa because ‘there are some funny people over there.’ Or oppressed black people rebelling against the disgusting apartheid system still in full flow back then as they might more accurately have been described. A system Barclays thrived on & exploited to the full, as my painfully ignorant teenage self was belatedly in the process of discovering. Selling books & bus travel haven’t made me rich but at least exploiting the misery of others is less prevalent than in banking, a very dirty business masking under a cloak of largely unwarranted respectability.
5 years & 6 days after my inauspicious working career staggered into life future Chelsea fan Boris Becker won his first Wimbledon title at the tender age of 17. Already an imposing unit he combined power with agility & irrepressible energy, throwing himself around the court with an exhilarating, youthful, reckless abandonment that thrilled everyone. Apart from me. I loathed Boris Becker in 1985, largely because he became the first Wimbledon champion to be younger than me (6 years younger at that) & partly because he wasn’t Jimmy Connors whose combative, streetfighting style I adored, had grown up with & wasn’t ready to see sacrificed at the altar of a generation younger than me just yet. Connors now resembled Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter, grizzled but unbowed, deep down knowing a younger man’s bullet would be getting him shortly but stubbornly refusing to bow to the inevitable. He was still going a decade later, finally retiring at 43 as magnificently cussed & bloody minded as ever. He never won Wimbledon again though.
Being young, carefree, unseeded & cocky Becker was rightly untroubled by the petty concerns of the like of me. Connors had been crushed in the semi finals by South African born Kevin Curren. My dislike of Boris Becker was underpinned hugely by the green eye of jealousy. At 17 I was still at school & my most noteworthy achievement was eating so many sweets I required a staggering nine fillings at the dentists that summer. I achieved little else, & harbouring the notion that the place to a teenage girl’s heart was through plying her with Pear Drops & Rhubarb & Custards got me nowhere, unless you count even more time in the dentist’s chair. It was not the way to a girl’s heart, at best they thought I was, well, sweet. No 17 year old boy wants to be considered sweet. One girl at school professed a liking for Bassetts Liqourice Allsorts so I went for broke & bought her a box. They were returned to me swiftly after the side of the box confirmed the sell by date had expired. Sadly I was slowly learning that lovers, unlike dental cavities, are born not made. Adopting similar tactics to those employed by dodgy strange men in grubby overcoats was never likely to be a winner. I once accepted the offer of some sweets off a man just like that walking home from school when I was about 8. Strangely enough they were also liqourice allsorts. Very nice they were too, so much so that I excitedly told my mum all about it when I got home. That went well. At least they weren’t stale.
In 1985 it was Harry Bassett rather than Bertie Bassett at the local football club in Wimbledon, where Boris Becker now lives, as the then Dons manager was in the process of taking his raucous band of yobbish misfits all the way to the top division. Ultimately they went on to win the FA Cup, beating Liverpool at Wembley in 1988, but Bassett had moved on by then. My dad had played at Plough Lane in his youth, but I never went there, something I rather regret now. I have never been to the tennis either, though my sister went several times on school trips in the mid 1970’s, joining the hysterical, clumpy shoed, flare wearing adolescent hordes terrorising the traditional fans as they pursued the teenage wonder Bjorn Borg around the outside courts at every opportunity. Borg was young, Swedish, blonde, attractive & wore impossibly tight shorts. Women are so shallow compared to men aren’t they?
My desperate need to see someone stem the tide of teenage brilliance found me hoping for Curren to triumph in the 1985 final. By then I was an unemployed History graduate & no longer naive about apartheid. The chances of me supporting a white South African (although Curren now had US citizenship) back then in any situation would normally have been about as likely as me purchasing a copy of that summer’s Black Lace single I Speaka Da Lingo, as gratuitously offensive a record as it is musically abject, but confounding the more cynical of us in 1985 by proving it was physically possible to convert dog shit into seven inch vinyl. In today’s toxic climate I may well have to bend the knee one day just for mentioning I Speaka Da Lingo once, even in an obscure blog piece read by nobody. Make that twice. Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. I once saw the two members of Black Lace leaving Dixon’s, laden down with Saisho carrier bags, absurd perms, oversized garishly coloured sunglasses & tight jeans to the fore. Two tits with tat. Club 18-30 had come to Oxford for the day, looking suspiciously older than its target audience. In stature both of these imbeciles resembled their talent. Tiny. Already the much maligned 1970’s were demanding a written apology from all of us. It has taken far too long but here’s mine for what it’s worth. I am deeply sorry 1970’s. I should also apologise to Kevin Curren, no more responsible for an accident of birth than the rest of us, & Boris Becker himself who stormed to victory in 4 sets & quickly won me over in the following years. Nonetheless, his first Wimbledon triumph was still my sporting equivalent of all policeman suddenly looking younger than you, & 23 is a little early to start sensing a progression towards middle age.
