Go easy on the players hugging — they're doing it because the rest of us can't

I’LL be honest, I wasn’t really up for the FA Cup this year.

With squads depleted by Covid, the prospect of 32 matches last weekend felt like a case of 64 bald men fighting over a comb. How wrong I was.

No matter how heavy the clouds of despair over football, some shafts of light fight through.

This is why we have to keep the game going, be it the Cup, leagues or Euros.

Even when it feels plain daft to do so. We need it. Chorley got the ball ­rolling, beating Derby County and showing us there was life in the old Cup yet.

I’ve had a soft spot for the place ever since I planned a random trip there about five years ago.

I was working in Salford and had an afternoon free. I told a colleague I was heading to Chorley for a look around.

“Why would you want to do that?” he asked. But that’s exactly why: Who wants to visit places where ­people always go to visit? I had a very cheering ­afternoon in Chorley and I’m delighted they can now add “giant-killers” to their civic CV. These things breathe life into towns.

Just up the road, Blackpool narrowly avoided the embarrassment of losing to my team, West Brom. And Leeds United got thumped by Crawley Town — 3-0, for goodness sake.

You just have to crack a smile. Even, possibly, if you’re a Leeds fan. Smiles are in short ­supply right now.

Also, what’s not to love about Tottenham playing at Marine — with any fans living in ­neighbouring Rossett Road, Crosby, able to look out of their bedroom windows and see Spurs in action.

No disrespect to Rossett Road but each of those Tottenham players was almost certainly worth more than all of that street’s houses put together.

The pity is that the magic of it all has been dulled by the row over players’ celebrations and how much of a vector they could be for Covid.

Yes, we get the point. It feels a bit mad to be socially distancing for all we’re worth, hardly leaving home for days, only to switch on the telly and see a load of blokes jumping all over each other.


On the other hand, please let’s preserve a bit of tactile joy for us to watch on the box, as we can’t enjoy it ourselves.

It’s not as if we’re going to go out and copy them. No one is going to watch players hugging after a goal then head for their exercise in a local park and start doing the same to strangers there.

That said, I saw a barking-mad suggestion for dealing with the issue, which I am attracted to: Why not disallow any goal which is celebrated in a ­Covid-dangerous fashion?

This would be fascinating. Consider the video replay, reviewing the celebration in slow motion and looking for evidence of touching, stroking, hugging and, heaven forbid, even kissing.

Imagine the commentary: “Yes, this goal is clearly going to be chalked off — Sissoko’s nuzzling Kane and Lamela shouldn’t be touching Winks like that, pandemic or not.”

Another reason foot-ball must go on is that it constantly reminds us that anything is ­possible if you come together in the right way.

A year ago, we were all underdogs in this match of the century against the virus but now we are finally getting on top.

Between us — whether any old Joe doing the right thing and keeping a distance, or a boffin conjuring a vaccine — we’re getting into a winning position.

Tight as it is, I’d back us to win. We may need extra time but not penalties.


I’M seriously disappointed not to have been asked to appear in the 2021 Dull Men’s Club ­calendar.

I’d have been happy to be Mr January, this being the greyest month.

I surely qualify.

I saw a couple of them interviewed on the box. One was talking about his cacti.

I’ve just bought some cacti and was really interested in what he had to say. So I’m even duller than him.

Then came the fellow talking about his enthusiasm for telegraph poles. What a dullard, I thought. But soon he’d got me thinking about the funny writing on poles and how to read it.

In the end, I found this dull man’s hobby fascinating. So I rest my case.

I would like to be photographed surrounded by my 50-strong world-class plastic container collection. They’re all the same brand, in a variety of sizes. Each one has its lid carefully stored nearby.

They all bring me great pleasure.


I’VE always been disgusted by dog doo-doo on the pavement.


But toilet-training my puppy has slightly changed my thinking.

I watch him for even the slightest sign he has ­anything planned.

Dogs tend to sniff in ­circles around their poo-zone before making a deposit.

It’s thought this derives from the time they had to check the grass for snakes before squatting to do their business.


As soon as he goes into this circling routine, I dive across the room and scoop him up like a rugby forward gathering the ball.

It’s the fastest I’ve moved in years.

Sometimes I make it in time, often I don’t.

So now when I dodge some poop on the pavement, I feel less revulsion.

Just now, all I feel is sheer admiration of the dog’s owner for teaching their hound to do it ­anywhere other than the living room carpet.


IF you’re looking for something to watch, I recommend This Is Us on Amazon Prime – and it’s perfect for lockdown as there are so many episodes.

It’s a beautifully written and acted family drama.

Normally with these things there’s a woman in it I’ve taken a quiet shine to, but with this one it’s a couple of the blokes. They’re just so beautiful I can’t take my eyes off them. There’s Sterling K. Brown who plays Randall and Justin Hartley who is Kevin.

Now, I’m old enough to remember when The Sun did a Page 7 fella.

If that feature should make a comeback, may I humbly suggest both of these men for inclusion.

Mandy Moore, below, is in it too. She’s quite nice but not in the same league in the beauty stakes as my handsome duo.


I TRY not to let the weather get me down but January is a real test – greyness all around.

When I first bought my flat, I invited my colleague Lee Dixon over for a look. It was this time of year.

He looked around at my furniture, and the sky ­outside through my big windows.

“You’re going to have to be careful here,” he said. “Because the carpet’s grey, the sofa’s grey, there’s grey clouds everywhere outside, your hair is grey and you’ve got quite a grey personality.

“To be honest, you’re so blended in I can hardly see you.”

A fair point.

I’m sitting here now in my hi-vis motorbike jacket, just so I don’t entirely vanish into the greyness.


THE sight of a Ford Escort Cosworth going up for sale for nearly a hundred grand brought back memories from my teenage years.

These weren’t memories of flash cars I owned, rather of knowing I simply wasn’t cool enough to drive one.

A lad called Rob attracted all the girls in my neck of the woods, in his brown TR7. Then again, Rob was also ­terribly good-looking.

Whichever girls he couldn’t squeeze into his busy courting schedule tended to be picked up by his mate Greg in his equally brown Audi ­Quattro. Meanwhile, I was tootling around in a white Mini Metro getting ­absolutely nowhere.

Things got worse, too. I ended up with an old ­Talbot Horizon.

I christened this Brian, as Brian Talbot was then the West Brom manager.

Thirty years ago last week we lost to Woking in the third round of the FA Cup. Brian the car, appropriately enough, conked out and fell to ­pieces on the way home.

Brian the manager was sacked shortly afterwards.

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