Tag Archives: Humour

Football League to Ban Use of Public Highways for Leeds United Employees? – by Rob Atkinson

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Football League Board – due to meet on Thursday

The Football League Board is due to meet on Thursday this week to discuss the “Spygate” controversy and investigate any possible options for sanctions against Leeds United. The League is understood to be frustrated but not discouraged by the fact that no rules or regulations have been broken. The additional fact that the Leeds scout was standing on a public highway and looking through a transparent mesh fence will also be taken into consideration but, again, the Football League remains optimistic that this will not be a bar to some form of punishment for the club, Marcelo Bielsa or, ideally, both.

One possibility that is said to have crossed the minds of certain FL Board members – not a very long journey, it must be said – would be the introduction of a ban on all employees of Leeds United using public highways while failing to avert their eyes from the lawful activities of rival clubs. If some retrospective element could be incorporated in such a ban, then it may yet be possible to punish Leeds, even though United are quite prepared to make the obvious defence that Derby County are not really rivals.

The Football League insists that it is taking its responsibilities towards member clubs determined to throw a spanner in the Leeds United works “very seriously indeed”. A spokesman for the League commented that attempts had been made to distract them from this major issue by raising questions about Leeds United players being headbutted by opponents during matches at Elland Road, with the perpetrators getting off without punishment, “and other such frivolous and irrelevant matters”. He went on to confirm that “nothing will deflect us from pursuing our primary duty, which is to protect our brand and its commercial success by keeping Leeds United down at all costs”. Up to eleven other Championship clubs are said to feel reassured by this stance, with the general feeling being one of confidence that the League would hammer Leeds if at all possible.

Frank Lampard OBE, 40 going on 14, is still prone to tantrums and must be mollified.

 

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Top Ten Most Embarrassing “Celebrity” Spurs Fans – by Rob Atkinson

An Embarrassment of Spuds

An Embarrassment of Spuds

With undeniably cool fans such as Newsnight’s Grand Inquisitor Jeremy Paxman and Ralph Ineson (Finchy in “The Office“) behind the mighty Leeds United, it can fairly be said that we don’t suffer from an “embarrassing celebrity fans” problem. But, as I wrote just the other day, Man U certainly do – and on the evidence below, so do those other mid-table EPL also-rans, Tottenham Hotspur.

Celebrity fanship is a real phenomenon nowadays – much more so than back in the Eighties when being a football supporter was apt to have you marked down as a dangerous psychotic, fit only for a back-to-front jacket and the padded cell. But football is just so respectable these days – the social cachet is such that no decently self-promoting celeb can afford to be without his or her “lifelong love affair” with (insert name of club here). And whoever that club may be will come to be linked in the public mind with the celeb in question – so it’s a choice not to be taken lightly, and there’s some pressure to get it right first time or lay yourself open to charges of opportunism and infidelity – as with Zoe Ball who was a Liverpool fan but brazenly jumped ship to “support” Man U. Here are ten ‘celeb’ Spurs fans who, after another under-achieving season, might now wish they’d chosen more wisely.  Swift change to Arsenal, anybody…?

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10. Warren Mitchell

Warren MitchellMitchell isn’t all that intrinsically embarrassing as he’s a pretty good actor both on screen and in the theatre, so he only just sneaks onto this list in the least-cringeworthy tenth position.  The point is, of course, that he is most famous by far for his portrayal of a West Ham fan as Johnny Speight’s brilliant satirical creation Alf Garnett.  Many of his legion of fans – or Alf’s legion of fans – think he’s a genuine loud-mouthed, bigoted, ignorant ‘Ammer. And all the time, he’s actually a loud-mouthed, bigoted, ignorant Spurs fan! Not that there’s any other kind of Spurs fan, of course – as we shall go on to see…but still.  How ironic is that?

9. Michael Fish MBE

Michael-FishMichael’s claim to fame is embodied in the letters following his name – which do not, as might be supposed, denote some anachronistic patrician honour. They actually stand for “Major Bloody Error”, and refer to the most outstanding meteorological cock-up of our times.

On 15 October 1987, Michael was quietly going about his business, guessing whether dark clouds might mean rain, when he mentioned that a woman had called in to the BBC, saying she’d heard a hurricane was on its way.  “… well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!”, smiled Fishy, reassuringly.

A few short hours later, the hurricane that Michael had failed to see coming hit South East England with a ferocity unparalleled in three centuries. Most embarrassing, of course, for Michael Fish – in fact he hadn’t been quite as embarrassed from that day till the times when “Hurricane Manchester City” and “Hurricane Arsenal” hit his favourite team Spurs and blew them away completely.

