playing on the right

Breathless, verbless news coverage met me this morning. BECKHAM INJURY SHOCK WORLD CUP LATEST.

I had assumed – expert on right-sided midfielders that I am not – that common consensus amongst front-room Fabios had agreed upon the notion of Beckham barely featuring in South Africa at all, almost to the point of inventing a Walcott/Wright-Phillips hybrid capable of combining pace with accuracy of crosses. Until such a splice actually exists – no, don’t think too much on that either – I will continue to largely sit out the 2010 equivalent of the mid-90s baroom discourse on “Why the left in English football is an almost impossible position to fill”.

If the sight of both Beckham and former England posterboy Michael Owen limping off with injuries on the cusp of middle age is not too much of a reality check for people (don’t….just don’t….), I found solace and reality all bundled together in a footballing context down at the humble setting of the Unibond Premier league. While my own club Burscough continue to suffer from successive poundings and High Court nail-biting, two places below the plucky stalwarts from Durham FC make things all the better to be alive.

In short, Durham beating FC United of Manchester 2-1 at Gigg Lane may not seem to much to make life seem nicer in a roundabout, barely tangible way. However the details really do shine a big light of reality on the hyperactive, hypereality of Premier League excess and showboating celebs. Durham barely have the right to exist, stripped of their sponsors and funding after an FA ruling against plastic pitches and “University teams”. With almost 30 games of this season gone, Durham had a goal difference of minus-120, not even a draw to their name, and the ignominy of a 6-point deduction for pulling the “Sunday League trick” of registering a player under a false name. That Durham won at all is worth celebrating; that their fans have stuck by them through cricket score drummings with Newcastle or Sunderland or Middlesbrough or even Conference side Gateshead on their doorstep is worth more than just a pint lifted to the skies. Durham sum up far more than a romantic notion of “real” football; they did what they could over a very hard season to brush themselves down, offering local teenagers the chance to play against semi-pro and ex-League players, and did so every week from Kendal in the north to King’s Lynn in the south with a good natured smile on their face every time.

King’s Lynn, of course, were wound up for debts far less than the hourly wage bill of Manchester United. That Durham got their first ever win against FC United of Manchester surely adds that extra line of black irony to the story. Long may Durham have success when the inevitable relegation occurs.

I am no more a football “purist” than I am a real-ale evangalist. It is just refreshing to have moments away from the big brands and tiresome Big 4 soap operas. Long may the lower leagues offer this break from the ‘norm’.

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after the rain comes sun again

My current employment is with a company who carry out streetworks on behalf of BT, so the news banded about the mainstream media today about bizarre financial incentives took my attention. When BT sniffle, my company sneeze. Massive pay-cuts for not being seen until January, “term-time” employment, and bonuses for highscores on Facebook quizzes – only one of which is made up – are ideas which should be applauded cautiously. These troubled times are deleting many millions from the order books of some very large companies, indeed one our own “high ups” gathered us around for the kind of talk usually concluded with the announcement naming which two of us would be nominated and up for the public vote.

Okay, so bizarre news is all over the place recently. Michael Owen to Manchester United is not just unexpected it is almost as though history has flung a rumour from ten years ago into the spin-cycle of contemporary headlines: the usual saturation on the sports channels is tinged with total disbelief.

The heatwave now over – ish – I found myself the other night lying in a toasty-warm room, shirtless, listening to Olive’s drum-and-bass lead/only single “You’re Not Alone”, in a scene which could have been another drawn from history and flung through time and space. My cluttered and not-so-ordered mind has not prepared for anything which is to come between now and somewhere on the windier side of October. There’s the house-move itself, three weeks of getting to work on a budget tighter than most airlines, a pre-camping holiday drinking session, and the delivery of 2-and-a-bit-thousand Liberal Democrat leaflets. Somewhere at the end of all this is an exhausted body flinging itself into the Ribble. Every other day my mind remembers something important – email landlady, buy a better rucksack, check Burscough’s new signings – but until there’s one to focus on entirely there’s going to be more changeable thoughts, some kind of “cerebral sunshine and showers”, for some time yet.