There’s something I have to say about the game of football, but first I should make a confession.
I love football, really I do, but you’re going to have to take my word for it; any tests you may care to set me, I should undoubtedly fail.
The fan loyalty test for example - It’s my wife’s birthday and she wants to go to Paris. Meanwhile, West Ham have at last realised their potential and are playing the final of the European Cup (sorry, ‘Champion’s League’ is such a misnomer) in Birmingham on the very day of said anniversary.
What do I do with the tickets to that final you are hypothetically about to offer me?
Simple: I ask my wife what she thinks; not because I’m worried about fighting over the custody of our two cats, but because I genuinely don’t want to disappoint her. And I rather like Paris myself.
The fact my wife quite likes football and she probably wouldn’t want to disappoint me on such a frankly unrepeatable occasion does not excuse me: I have failed the loyalty test simply by asking.
The other test of a professed football-lover is, of course, an in-depth statistical knowledge.
I’ll tell you now, I don’t have it; any more than I can tell you the number or name of the train which departs Huddersfield for London at 10:15 am. Number of FA cups? Easy. Scores? Of course; I can even tell you which part of his body Trevor Brooking scored with.
However, if I were asked the names of the goalscorers in that epic semi-final against Everton (there was one, wasn’t there? I’m sure I went to the dénouement at Elland Road), I have no idea. Did Frank Lampard get one? (Yes, of course I’ve googled all this: the point is that I had to).
If I cannot answer even these questions about my ‘own’ team, it would clearly be a complete waste of time to ask me, for example, to name the last 10 F.A. cup winners, let alone their squads.
Such failure on both theoretical and practical exams would naturally, and quite rightly, prevent me from taking unsupervised control of a car, but does it mean I should lose my license to enter debates on football?
Clearly it does for some bloggers and pub experts, for whom the right-to-comment exam is a pre-requisite for any conversation.
Well, I never claimed it was an exclusive love. I have loved West Ham ever since that victory over Preston North End by however many goals it was, and football from my first glimpses of Chelsea, Real Madrid and Brazil.
The problem is that I like lots of other things.
Now I’m as renaissance as the next man, but if I have to display an encyclopaedic knowledge of them all before I’m ‘allowed’ to give an opinion, I’ll be too busy cramming to form one.
Anyway, about my comment. It concerns the current obstruction laws and what is known as ‘shepherding the ball out of play’. I fucking hate that.