In later years, Fish fishily tried to excuse himself by claiming he’d been referring to a hurricane in Florida. Hmmm. It’s a shame Spurs couldn’t come up with so creative an excuse after that famous 0-6 debacle at the Etihad really – isn’t it?

8. Peter Purves

PurvesThese names are starting to get a bit cringier now, as we move away from the more mildly embarrassing end of the list. Peter Purves was of course one of the famous “Val, John & Pete” trio, still remembered by those of my generation as the quintessential, definitive Blue Peter team.  Sadly, Peter was best known for being neither John nor Val, inhabiting a sort of vague hinterland of anonymity as the other two made their names with sticky-back plastic or sky-diving. Poor Peter Purves was the least popular of the three by a distance, and indeed it is claimed that even Petra and Patch, the Blue Peter dogs, and Freda, the programme’s tortoise, got more fan-mail than he did. Purves is also reasonably well-known as an early Dr. Who sidekick, as well as for having a surname that sounds comically like “pervs”.

Speaking of which, in 2008, co-presenter on Blue Peter Val Singleton revealed that she’d had “a brief fling” with ‘Pervs’. Blue Peter indeed.  I’ll let you insert (fnarr) your own “Val’s knickers” jokes here.

7. Egil Olsen

Egil OlsenEgil Olsen is a man about whom quirky and diverse facts abound. He famously wears wellies to work, and was once sacked, partly for his scruffy appearance.  He is a fanatical adherent of zonal marking, and was seen after one match, head in hands, deeply despairing that his beloved system had been so ineffective – with atrocious marking leading to two out of three goals conceded by Wimbledon at Bradford.

He was sacked on another occasion, this time by mail, for being “too nice” – by the Iraqi national team, forsooth.  He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of geographical trivia, his nickname as a player was “Drillo”, and he was a player once and manager four times for a team called Frigg.  But most bizarrely of all, Egil is a Spurs fan.  Now explain THAT, if you possibly can.

6. Sid “RickAAAAAYYY” Owen

sid owenIt’s confusing about Sid. Some sources have him as a Spurs fan, others – like the ever-reliable Wikipedia, for instance – claim that he’s actually much more enlightened than that, following Arsenal.

I prefer to go with a gut feeling, and base my verdict on the verifiable facts. He’s a bit of a one-hit wonder as an actor, serving a long stint on “Eastenders” as “RickAAAAYYYY”, his character being mostly engaged in slinking away round corners as a foghorn-voiced ginger actress bellowed his name repeatedly. Such is the stuff of stardom, but Sid gave it all up in 2012 after 24 years, citing heavily traumatised eardrums. It is rumoured that Eastenders writers are still trying to come up with another line that Patsy Palmer can say convincingly.

All may not be lost for Patsy though, as RickAAAAYYYY may well be back – Eastenders seeming to be his refuge of choice after failed ventures, such as Strictly Come Dancing, elsewhere.  Looking judiciously at this record of poor decisions and embarrassing situations, the answer to Sid’s football-supporting conundrum appears fairly obvious: Spurs. As Jimmy Nail once said of suspected Tottenham fan Wayne on “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” – you can just tell.

5. Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton

BuntonEmma, the product of an unlikely union between a karate instructor and a milkman, has had a chequered life and career. She was making a reasonable impression as a wannabe actress, but showed signs of the direction she wanted to take when she turned down the role of a habitual drug-user, saying that she wanted to maintain a wholesome image – presumably she felt that the drug role on top of supporting Spurs would be just too much.

Emma then joined a pop group named Touch, becoming one of five girls united by a common determination not to let a total lack of singing ability prevent them from ending up as stars.  A swift name-change to The Spice Girls, and they were on their way.  Bunton was dubbed “Baby Spice” due to her pigtails, her babydoll dresses and her “girly girl” image.

As someone who has made a little talent, some freckles and a great deal of window-dressing go a mighty long way, Bunton may be seen as possibly the most outstanding example of the archetypal Spurs fan – but she’s a fair old way from being the most embarrassing out there.  Read on…

4. Rupert Grint

Rupert-Grint-139019As an outstanding success in the Harry Potter franchise, playing schoolboy wizard Ron Weasley in all of the films, Grint’s embarrassment coefficient really depends mainly upon his being ginger, and of course a Spurs fan – a lethally-shameful combination. Grint had landed the role of Ron Weasley at the age of 11 by sending in a video of himself, rapping about his reasons for wanting the part. Despite his previous experience amounting only to local theatre groups and school plays, the casting team asked to see him – and the rest is history.