Becker won Wimbledon again the following year before a shock early round exit to the late Peter Doohan in 1987, by which point he had become a target for The Sun under its swaggering, bullying cretin of an editor, the loathsome Kelvin Mackenzie, living proof that an entire human body can be taken over by its unwashed arsehole. The Sun is often called a rag but we can all find a use for a rag from time to time. Leave rags out of it. The discovery that a rich, successful testosterone filled 19 year old male quite liked sex was manna from heaven for this cesspit of puerility & Becker became known as Bonking Boris. 30 years later the same organ were strangely more muted by the middle aged antics of a man of the same name knocking out inbred copies of himself all over the place. Quelle surprise. The likes of Elton John & ‘Allo ‘Allo! star Gordon Kaye may not have produced work that filled me with glee in the 1980’s but once The Sun made their desire to systematically destroy the lives of people like this clear in the 1980’s I felt huge empathy for their plight. David Pleat’s alleged kerb crawling antics were a little more of a challenge to my better nature but only because he was manager of Spurs at the time. Becker joining the ranks of those persecuted by Mackenzie & his parasitical lackeys saw him added to the list & by the time he won Wimbledon for a third time, beating Stefan Edberg in 1989, I was firmly in his camp. He also won the US Open that year.
He was never a self effacing character in the way we frequently & unfairly expect British sports people to be, but on a good day he could be as charming & witty off court as he was exciting on it. Compared to the charisma vacuums that were the brooding & surly Ivan Lendl & the stunningly brilliant automaton Pete Sampras there was a welcome streak of humanity to Becker, & unlike Andre Agassi he never had a mullet. Despite the best efforts of malignant moron Mackenzie he quickly identified as an Anglophile & also boiled the piss of the twattier end of the more narrow minded sections within German society by twice marrying black women. Like many who come to fame young there is still an air of unworldly immaturity about some of his actions over the years. Despite the many millions he has earned playing & coaching (he oversaw Novak Djokovic’s career between 2013 & 2016) bankruptcy still beckoned in 2017 & was extended after hidden assets were discovered two years later. He famously fathered a child on a stairway in the appropriately named Nobu restaurant in London, describing it amusingly as the most expensive five seconds of his life, but originally denying paternity. Only yesterday he got embroiled in a social media war of words with the underachieving walking irritant that is Aussie tennis player Nick Kyrgios, actually achieving the unlikely aim of making the latter look like something other than the egotistical streak of six foot spite he usually resembles. Kyrgios referred to Becker as a doughnut & still came out looking more like the adult. The striped blazers & cravats of recent times have also added a further air of contrived flamboyance, & the suspicion that Boris can be somewhat of a dick.
No matter, he was a great tennis player & is now an avid Blue. His belated support for Chelsea began when he was living on the Kings Road after retirement & coincided with the early Abramovich era of Lampard & Drogba, which amusingly Becker thinks predates Chelsea as a truly successful & cool team. One day Boris we must sit down & discuss the 2-4 home defeat to Shrewsbury in 1980. Bless him. He claims ownership of an impressive array of Chelsea scarves, randomly & surely innocently buying one from a matchday street stall that celebrated the existence of the Headhunters, Chelsea’s famous hooligan firm of the 1980’s. With doubtless similar innocence he proceeded to wear it to a Champions League game against PSG in 2015, causing something of a stir in the process! Supporting Chelsea will probably be the only thing Boris Becker & I ever have in common but despite both of us being somewhat past our own sell by dates nowadays the adage that proved a bum steer as far as kickstarting my romantic teenage existence remains curiously apt as a template for a desirable football club fanbase.
It takes all sorts.
♥ Shola Ama ♥
Shola Ama was discovered by chance while singing to herself on the platform at Hammersmith Tube Station as a 15 year old. At 18 she released her first album True Love which duly won a Brit award. Truly the stuff of fairytales. Less magical for Shola would appear to be her Big Breakfast appearance that year (1997) when a drooling, touchy feely young man by the name of Rick Adams (apparently a main presenter then – I don’t remember him at all) was perfectly happy to stroke the latest soul sensation’s teenage thigh live on air as he sat next to her on The Big Breakfast sofa. At least wait till you get to the BBC mate. This was the day before that year’s FA Cup Final between Chelsea & Middlesbrough & Shola escaped the myopic groper’s clutches long enough to reveal a fingernail decorated with a Chelsea logo to indicate who she was backing for the big match. I suspect his sweaty little nuts would double up as earrings pronto were he to attempt something similar on Shola today. Mercifully, within a minute we were at the Stamford Bridge cafe with a promising young Big Breakfast roving reporter by the name of Davina McCall. I think we do remember her. She interviewed Mark Meehan, a man who I have never met but have several times enjoyed chats with on social media & is clearly a thoroughly good egg. Mark correctly predicted the score (2-0 Chelsea) which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest as he has forgotten more about the Blues then most of us will ever know. He recently recalled the interview, verifying that Davina was great fun, & doubtless she kept her hands to herself as well. Shola lost her way a bit after her stunning early success, developing a potentially ruinous drug habit as the hits dried up. Happily she came out the other side long ago, that wonderful voice firmly intact, as illustrated in the 2015 clip above. Appropriately this was filmed at Under The Bridge, the venue under the East Stand at Stamford Bridge. A YouTube interview confirms that she is still a Chelsea fan. Way to go fellow traveller Shola. Keep the blue flag flying high!
Rick Adams currently resides in the Where are they now? file. In truth I didn’t look too hard.
♥ William Shatner ♥