Easy peasy, pudding and pie
How hard can this be? I’ll just babble on about the game I love. Simple. Let’s start with the criteria; it’s writing, it’s about football and it needs to be a half-decent read. Piece of piss. Marge, get me my laptop, 4 beers and my writing hat. Here we go.
It’s not actually as easy as it sounds. For a start, it needs to make more than just my mom say “Ooooh, yes dear, that’s excellent. Aren’t you a clever little boy”. So WTF shall I write about? I need to pick an area of football that is interesting, thought-provoking, witty, intelligent and at the same time is fresh and hasn’t been written about by anyone else, anywhere else, ever before. Oh… maybe this isn’t so easy after all.
So I sit here a little longer, scratching my head… nothing. I scratch my arse… nothing. I think I’m hoping that somehow an intriguing article might magically appear from at least one orifice. Hmmm, my arse seems to be the one with the most to say, and that’s not gonna win me anything!
It’s not like the world of football is lacking in material, but when it’s a competition you start to question every article you have ever done or plan to do. You know your writing is well read and well liked but choosing one single article and submitting it as an all-in-one embodiment of your talent (is that the right word?) is not so easy.
I try to focus on the ammunition that’s out there. I could write about whether or not Joey Barton is deserved of the ‘second’ (I’m sure he’s onto a much higher number than second by now) chance that he is calling for people to give him, now he’s out of the clink. Or I could analyse how and why Tottenham Hotspur have ended up rock bottom of the league in their worst ever start to a season. Ooh, and now I could add in the Harry Redknapp revelation. Nah, that’ll be done already.
On the pitch
There’s the Respect The Ref campaign, which is a great idea, but I am sceptical of it making any difference to some players, i.e. the dummy-spitters who will never stop crying their eyes out to refs if they don’t get everything their way. I could do a liveblog of a match… but what if it turns out to be the most boring game that I’ve ever had the misfortune to waste a couple of hours of my life on (and being an Aston Villa fan, prior to the arrival of Martin O’Neill, there was a bloody good chance of that!)?
Remember old glories
What about reviewing a historic moment? Being English I could cycle the clock back to 1966 and analyse, blow by blow, the World Cup winning game against our fierce rivals; West Germany, quoting the famous “They think it’s all over” words of Kenneth Wolstenholme as Geoff Hurst completed the win. That would be fun actually, I should do that one.
Then there’s the Big Four segregation, which only looks likely to get worse. When I was at school (20 years ago, on the outskirts of the Black Country and ten miles from Birmingham) there was an good split between Wolves and Baggies, with a smattering of Villans, the odd Bluenose, one Halesowen Town and one Cradley Town (non-league teams that I’ll forgive you for not having heard of). No-one supported Chelsea, no-one Arsenal, I think one Man Utd and two Liverpool, but mainly local teams, be them successful or, more likely, shockingly shite. Oh and how can I not mention the saft muppet, (that everyone knew affectionately as Bogwind) who came to school one day really pissed off because Liverpool had sold John Barnes to England! It wasn’t a special school, I promise. Anyway, if you go into a classroom nowadays and ask them all who they support, the answer is totally different, it’ll be almost all Big Four. It’s all about the glory-hunting now.
Money, money, money
Hey, I’ve had an idea. A piece on the effect money is having on football. The game is changing for everyone and money is by far the biggest factor causing these changes. Millionaires and Billionaires are buying Premiership clubs and basically playing real-life Championship Manager. And these buggars seem to have a pal who works at Codemasters and he’s told them the cheat code for unlimited money (‘yeah whatever’ to all you geeks who know that Championship Manager was actually published by Domark, I said Codemasters because people have heard of them. Sometimes being a know-it-all can be boring y’know). So what will this do to the game? Can the title now be bought? Better ask Roman Abramovich that question, he did twice (oooh, divisive statement, maybe I should scratch that line through… nah, screw it, let’s get some debate going). But Chelsea were already a top four side beforehand, whereas the new contenders, Man City, aren’t. Will the game implode, losing viewers from other areas because unless you’re one of the Big Four (Big Five now?) you haven’t a chance of winning anything? Yeah, that could be interesting too, maybe I’ll do that.
What about Sepp Blatter? Good god, that man is like a writer’s dream. He positively breathes controversy. His views are rarely kept to himself and they also have a habit of pissing people off. Every few months you can guarantee that he will come out and say something crazy and the opinions on it will spread round the internet faster than a Paris Hilton crotch-shot.
Avoid the pitfalls
I need to know plenty of details on my chosen subject, it’s not enough just to know my Ronaldo from my Ronaldinho (Ronaldo is the pretty boy and Ronaldinho is the err… not-quite-as-pretty-infact-you-couldn’t-punch-clay-much-uglier boy!). Failing that, I could just search around online and paraphrase someone else’s story. That seems to be what a lot of blogs are. Hmmm… doubt that will get me very far in a competition though. Originality would be better.
Make it funny
I’ll probably get judged on my sense of humour so maybe I’ll throw in a joke or two… hmmm, all I can think of is the playground classic of “Knock knock” “Who’s there?” “Smellip”… how do I fit that into football?! And I doubt anyone wants to hear the one where the 0 asks the 8 why he’s got his belt so tight.
That’s that then
Well, I’m at over a thousand words now, so I’d better stick a sock in it. Before I sign off though, I’d like to put in a quick explanatory note; I spent a LOT of time trying to think of ideas for this competition and started a number of pieces, but with each one I’d soon start to doubt it’s competition-worthiness. I’m confident that they were all good enough for posting up on a website (be it Soccerlens or Villa Offside where I write), but I get nervous when someone says ‘competition’. This piece was written in genuine frustration at about 1am, when I should’ve been in bed, not sat on my settee with the laptop’s gentle illumination sending me slightly mad. The next morning my wife came downstairs, read my ramblings and told me that it was hilarious and that I should submit it. Sweet, I’ve even got a disclaimer if people aren’t amused; It’s all my wife’s fault!
Finally, good luck to everyone who’s entered.
Martin Banks writes at the Aston Villa Blog.
This article is a submission for the Soccerlens 2008 Writing Competition; to participate, please read the details here. The competition is sponsored by Subside Sports (premier online store for football shirts) and Icons (official signed football jerseys).