As with the other two of the three main characters, Grint grew up with his role, and became closely identified with Ron Weasley. Rarely can an accident of hair colour – though the ginger gene is extremely dominant – have led to such a successful and unheralded career.

Rumours abound, and what is known as “fan fiction” too, about Ron’s supposed romantic entanglement with the disconcertingly cute Hermione Granger.  All of this would not normally cause too much interest in the world outside Hogwarts – but in the context of Spurs’ pallid performances since they sold their only half-decent player, it’s positively riveting.  And, let’s face it – we had to have at least one ginger in an embarrassing celebs article.

3. Bruce Forsyth

brucieWe’re getting to the really queasy end of the list now. It’s time to contemplate Brucie, so clamp your jaws tight to stave off the inevitable nausea – and have a sick-bag handy, just in case.

The stance of this article could be summed up in Orwellian style, thus: “Arsenal fan good, Spurs fan bad”.  But Bruce has gone way beyond the pale, claiming to be a fan of both clubs.  This heinous position is comparable to that of a solider who claims to support both Confederate and Unionist sides, or someone who claims to be – and I shudder to even write these words – both Leeds United and Man U.  Grooogh. It’s THAT bad.

Apparently, Brucie – known as “Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom” at the start of his 75-year (and counting) showbiz career – originally supported Arsenal, but when the Gunners’ ground was requisitioned in World War II for air-defence searchlights, their home games were played at Spurs’ White Hart Lane – and this apparently led the then youngish Forsyth to support both teams – the act, we may agree, of an unnatural freak.

In a lifetime’s career as an old-style vaudeville entertainer, Brucie has never been anything other than in demand, proving that, for the type of people who like Bruce, Bruce is just the kind of performer they like. Latterly, his act has been mainly about catch-phrases, speculation around the health of his various toupees, and the increasing prominence of his chin. He will still eagerly essay the odd dance step here and there, even at the age of 106 – before tottering off to his bath chair with his latest blonde nymphet.

Bruce may claim to live on both sides of the Arsenal Spurs divide – but with a CV like his – he’s just GOT to be Tottenham.

2. Richard Littlejohn

LittlejohnWhat we have here is a real-life Alf Garnett, and not the cosy, satirical creation designed to heap ridicule upon an ignorant, racist bigot – but the genuine article; a man whose views are so disgusting that it is a national disgrace he has a platform of any sort to expound them.

Should anyone doubt the depth of Littlejohn’s prejudice and hate, there’s a clue in the fact that he writes a twice-weekly column for the Daily Heila publication that depends heavily for material upon the British Government’s many hate crusades, which they then faithfully preach as fact to their readership of nasty little suburban fascisti.  He previously contributed similar garbage to the Sun.

A count of the number of references Littlejohn makes to homosexuality in his columns has been recorded, in the Guardian‘s annual “Littlejohn Audit”. This stated: “In the past year’s Sun columns, Richard has referred 42 times to gays, 16 times to lesbians, 15 to homosexuals, eight to bisexuals, twice to ‘homophobia’ and six to being “homophobic” (note his scornful inverted commas), five times to cottaging, four to “gay sex in public toilets”, three to poofs, twice to lesbianism, and once each to buggery, dykery, and poovery. This amounts to 104 references in 90-odd columns – an impressive increase on his 2003 total of 82 mentions. There is, alas, no space for us to revisit the scientific study which found obsessive homophobes more responsive to gay porn. But Richard, we’re begging you: talk to someone.”

Littlejohn was forced to adopt a temporarily lower profile when, in December 2012, he wrote an article criticising teacher Nathan Upton for returning to the same school – after announcing gender reassignment surgery to become Lucy Meadows – instead of going for a different post somewhere else.  In March 2013, Lucy Meadows was found dead, apparently a case of suicide.  A subsequent inquest found press coverage of her sex change to have been “ill-informed bigotry” and that Richard Littlejohn (a nom de plume intended to deflect attention from his embarrassing real-life name of John Littledick) had “…carried out what can only be described as a character assassination, having sought to ridicule and humiliate Lucy Meadows and bring into question her right to pursue her career as a teacher”.  Petitions calling for Littlejohn to be sacked gained 240,000 signatures.

Richard Littlejohn: hack writer, bigot, homophobic bully, racist, pedlar of hatred and, last and least, Spurs fan.  Not a pleasant creature, is he?

