Mirth and Woe: Red card
In which I ask the question: How hard is it to get yourself sent off whilst playing football?
Answer: Ridiculously easy.
I have practical experience in the field. A large school field on the outskirts of Reading.
I grew up in a tiny little village with a tiny little village school. Our school team was in a league that was up against great big schools from the great big town down the road. They would turn up, kick lumps out of us, plunder a ten-goal victory, and leave us beaten and demoralised.
So, marching out onto the pitch on a cold, wet winter evening with my team-mates - most of whom were the kind who would stand at the back with their arms inside their football shirts - we couldn't help but notice our opposition for the day. It was EXACTLY like that healthcare advert where the enormous rugby team comes charging out of the changing rooms to kill the smaller, weedier team TO DEATH.
They were supposedly the same under-13s age group as us, but they were all twice our size, and several sported facial hair. Several, I suspected, were their dads filling in while the kids were serving time at Her Majesty's pleasure.
I, for one, soaked and miserable before the game had even started, didn't fancy it one bit.
About ten minutes in, and having already shipped three goals, I decided that all I wanted was to go home, have a nice cup of tea and watch the pneumatic charms of Leslie Judd on Blue Peter. So, I fell over like a complete weed, grabbed the ball, and clutched it to my chest in a foetal position.
"You dirty cheat, Coleman," said the ref - who happened to be our games teacher, "you're booked."
"Only booked? Crap!"
"And you know the drill, Coleman - SEWERS."
And so, my dreams of a quiet night in with Lesley Judd shattered, I instead plodded the standard route for games lessons criminals - down to the sewage works and back in the pouring rain, ankle deep in mud.
I staggered back onto the school field twenty minutes later - a trudge that seemed like a lifetime - mud clinging onto my football boots like huge, heavy plates, making every step a heart-tearing exertion.
Mr Prince had just blown his whistle for half-time, and eyed my return with that steely-eyed glare reserved only for Sergeant-Majors and Games Teachers.
"Back... Sir..." I gasped, reporting in like a good little foot soldier.
"Right. And don't do it again, you little scrote."
I certainly didn't. But I did do one thing, for pre-match Monster Munch feasts are a recipe for disaster.
Bacon flavour, I recall.
"Those are my second best football boots, Coleman"
"Tomorrow. After school. Sewers."
There's no justice, is there?