At first glance man’s best friend has little relevance to football. I mean let’s face it, if you’re sitting on the psychiatrists couch and he/she is doing that word association thing and comes up with the word dog are you likely to answer football (or vice versa)?
I didn’t .. err.. I mean… I think not! But scratch the surface a little and you’ll find that the canine world has infiltrated deeply into the football psyche whether you’re a fan, a player, a commentator or a manager and there are obvious links with WAGs.
Have I gone completely barking I hear you ask? Well hopefully not, although regular readers of this column may assure you that that happened some time ago. But read on and I’ll guarantee you a ‘treat’.
The world of the commentator is littered with clichés, facts and sometimes inane musings but on closer inspection you’ll find that they can’t leave the family pet out of things.
“Hanging on doggedly” is seamlessly interchanged with “dogged defending”, both feats generally carried out by “the underdog” while “what a howler!” is offered every time a decent chance goes begging.
Then there’s the pacey young substitute who’s “let off the leash” and defensive midfielders who are regularly “snapping at heels” or “like a terrier”; defenders can be “rottweilers” while wingers are far too often “as lean as (or fast as) a whippet”.
Or if you’re Joey Barton (amongst others) you’re regularly in the “doghouse”. Those whose careers have gone south may have “gone to the dogs” and the Champions are always “Top Dogs”. If you’re English you’ll want the national team to approach every match with the “British bulldog spirit” (works every time, as we’ve witnessed!).
Players like Michael Owen are the “fox in the box”, while referees need a “guide dog” according to most fans and managers stand on the sidelines and “bark instructions”, unless they’re incensed by a bad refereeing decision in which case they are “like a dog with a bone”, which inevitably leads to having a “bone to pick” with the ref at the end of the game!
Dogs on the Pitch!
In years gone by it was a regular feature of the football season to see some of our canine friends invade the pitch and display their skills. Unfortunately, ground changes and regulation has seen the decline of such cameos in recent years. These pitch invasions always added excitement to the occasion when they occurred, the referee having to stop the game as players attempted to coax the doggy visitor into their arms.
But how did dogs get on the field in the first place? According to Roger Titford, who has written on the subject:
“One suspects that men sometimes said they were taking the dog out for a walk as an excuse, when in fact they were off to the match. (Ah, the good old days!) This was much easier in the days of walking to a nearby ground and standing on half-empty terraces than it is nowadays. The dog got bored, startled by the noise or something, and escaped through a pitch-side gate or by leaping a low wall and ran for freedom all over the pitch, usually round in circles until rounded up by the referee or, for some reason, the goalie.”
And there was a famous incident during the 1962 World Cup in Chile in a quarter-final tie between England and Brazil. A stray dog avoided several players until Jimmy Greaves sunk to all fours and captured it. According to some reports, Greaves barked. This counterintuitive approach to calming the dog unfortunately (for Greavesy) sprung a leak, as the frightened animal pissed on Greaves’ England jersey. The dog, later named Bi (I assume because he was willing to play both ways!), is apparently, to this day, the envy of all German football fans!
“I smelled bad,” said Greaves, “but at least it meant the Brazilian defenders stayed clear of me.” Brazil’s Garrincha enjoyed the display so much that he adopted the dog after the tournament! (England lost and Garrincha scored 2!) A dark subtext to this anecdote is that both Greaves and Garrincha developed alcoholism in later life. I have it on good authority though that Bi was a teetotaler.
Jimmy Greaves does it doggy style
However, the pitch intrusion of our canine friends is not always as benign as the above. Check out this report and it may have you looking over your shoulder when next playing in the park on a Sunday morning!
Of all the sporting events in which dogs have interceded, few top the exploits of Pickles. The mixed-breed Scottish Border Collie became an overnight hero while out for walk with his owner, a Thames barge worker, one evening in South-East London’s Beulah Hill on March 27, 1966, as he drew the man’s attention to a package wrapped in newspaper.