1. Iain Duncan-Smith

IDSAnd now we have one of the very few candidates for a person who plumbs even greater depths of depravity and loathsomeness than Littlejohn. Iain Duncan-Smith is the discredited Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in Cameron’s government. He is also a failed former Tory leader.

In his current role he, too, has blood on his hands, with his hated and widely-criticised “Bedroom Tax” driving many to the brink of despair – and at least one person allegedly to suicide. IDS is not a man to take disagreement or contradiction at all well. He tends to dismiss criticism of his policies with an airy “I feel I am right”, despite anecdotal evidence mounting up in support of the contrary view. If pressed on any point where he feels some difficulty in defending his position, he tends to resort to snapping curtly at the questioner, having a tantrum and stomping off. He has, however, been caught bang to rights in misrepresenting official statistics with a view to supporting his claims that the policies he has pursued have been effective. In this, he has been shown to be, at best, incompetent and deluded; at worst, a barefaced liar without any scruples at all.

Famously, when Duncan-Smith was asked if he would be able to live on state benefits of £53 a week, he responded “If I had to, I could”. Immediately, a petition was launched by Dom Aversano, a musician, challenging IDS to do just that. After the petition went viral and collected thousands of signatures, IDS beat an undignified retreat, calling the petition a “stunt” and insisting he had nothing to prove, having subsisted on benefits earlier in his life. It later transpired that, in at least one of the periods when IDS claimed he was living on the breadline, he was knocking off an heiress and living rent-free in her flat. Mr Aversano’s petition eventually closed with 482,756 signatures, which is certainly quite a well-supported “stunt”.

Iain Duncan-Smith is a testy former Tory leader, who appears to relish the misery he is currently inflicting on thousands of people who can neither hit back, nor defend themselves. He is a bully, a cheat, pathologically fanatical about punishing the poor and succouring the rich, and a proven liar. He is also a Spurs fan – which, contrary to my usual views, might just be the nicest thing about him. Since the overdue demise of Thatcher, (the Iron Chicken or ‘Attila the Hen’) IDS has risen to the very top of many people’s “Party at my place when so-and-so carks it” list. Needless to say, he’s top of mine. Speed that glorious day.

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Tottenham-Hotspur-logoEvery truly big club has its share of celebrity fans.  And, as you’ve seen above, so has Spurs. But some are just embarrassing and – as the more reprehensible end of this list has shown – some are truly appalling. I’ve had the odd go at Spurs in the past, largely because – even though I’m Leeds through and through – I have a great regard and respect for Arsenal. But writing this article has given me a surprising feeling of sympathy for Tottenham.  Any club with Richard Littlejohn AND Iain Duncan-Smith among its aficionados merits our empathy, our understanding, even our pity. No-one deserves to be tarred with that brush – not even Tottenham Hotspur.

“Travel Man” in Barcelona: Channel 4 Sacrifices a Great Idea on the Altar of Cheap Laughs

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Ayoade and his self-adoring comedy face


Barcelona
is a city I love and have visited frequently, my passion for the place surviving even my witnessing of a 4-0 massacre suffered by my beloved Leeds United. This explains the enthusiasm I felt for this Travel Man series opener – and also my deep sense of frustration and annoyance, having endured an hour of irritating ego-tripping and hopefully-funny silliness masquerading as an informative travel programme. Never have I started to watch a TV offering with a greater sense of anticipatory relish – only to end up feeling I’d have been better employed and more fulfilled eating a plateful of dried locusts.

The two presenters – Richard Ayoade and Kathy Burke – promised much initially, but fell woefully short of their supposed brief. This was, ostensibly, to sum up the attractions of a vibrant and wonderful city and maybe have a few laughs along the way. Ayoade, best-known (though not by me) as a presenter of a gadget show called The IT Crowd, was culprit in chief for what I count as this show’s failure. The premise in Travel Man is that “Richard hates travel and holidays – so what will he make of 48 hours away from home?” Sadly, all else was subordinate to this contrived central message, which Adoyade proceeded relentlessly to hammer home in the most unsubtle way imaginable. It was my first taste of his – for want of a better word – style; I shall not be putting myself out to repeat the experience.

From early in the piece, it was clear that Travel Man was to be the vehicle whereby Ayoade might reach a wider audience and give them the benefit of what he fondly imagines is his laconic and laid-back presentational personality. The dreaded “comedy voice” was a frequent intruder into his narrative; that annoying way of introducing ironic quotation marks by vocal inflection, so that the listener will (hopefully) be inescapably aware that here is a windswept and interesting cynic with an edgy and alternative view on pretty much everything he sees. Some people can carry this off and even make some decent entertainment out of it; Ayoade, on this depressing evidence, patently can’t.

