Soccer

The School Window Cleaner who bore an uncanny resemblance to Manchester United’s 1980s Dutch centre forward Arnold Muhren

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Here’s another extract from my forthcoming book “On Square Routes”.  “OSR” will be a collection of more memoirs in the tradition of “In Complete Circles”, but will also feature travel writing, short stories and poetry.

Below is a semi-fictionalised account of an incident from my primary school days back in the dark ’80s:

The School Window Cleaner who bore an uncanny resemblance to Manchester United’s 1980s Dutch centre forward Arnold Muhren

It was a dull spring day in 1983.  Our primary six teacher Mr Arthurs had set us an exercise in fractions, something my nine year old self had found particularly difficult.  He let us get on with the work, while he sat at his desk reading the paper.  Maths had never been one of my strengths at school.  Naturally I got distracted.  I looked out the window and began to daydream.

On the other side of the window a man was cleaning the pane and giving it considerable elbow grease.

Joe Gorman sitting at the desk behind mine pointed out that the window cleaner looked like Manchester United’s Dutch centre forward Arnold Muhren.  On closer inspection there was certainly a passing resemblance.  Though why a well-paid sports star with one of Europe’s top clubs would be cleaning windows at a primary school in Omagh was something of a mystery.  So I began to concoct a story in my head.

Maybe he’d had a row with his boss Ron Atkinson, left Old Trafford in disgrace, and was unable to move to another club for contractual reasons, then having fallen on hard times due to gambling and addiction brought on by the inevitable bout of depression he must have gone through, and unable to return and face the shame in his native Netherlands he’d ended up cleaning the windows of a primary school in Omagh.

To this day I wonder if this was really a normal pattern of thought for a nine year old.

In the next row of desks Mark Mullan caught my attention:

“Hey Wardy!” he called out in a loud whisper.

I looked up to see him giving the rude two-fingered sign to the window-cleaning Arnold Muhren lookalike.  This was a little ironic as young Mullan was actually a Manchester United supporter.  But I suspected his aim on this occasion was simply to try and make me laugh.  He certainly succeeded.

In fact I involuntarily laughed out loud and had to put my hand over my mouth to prevent a further uncontrollable fit of giggling.  This prompted a stern rebuke from Mr Arthurs.

A few days later the real Mr Muhren was in action against Brighton in the FA Cup final.  But somewhat fittingly we never saw that window cleaner again.

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In Complete Circles: The Memoirs & Travels of an Ageing Schoolboy…

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Ireland not so Keane on Ireland (or Ireland opens his Trapp)

Move over Natalie Portman... Stephen Ireland auditions for the part of a ballerina in Black Swan

Hidden amidst all the cricket coverage (now suddenly Ireland’s most popular sport for some reason) in the sports pages of today’s Irish Times is a report on an eye-openingly frank interview with Newcastle and former Rep of Ireland midfielder, the improbably named Stephen Ireland, “Ireland goes on the attack”, page 23.
Well, a good many years ago I remember the manager of the Welsh football team was called Mike England, but as the smaller less talented still alive half of the Two Ronnies used to say “I digress”.

Ireland (the footballer not the country) famously courted controversy a few years when he told the Rep of Ireland manager Giovanni Trappatoni he was unable to play in the forthcoming international fixture as his grandmother had just died.
It soon emerged that the old lady in question was actually very much alive and young Stephen was in fact telling a massive porky pie just to get out of playing in the match.
What is it with Irish soccer players and grannies? Not so long ago, there were few players on the team with Irish accents, but they could all claim at least one Irish granny.

In this interview Ireland makes clear his views on Ireland – both the team (the southern one that is) and the country. His criticism of “foreign managers” in the interview is interesting, (“they’re no good” he says), but I’d love to see him saying that to Jack Charlton’s face.

So here we have a tattooed outspoken footballer from Cork who likes to speak his mind with brutal honesty, who once plied his trade with an expensive Premiere League club in Manchester before moving to a less successful club in the north-east of England, but refuses to play for his national team and has a pop at the manager – it sounds all too familiar…

Orangemen surrender on 11th night

A goal of Iniesta-mable value

Not the greatest ever World Cup, but at least there’s a new name on the trophy.   The irony is that the only team who remained unbeaten throughout the tournament were New Zealand.

Those who thought the quality of the games played was well below the expected standards may well think FIFA stands for “Football Is Fucking Awful”.

Any regular readers who have been bored by the amount of World Cup stories in this blog of late can now take consolation from the fact there probably won’t be any more for another 4 years.  Now it’s time to concentrate on something else. 
Apparently there’s some kind of bike race on in France at the moment…
One things for sure is that one group of Orangemen won’t be celebrating on the 12th of July!  (And it isn’t Armagh).

The octopus gets it right again - if you put money on Spain your squid's in

Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter

Another inglorious end to England’s overinflated World Cup dreams and the post mortems go on.  Was it due to discord in the camp?  Did Capello get the tactics wrong?  Was it the disallowed goal that disrupted the flow of play?  Were the players just worn out after a hectic Premiere League and Champions League schedule?  Did manager and players just not connect?

At the end of the day it’s difficult to feel any sympathy for a bunch of overpaid, overrated, overindulged bunch of tattooed philandering underachievers who earn more in a week than most of their supporters earn in five years.  The fans who travelled several thousand miles and spent several thousand miles deserve better.  If Never has there been a stronger argument for the introduction of performance-related pay in football.

But whether England win or lose, the tabloid press always have a field day.  The punning headlines never fail to impress,  The front page of the Mirror screamed “ROUT OF AFRICA” (rather than the less politically correct KRAUT ROUT) on its front page and TORN TO FRITZ on its second page, while its back page responded with the line FABIGO.  Even the more subtle Times got in on the act with EIN ZWEI DREI…YOUR TEARS.

 But the possibilities are endless.  We could also have had:

 ENGLAND’S WÜRST EVER PERFORMANCE

 THE END OF THE FRAULEIN FOR ENGLAND

 ENGLAND HERR TODAY GONE TOMORROW

LAST OF THE SUMMER SCHWEIN

 Or if an England fan had put money at the bookies on England to win the World Cup the headline could have read:

 AUF WIEDERSEHEN BET!

 If German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been at the match and a bad decision had gone against Germany she might have invaded the pitch to angrily remonstrate with the referee:

 MAJOR FRAU ERUPTS.

 And finally anyone who says the Germans have no sense of humour should check out this marvellously satirical and self-deprecatory song from the mid-‘80s by Udo Lindenberg, Lindenberg,a well known and respected rock musician in his own country plays on the stereotypical images of his compatriots – ie a highly efficient and hardworking, but ultimately dull and humourless people.  But Lindenberg can hardly be described as dull or humourless.

The blond german Fräuleins are pretty, but vain
You say ‘Guten Tag’ and they say ‘Auf wiedersehen’
They’re very hard workers, from Monday to Friday
Make love on the weekends, and yodel like Heidi
  [This line followed by some very impressive yodelling]

Classic stuff.