Finally. The wait is almost over. Saturday sees the return of possibly the greatest thing sport — nay, life — has to offer: top-class action from the best of the best, piped directly into our homes for our delectation. This is it, my friends.
But the World Athletics Championships are not the only event to begin this weekend. Did you know that the Premier League kicks off as well? No, me neither! Kind of crept up on us, hasn't it? You'd think there'd be more fuss.
Such an occasion deserves a half-assed preview of some sort. But seeing as everyone else already has one of those, we've decided to go full-assed on this one. We've called in a favour (don't ask) and got David Peace, acclaimed author of The Damned United, to supply us with some prognosticatory vignettes from within his shiny cranium. Stay safe, kidda.
F. Fulham. F for Fulham. F-in' Fulham. One F in Fulham. One F in Fulham, one F-in' hope: that they don't get distracted by the Europa League.
One miss. One fucking miss. Just one fucking miss. One miss, six bloody yards out. Six yards out and six fucking feet wide. Not like my day. Not like me. I would have buried it, I would, fucking buried it. Not him, though. Not today. Today it's printed on this form, on this fucking P45. Printed in ink. Printed in black ink.
Like black gold oozing through the Arabian sands.
Six yards. Six feet. All printed here on this form. Black ink, seeping through this piece of paper.
Like black gold seeping through the Arabian rock.
Rock. Bloody rock. Bloody Roque bloody Santa bloody Cruz.
Almunia to Gallas. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri to Fàbregas. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri to Fàbregas to Song. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri to Fàbregas to Song to Walcott. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri to Fàbregas to Song to Walcott to van Persie. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri to Fàbregas to Song to Walcott to van Persie to Fàbregas. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri to Fàbregas to Song to Walcott to van Persie to Fàbregas to Bendtner. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri to Fàbregas to Song to Walcott to van Persie to Fàbregas to Bendtner to Walcott. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri to Fàbregas to Song to Walcott to van Persie to Fàbregas to Bendtner to Walcott to Diaby. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri to Fàbregas to Song to Walcott to van Persie to Fàbregas to Bendtner to Walcott to Diaby to Bendtner. Almunia to Gallas to Clichy to Diaby to Vermaelen to Fàbregas to Nasri to Fàbregas to Song to Walcott to van Persie to Fàbregas to Bendtner to Walcott to Diaby to Bendtner to Nasri...
I am Phil Brown. I am Hull City. Phil Brown is Hull City. Hull City are the Tigers. Phil Brown is the Tigers. Phil Brown is Phil Brown. Phil Brown is Phil Brown is the Tigers. Hear me roar. Hear Phil Brown fucking roar.
Into the office. The empty desk. The empty chair. José's office. José's desk. José's chair.
'Any chance of a cup of coffee, er...?'
'Samantha. Of course, Mr. Ancelotti. I'll see to it.'
'Thank you. Pleased to meet you, by the way.'
I take off my jacket. I put it on the back of the chair. His chair. I sit down in the chair behind the desk. His desk. I put my feet up on the desk —
His chair. His desk. His office. His secretary —
I knock on the desk. José's desk. I ask, 'Whose desk is this, Samantha?'
'It's yours now.'
'Whose was this desk?'
'Mr. Mourinho's. He chose it himself. Why — do you want rid of it? We can have a new one ordered if —'
'No no no, not at all. Get rid of a fine piece of furniture like this? What is it — mahogany?'
'I believe so, yes. A real antique, Mr. Mourinho said.'
'No, it's beautiful. A real piece of craftsmanship. Very stylish. Be a terrible shame to throw it out. José does have very good taste, doesn't he?'
'That's true, Mr. Ancelotti, very true. Funny, the men who came here after him, as boss, like, they never really liked this desk. Or this office, for that matter. They wouldn't even look at it. They'd go the long way round the building just to avoid being near it. Almost as if they knew —'
I open the drawer in the desk. There's a book, a big book, a black book. On the front, in big letters, it reads:
INC. ENEMY LISTS
DO NOT READ
'Here, Samantha, I think this must belong to José. He must have left it behind when he moved. See that it gets to him, won't you? And don't look inside — it all seems pretty top secret. It would be quite wrong to sneak a look.'
'Of course, Mr. Ancelotti.'
I'm sat in that office. José's office. In that chair. José's chair. Behind that desk. José's desk. Today's La Stampa in one hand. For the business pages. A cup of coffee in the other. Because I like coffee.
'You know, Samantha, I think I'm going to like it here.'
'Oh?' She sounds surprised.
'Well, I mean, if I lasted eight years with my crazy friend Silvio, how hard could this be?'
Samantha smiles weakly. She says nothing and leaves the office.
He's missed. He's facking missed. He's only gone and facking missed. Gone and facking missed again. Gone and facking missed a-facking-gain.
Hurry down, solstice.