In contrast to my zero prior knowledge of Ayoade, Kathy Burke is a performer I’ve always liked and rated – but here, she was drawn into a teeth-curling attempt to create an unlikely comic double-act. Everything of substance was sacrificed in the effort to get as much ironic comedy as possible – frankly, not a lot – out of this incongruous pairing. Whatever the lure of Barcelona’s many and varied points of interest, it all had to be about Richard Ayoade and his reactions to whatever he saw; a self-indulgent and subjective take on each too-hurried item with the twitchily uncomfortable Ms Burke doing her best to play up to her colleague’s self-adoration.

Thus, in the interests of establishing the desired laugh-a-minute feel to the thing, there was an awkward “Ooh, we have to share a hotel suite” moment with Ms Burke seeming to fear some unlikely molestation from her clearly aloof partner in crime; then there was some cringe-worthy banter at the Nou Camp football stadium, magnificent home of CF Barcelona – where Ayoade was at some pains to demonstrate his effete apathy towards the Beautiful Game – and next some frankly repulsive emetic slapstick in a restaurant, to the bemusement of the admirably patient, polite and professional staff. Burke is a highly capable performer, but she was rather dragged down to the level of her colleague, who was clearly preoccupied with projecting his individual personality over the whole undertaking.

So, instead of being treated to Barcelona’s panoply of vivid beauty and unique art, we got a series of laboriously ponderous set-ups culminating in yet another of Ayoade’s hopefully-cutting one-liners – drawled and mannered punchlines that invariably failed to be even a fraction as devastating as they were clearly intended to be. It was bitterly disappointing fare, and Burke did well to hide the embarrassment she must surely have felt. Perhaps she will reflect that, as an accomplished comedienne, she should not be wasting her time playing stooge to a partner who should have stayed at home surrounded by his gadgets – rather than stepping so far out of that comfort zone into the pitiless and unforgiving arena of comedy.

The victim in all of this squalid waste of time and opportunity – apart from the hapless viewer, sat seething with all hopes dashed – is of course the city of Barcelona itself. A feature-length programme could hardly do justice to its many attractions: the beauty and individuality of its Gaudi-dominated architecture; the culture that shines dazzlingly out of every sunlit surface; the cuisine, the sport, the history. It’s all there in one precious jewel of a city, just waiting to be described and marvelled over. But, disgracefully, we got none of that – in fact it is sadly fair to say that by far the most informative aspects of the whole production were the occasional graphics which flashed up, telling us the price of this or that and highlighting one or other sight worth seeing. Meanwhile, Ayoade and Burke were tenaciously flogging away at the dead horse of their joint comedic potential; it was grisly, unrewarding viewing.

What we did learn is that Richard Ayoade loves Richard Ayoade, and is keen to share that passion with a broader interest group than his usual audience of geeks – but that he is guilty of the cardinal sin of any wannabe comedian: that of forgetting to be funny. And we also learned that Kathy Burke, when handed lemons, will do her solid best to make lemonade, bless her. On this occasion, though, she should have thrown those lemons at her partner’s smug countenance – and hopped straight back on the train home. If she had – then maybe I and doubtless thousands of others might have been spared the empty disappointment felt after a production, that could have achieved so much, ended up delivering nothing but resentment. The knowledge that there went an hour of my life I’m never going to get back left me wondering what the effortlessly authoritative Michael Portillo might have done with such a nugget of a travel show idea. He could not, let’s face it, have been worse – and you just know that he’d have been far, far better – by an order of several hundred magnitudes.

This series will tragically continue with what we might dolefully expect to be a similar treatment of Istanbul, but it won’t have me for company. My advice is to stay at home instead of being tempted to go along for the ride and, with all due deference to Richard Ayoade’s forcefully-professed and overtly squeamish dislike of muddied oafs – see if there’s any football on.

All in Good Leeds Fun: a Short “Man U Joke” Compendium – by Rob Atkinson

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Too much serious stuff is bad for a blog. So let’s have some good, healthy anti-scum humour:

A Leeds United fan was digging at the bottom of his garden, and he unearths an old green bottle.  As it’s very dirty from being in the ground, and because it looks old and possibly valuable, he gets a rag and starts to rub it clean.  All of a sudden, there’s a big cloud of smoke from the neck of the bottle, and out pops this great big Genie.

