It’s can be hard to get over-excited about certain Premiership teams, though I prefer the ‘glamour-factor ‘ [wink here] of either of these two, to, let’s say, Middlesboro or Wigan. We play the Cottagers at our place tomorrow. You can normally find something to keep you amused, if perchance the game doesn’t turn out to be an absolute corker.
Extract from work-in-progress:
The football season starts too early; the first game, away to Bolton, takes place before we’ve even been on our summer holidays. I was talking to Jack (about difficulties he was having with suppliers of merchandise for his grime artist, Tinchy Stryder) – in this way we missed the slip road that takes you off to the Reebok Stadium. There were only twenty-three minutes left to kick-off, and now there was panic, because, quite suddenly, we were lost in Bolton city centre, or what was left of it. Jack let the window down at a red light and asked a group of men standing on the pavement the way to the ground. It was a bright day, the sun was shining. This threw the men into a ghastly relief. It was the smoking ban had forced them out of the saloon bar where they properly belonged; they were a collection of Parisian music hall tramps sketched in oil-stick by Dégas.
‘What?’ they said, in unison.
‘The football ground,’ I shouted, words that drew only blank, slightly pissed, looks.
‘Bolton Wanderers!’ Jack called out, as a further clue.
No, no, no, they said, There’s no football played round here. Not for years. Charlee. That’s where they wants to go. Charlee. They play football in Charlee.
‘Where’s that?’ Jack shouted, an enquiry that provoked a shapeless choreography of arm and hand gestures as the tramps guessed at directions. Based on this charade, Charlee could have been at any point of the compass. The lights changed to green. The smoking ban is a horror show, I thought: it’s thrown the guts to the outside, where they do not belong. ‘What the hell were they saying?’ asked Jack. He might support Stoke City, but his ear is tuned into the patios of grime music, and to the note of southern vowels.
I ask him look at the map and see if there might be anywhere round here called Chorley, which there is. We arrive in Chorley – where they do play football, rather than in Bolton, where they don’t – almost in the nick of time.
‘What’ d’you reckon?’ I ask a gang of Bolton lads running in late alongside us, an obvious shorthand query that means a score prediction.
‘You’re going down,’ they reply.
Nice. And there hasn’t even been a ball kicked yet…