Can't believe he's missed. Can't believe he's facking gone and missed. I could have facking scored from there. I could have facking scored from here. Our Jamie's bird could have facking scored in her facking high heels and carrying that facking Nintendo remote.
Hurry down, new year.
Facking missed. Facking facking missed. He's finished. Facking finished. Wait till I get him in the dressing room. Wait till I get him in the dresing room and tell him he's facking finished. Wait till I tell him he's out on his arse. Wait till the tranfer window opens. Wait till it opens and I can show him who's boss. Wait till it opens and I can show everyone who's facking boss.
Hurry down, solstice. Hurry down, new year. Hurry down, January. January, when dark becomes light. When boys become men. When princes become kings. When demons become devils.
Into Ewood Park. Up the corridor. Round the corner. Down the next corridor. Round the next corner. Dark. Up the corridor. Round the corner. Darker. Down the stairs. Down the stairs. Down the stairs. Darker. Darker. Darker. Massive blow to the stomach. Twelfth.
Your parents are out, out of the house, out of the house doing something that you don't know what it is they are doing. You are alone. You go to the fridge. There it is. It is there. Three bottles of Coke. Three full bottles. Cola. Coca-Cola. You get a bottle out. To quench the thirst. You unscrew the cap. To see the bubbles. You take a huge slug. To feel the bubbles go up your nose. You drink some more. You drink some more. You get another bottle out and you drink some more and more and more. Coca-Cola. Cocococococococococococococococa-Colalalalalalala. COKEY WOKEY HOKEY COKEY COCO POPS. You get the Coco Pops out. You pile some into a bowl, a great big bowl, a great big blimmin' pile. You pour some coke over them. You eat it. You drink it. You eat and drink it all. You go to do it again. The coke is all gone. Six litres. Six flippin' litres. You take the bowl and you smash it against the kitchen wall. Because you can. You take a glass from the draining board and smash it against the kitchen wall. Because it's fun. You go to the cupboard. You go to the cupboard. You go to the cupboard and you take out a big pile of plates. You take out a big pile of plates and you frisbee them against the kitchen wall. Swoosh. Smash. Swoosh. Smash. Swoosh. Smash. Swoosh. Smash. You frisbee them against the wall and you laugh. You laugh and laugh and laugh.
No coke. No coke. But there's coffee. But I'm not allowed. Says who? Espresso. Double espresso. Triple espresso. FOURPLE EXXSSSSSSSPRESSSSSSSSSOOOOOOOOOOOOO. The cat walks in. You are the best footballer in the school. You are the best footballer in the world. The cat is a football. You dribble the cat. You dribble the cat into the sitting room. You kick the cat into the fireplace. GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL. You are Pelé. You are Gazza. Gazzery Gazzygazz Gascoigneywoignyboingyboingy. You jump on the settee. You bounce on the settee. Boing boing boingy blimmin' boing. You break the settee. You break the armchair. You break the carriage clock. You break the door with your head.
A noise at the front door.
'WAYNE! WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!? I'm not standing for any more of this. Get to your room before I strangle you with me bare hands!'
'But Mum! What did I do? What?! I wanna watch go go power rangers! I wanna I wanna I wanna I wanna I wanna I wanna I wanna I wanna! You're stupid! I hate you! I hate you!'
You take a swipe at a doily on your way out.
Cruuuuuuuuunch. The sound of Lee Bowyer's boot going right through the lad's shinbone. Cruuuuuuuuunch. Makes you sick in your fucking stomach. Craaaaaaaack. That's the lad's ribcage under the force of Lee's studs. Craaaaaaaack. The lad's just lying there, just fucking lying there. Smaaaaaaaash. The sound of Lee's fist punching a hole in the centre of the lad's chest. Riiiiiiiiiip. That's Lee pulling the lad's heart out. He putting it in his mouth. Lee is eating the heart, eating the lad's heart. The lad's lying there, just fucking lying there. Makes you sick. Makes you want to puke. The ref's run over and shown Lee the red card. Red mist, red card. Red card, crimson card. Crimson card for the crimson stain in the centre circle. The circle of life. Circle of life, circle of death. The bill are here now. PC Plod, plod-plod-plodding along. Plodding right into Lee's switchblade. Squiiiiiiiish. Takes a dozen, two dozen, half-a-dozen dozen bullets to bring Lee down. Thuuuuuuuuuuud.
They're waiting for me. Waiting with their pens and notebooks. Waiting with their notebooks and dictaphones, their dictaphones and microphones, their microphones and their fucking cameras. I know the drill though. I've been here before.
'To be honest, ah don't even think he should have been booked...'
'...and there's only one place to start this evening, with that extraordinary title decider at Anfield...'
Facts. The facts. Just facts.
'...sensational defeat which shatters Liverpool's title dreams...'
Just facts. Only facts. All facts.
'...to add insult to injury, Sir Alex Ferguson noted that the stupid beard Benítez has taken to wearing these past few years makes him look like Max from Phoenix Nights...'
Facts. Facts. These are facts.