“Greetings!” says the Genie.  “As you have summoned me, I must grant you three wishes.”

“Great!” says the Leeds fan.  “Can I make my wishes now?”

“You may,” says the Genie, “But be warned: anything you wish for, every Man Utd fan in the world will receive, but twofold.  So if you wish for a million pounds, every Man U fan gets 2 million, if you ask for a mansion, they all get two mansions, and so on.”

“Hmmmm,” says the Leeds fan. “Well, that’s a bit of a downer, but what the heck – I’m not petty. If I’m getting three wishes, I don’t care if they all get double.”

“Very well,” says the Genie.  “Make your first wish!”

“I wish for £10 million in my bank account.” says the Leeds fan.

“Granted!!” says the Genie. “But remember, that means every Man U fan gets £20 million.”

“That’s OK, good luck to them,” the Leeds fan smiles.  “My second wish is for a 25 bedroom mansion in 40 acres of parkland with a lake with an island in it, and all furnished with no regard for expense.”

“Your wish is granted,” says the Genie, “But remember…”

“I know, I know – all the scummers get two mansions, that’s fine!” says the Leeds fan. “Can I make my third and final wish?”

“You may,” says the Genie.  “Just remember the ‘Double’ rule.”

“I’ve remembered,” says the Leeds United fan. “For my third wish, I would like to donate a kidney.”

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A Leeds-supporting white van driver used to amuse himself by running over every man u fan he would see strutting down the side of the road, dressed in their hideous red colours. He would swerve to hit them and there would be a loud “THUMP” and then he would swerve back onto the road.

One day, as the driver was driving along, he saw a priest hitch-hiking. He thought he would do a good turn and pulled the van over. He asked the Priest, “Where are you going, Father?”

“I’m going to say mass at St. Joseph’s church, about two miles down the road,” replied the priest.

“No problem Father! I’ll give you a lift. Climb in!”

The happy priest climbed into the passenger seat and the van continued down the road. Suddenly the driver saw a man u fan walking down the road and instinctively swerved to hit him. But, just in time, he remembered the bloody priest, so at the last minute he swerved back to the road, narrowly missing the man.

However, even though he was certain he’d missed the glory-hunting specimen, he still heard a loud “THUD”. Not understanding where the noise came from, he glanced in his mirrors and when he didn’t see anything he turned to the priest and said, “I’m sorry Father, I almost hit that man u fan, just swerved to miss him!”

“Never fear, my son,” replied the priest. “I got the bugger with the door…”

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Q: What has Old Trafford on a Saturday afternoon at 4:45 pm got in common with Wormwood Scrubs Prison?
A: They are both full of cockneys trying to get out.

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A man u fan dies on match day and goes to heaven in his man u shirt. He knocks on the old pearly gates and out walks St. Peter wearing a Leeds United top.

“Hello mate,” says St. Peter, “I’m sorry, no man u fans in heaven.”
“What?” exclaims the man, astonished.
“You heard, no man u fans.”
“But, but, but….. I’ve been a good man,” replies the aghast man u supporter.
“Oh really,” says St. Peter. “What have you done, then?”
“Well,” said the guy, “Three weeks before I died, I gave £10 to the starving children in Africa.”
“Oh,” says St. Peter. “Anything else?”
“Well, two weeks before I died, I also gave £10 to the homeless.”
“Hmmm. Anything else?”
“Yeah. A week before I died I gave another £10 to the Albanian orphans.”
“Okay,” said St. Peter, “You wait here a minute while I have a word with the governor.”

Ten minutes pass before St. Peter returns. He looks the bloke in the eye and says, “I’ve had a word with God – actually, He lets me call him Don.  Anyway, He agrees with me. Here’s your thirty quid back – now bugger off.

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Top tip for Manchester United fans: don’t waste money on expensive new kits every season. Simply strap an inflatable penis to your forehead, and everyone will immediately know which team you support…

Please feel free to contribute your own anti-scum jokes in the comments to this article.  Times are hard and friends are few – it’s our solemn duty to laugh at the scum.

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DOH!!!!

Millwall’s Danny Baker: Redemption of a Leeds-Hater – by Rob Atkinson

Baker: Machiavellian Machinations

Baker: Machiavellian Machinations

Last August I was forced to publish the shameful revelation that Danny Baker – word-smith extraordinary and the planet’s only intelligent Millwall fan – was guilty of the heinous crime of match-fixing, blatantly fixing his show’s legendary “Sausage Sandwich Game” such that the hapless Leeds United fan got beat by the evil, sneering, plastic Man U armchair supporter he was up against.