Pickles’ owner David Corbett picks-up the story:
“I picked it up and tore some paper and saw a woman holding a dish over her head (you gotta think that it was a stroke of luck that he wasn’t down the pub all night as he could easily have mistaken that for the missus and run for his life, leaving the trophy forever lost!) and disks with the words Germany, Uruguay, Brazil. I rushed inside to my wife. She was one of those anti-sport wives. But I said, ‘I’ve found the World Cup! I’ve found the World Cup!’”
Unfortunately, it does not report what her response was but as an ‘anti-sport wife’ the potential is enormous! All suggestions welcomed!
One week earlier, the Jules Rimet trophy had been stolen from its glass display case at an exhibition hall in Westminster. The English FA consulted Scotland Yard and started ransom negotiations with the thieves. The FA also surreptitiously commissioned a replacement trophy in case the £30,000 (big money in those days!) solid-gold statuette could not be recovered in time
But Pickles saved the authorities from greater embarrassment. The theft, remembers Corbett, gained such attention that it “knocked [Prime Minister] Harold Wilson off the front pages.” Now there’s a bit of history! I thought only Posh Spice or Paris Hilton could do that….who would have thought that the tale [tail] of Pickles and WAGs [wags] could have such parallels in a single story?
Pickles was more newsworthy than Ronaldo at the time (he too could roll-over at will). He lived life as a celebrity dog, starring in a film, The Spy with the Cold Nose, earning medals from canine-advocacy groups and receiving a year’s food supply. The medals, attached to Pickles’ red collar, remain on view at the National Football Museum in Preston, England. But eventually enough was enough for Pickles and, like Ronaldo, he had to go to ground, sadly dying in 1973.
‘Pickles’… without him England would never have held the World Cup!
Dogs with Ability
Yes, there is no shortage of talented ball players out there in the canine world as Fernando Torres found out to his embarrassment. ‘Thou shalt not pass’ is the motto of this pooch!….Vidic at Old Trafford last season he is not!
Fernando Torres Play Football With Dog And He Can’t Score
And I’ll include this one on the condition that you promise not to show it to Florentino Perez at Real Madrid. This ‘youngster’ is better than Kaka or Ronaldo and could be bought for a daily walk and a bowl full of bones, leaving quite a bit of change from 80M! Note the body swerves, ball control, stamina, anticipation! He’s excellent with both feet and uses his head to good effect; get’s up and down all day, uses deceptive pull-backs, has a nose for reading the game and can sniff out a chance….and talk about pace…breathtaking!!
Of WAGS and Top Dogs
As already noted the term WAGs has a connotation directly related to our four legged friends but what is worrying in recent reports relating to some of our top players is the question as to whether the tail is wagging the dog a little too often (the WAG being the tail, so to speak.)
Rumour has it that Ribery won’t consider the PL because his wife prefers Spain. And Mascherano’s restlessness is supposedly linked to his girlfriend’s desire to move to a warmer climate where she can speak the language. Arshavin’s wife slagged-off London like it was the third world…and she from Russia for crying out loud! Am I losing the theme you ask?….no!…spoilt bitches all!
But stand-up the man who is certainly top dog in his relationship! Nemanja Vidic! While admitting that his wife has not settled in England he unceremoniously declared that he was going nowhere. Finally, the dog wagging the tail! A real man is Vidic.
Of course on the subject of WAGs I could milk it all day long. Some consider Posh Spice to be a bit of a dog, others think she’s a bitch but she certainly knows how to make Becks come to heel. Didn’t he stray once though?
And if Paris Hilton may be tentatively considered a WAG after her recent encounter with Ronaldo, one look at this lets you know what to expect if you get mixed-up in that relationship!
And of course no article on dogs and football is complete without the lookalikes. Here are some of the current top players and their canine equivalents, with 1 or 2 names from the past.
So hopefully I’ve made the case that dogs and footballers are inseparable. The next time you’re wandering down the street and the local mongrel approaches maybe you’ll stop to ask him has he been on any pitches lately, what are his skills like and who’s his favourite player (or WAG). He’ll look you in the eye knowingly, the neighbours on the other hand will assume that, like me, you’ve gone completely barking!
Who’s your favourite dog lookalike?