Friday, December 26, 2008

Mirth and Woe: On putting players off at football matches

Mirth and Woe: On putting players off at football matches

The City Ground, Nottingham, 6th November 1988.

A Sunday, it was, the nation shrouded in a thick fog as we drove up from the Home Counties to watch an Arsenal side on their way to the League Title take on a particularly useful Nottingham Forest side.

Four of us went up in a car, each and every one of us in possession of a novelty item sold to us the night before by a chap down the pub who had clearly just burgled a seaside tat shop: a brightly-coloured headband embedded with a number of flashing LEDs, which would, we were told as we parted with our fivers, make us "look absolutely bazzin' down any nightclub, mate".

We tried them on. We did, indeed, look bazzin'.

Drink was, you will be unsurprised to learn, a major factor in this transaction.

We arrived at the ground, half-expecting a last-minute postponement as the fog rolled over the Trent, but ITV had paid top dollar for the rights, and the game was going ahead, even if you couldn't see the other end of the pitch.

Fortunately, we found ourselves with front row seats, right down by the corner flag, where we sat, watching a finely-balanced match between two decent teams. With the match on a knife-edge, the ball bounced out of play mere yards away from us for a corner kick.

Current North Bank hero Brian Marwood trotted over to plonk a near-post corner kick onto Steve Bould's finely-greased pate, whereupon the cavalry would turn up to blast the ball home. That was the plan, anyway.

Brian was having the season of his life that year, one which would culminate in a grand total of thirteen minutes in an England shirt in a crunch friendly against Saudi Arabia, and he was treated like a conquering hero wherever he went. And here he was, in front of four buffoons on a foggy Sunday in Nottingham.

"Bwian! Bwian!" we shouted in our best Pontius Pilate voices, our bazzin' headbands flashing away like a very small, unconvincing discotheque. "Welease Bwian!"

I still remember the look of horror and confusion as he clocked us. Coming out of the goldfish bowl of the football pitch, he was suddenly and horribly self-aware, and it was more than the poor chap could take.

His face was a mixture of "Mwwwwwwwwargh!", "Oh my gawd!" and "Get me away from these tugboats, fast", as he scooped up the ball, plonked it by the corner flag, and punted the ball straight into the stand behind the goal and his career was downhill from there.

He fled. Never to return.

He had one excellent season in him at Highbury, before injury and disillusionment set in, followed by a number of transfers and a low-key media career where he rarely seems to have a good word to say of the club these days. A disillusionment where we and our bazzin' headbands clearly sowed the seeds.

I've still got a battered video-tape of this match, which takes pride of place on my shelf next to the surely-due-for-DVD-release Danny Baker's Own Goals and Gaffes. Watch at just the right moment, and you can still see our flashing light tomfoolery, and Marwood's fatal, fateful double-take.

6th November 1988: I broke our best player. Sorry.

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