Today, though, another Leeds fan was on the show and, glory be, he won through to the whitewashing extent of 3-0.  Not against a glory-hunter this time, but a humble Cambridge United fan.  Still, even though it was through gritted teeth, Mr Baker ended up congratulating Leeds on a clean-sweep victory. On this occasion of Danny’s redemption, then, I publish again my account of last year’s tawdry and shameful event, together with my appreciation of a Millwall fan who has somehow managed to climb out of that gutter and give us an irreverent and entertaining view of football and the world in general that elevates him above the common herd.  Read on now, as Baker was bang to rights as a Leeds-hating match fixer – for shame, Danny!

(Article below originally published 31 August, 2013)

This week’s Danny Baker show on BBC Radio Five Live thankfully lacks the sinister Machiavellian overtones of last week’s offering.  This week, all is sweetness and light, fun and games with the characteristic chirpy wit of Britain’s favourite Millwall fan. It’s Baker’s Banter that makes his show such required listening every Saturday morning and which makes the task of the boys from Fighting Talk, the unfortunate forced comedy offering which follows DB, so very difficult and thankless.  Fighting Talk lacks the effortless knockabout originality of Baker, so it has to settle for a gang of moderately famous, moderately funny desperadoes, sound effects so that the listening audience knows when to smile wanly, and of course some mutually supportive, falsely raucous studio laughter as they congratulate each other in those special “comedy voices” that so make the teeth curl. It’s pretty unedifying stuff, particularly straight after the unique offerings of Danny and his cohorts. So Baker rules the Saturday morning airwaves – and rightly so.

But last week, a serpent entered this light entertainment Eden.  The iconic and pivotal “Sausage Sandwich Game” (SSG) has been the comedy mainstay of Danny’s show for many a moon now.  Last Saturday, though, as the competing fans in the SSG metaphorically donned the rival colours of Leeds United and Man U – a horrible reality dawned on the minds of those attuned to examples of media prejudice where Leeds United are concerned.  At first, it was just too distasteful to contemplate, or to allow to grow into a fully-formed conclusion.  But ultimately, there was no escaping the dismal truth.  The Sausage Sandwich Game – humorous cornerstone of the whole Danny Baker legend – was FIXED.  (Sensation, gasps of horror).

I forget all the grisly details.  It may well be that my mind has blotted out the finer points of the dastardly deed.  That’s quite understandable, as my innocent appreciation of a regular Saturday morning humour-fix was being corrupted into something foul and repellent.  Suspicion turned to certainty and my paranoia circuit glowed into activity.  The Leeds lad hadn’t a chance – the game was bent against him, warped so that there was no possibility that the Man U contestant – smug, complacent article that he was – might have to walk away empty-handed.  And so it panned out; Man U won 2-1 in last week’s thoroughly rotten-to-the-core SSG, and my child-like belief in Danny Baker and all his ways collapsed into a pile of rubble, ruined beyond hope of reconstruction.

Well – not really.  It’s still Sir Dan for me, Millwall fan that he is and his frantic game-fixing activities notwithstanding.  Seldom can there have appeared such a thoroughly original wit from the ranks of genuine old-school football fans, and long may he continue to thrive.  A cancer survivor and irreverent observer of the game of football’s many quirks and blots, he has my admiration and esteem on both counts. It’s a shame he has to be devoted to that particular Bermondsey club, and therefore has to be counted among its not-so-pleasant (on the whole) supporters – but we’re none of us perfect, and each of us has our idiosyncrasies. Overall, Danny Baker adorns the airwaves in a way that most other BBC “comedy” personalities signally fail to do.  He’s a breath of fresh air to start our Saturdays, before all the self-important nonsense of the Premier League gets underway again.  He hasn’t always been the BBC’s favourite son, but they must know, down the Corporation, that he’s by far the best they have when it comes to raising the giggles and snorts that pay the Light Entertainment rent.

Danny Baker – cockney wide-boy, cheeky and chirpy as any jellied eel-reared costermonger cliche, you are gold-dust on our wireless sets.  Do keep it up – but take it easy next time a Leeds fan is up against one of them lot from Devon that supports the Forces of Darkness from the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  We Leeds fans have a sense of humour – honest – but we take that kind of thing very seriously.

Life, Leeds United and Universal Armageddon – by Rob Atkinson

One year on from Armageddon and the GFH Takeover

It seems daft now but, one year ago come the 21st December, we were all going to be abruptly vaporised.  Or at least, we were going to wake up with mild hangovers, and fail to enjoy the rest of the day.  The Mayan Calendar, source of these distressing rumours that so preoccupied us twelve short months ago, was a little lax on detail.

If the worst had come to the worst, and it’d been Armageddon time, then just think of all that Christmas shopping gone to waste, in a time of austerity too.  And all we’d had on TV to cheer us up was Big Brother and The X-Factor.  It would have been so easy to get depressed, even though as Leeds fans we’d had the enticing possibility of Middle-eastern Knights riding in on white camels, to save us from a fate worse than the mere end of civilisation as we knew it.  GFH Capital, had we but been aware of it, were the means by which we would eventually be rid of Kenneth William Bates Esquire.  Little wonder that we were a little distracted from the possible End of Days.

It was a perilously uncertain time, therefore, from two sharply differing points of view. In the mundane real world, ancient rumours were disturbingly current that everything was about to end in a most summary fashion, and people rightly or wrongly got into quite a tizz about this. On Planet Leeds United, however, such airy-fairy considerations were as water unto wine against the appalling possibility that Uncle Ken might continue to have us clutched firmly by the unmentionables in his cold and merciless talons.  It was a real worry at that time – just a year ago – and along with that nagging background concern about the planet suddenly vanishing into the awful void of space, it caused a few nails to be bitten even among normally phlegmatic Leeds fans.  Yet consider.  Let’s, as they say, look at the big picture.  Life could seem awfully bleak – until you consider the alternative.  And really, it was and is worthwhile stopping a moment to draw breath and ponder just how unimaginably fortunate we are simply to be here at all.   So – bear with me here – let’s wax philosophical a while – and see if that affects our world view, or even our appreciation of the New Order that eventually did take over, after all that stress and worry, at Elland Road.

Leave aside for the moment then the incredible miracle of having a habitable planet to live on – which as far as we know exists nowhere else in the whole of creation (as I write, and subject to any revelations NASA may be about to make from their current Mars Rover, or about the increasing number of newly-discovered but vastly distant exoplanets).  It’s long odds against us even having a suitable rock to live on – but given that we do, that’s hardly even the start of the battle.

The thing is, even given our temperate and nurturing planet Earth, it’s still vanishingly improbable that you should be alive today and able to read this.  Anyone who knows enough about the birds and the bees will be aware of the myriad possible ways genes can combine to create a living organism, from the simplest virus or amoeba right up to the most complex and beautiful form of life we know, i.e. Ross McCormack.  And if that earliest amoeba hadn’t, in the face of awesome odds, somehow come into being on a hot, wet rock somewhere, then ultimately – no Rossco.

Each of us, then, has to be thankful for his or her own unique existence; in the first place that their parents met when they did, and that they then followed a course of actions leading up to just the right place, time, and romantic ambience for our life’s journey to begin.  This is how we all came about, after all – even Mr Bates – and any departure from that chain of events would have seen us never existing.

Further, behind those parents, on both sides and stretching back generations without number, the same miraculous combination of fortuitous circumstances had to occur, and it had to keep on occurring.  Any stumble off that chance-studded path of destiny, at any time over thousands, millions of years, and we just wouldn’t be around, any of us.  No you, no me, no David Haigh, no Salah Nooruddin.  It’s that serious, this business of genetic chance.

So this is the massive lottery we have all won – in fact if you calculated the odds of a lottery win next Saturday, with one to follow it the Wednesday after, going right up to, say, Easter of the year 2084 and maybe a pools win and a tax rebate each week after that till Leeds United buy back Thorp Arch – you’d still be way, way short of the odds you’ve had to beat, just to be alive right now.  It’s true.

And not only are you here, you lucky sod – you’re a human being instead of, say, a fruit fly (I exclude our Norfolk-based readers from this statement).  What are the odds against that?  Have you any idea of the factor by which insects out-number humans?  You could so easily have been a wasp, or even Ken the Anti-Christ himself.  It’s difficult to say which is the less desirable.

What’s more, not only are you a human being, you also live in a time of relative peace and prosperity and one, moreover, in which Leeds have been Champions three times in living memory, and remain the Last Real Champions.  How many of the hundred billion people who have ever existed wouldn’t give their eye-teeth to swap places with us, with our mains water and services, our electric light and labour-saving devices, our Billy’s Bar and our information super-highway?  Or, alternatively, how many Newcastle fans, who would have to be in their mid-nineties now to remember a Title-winning Toon Army, would opt instead to be Leeds, with all our glorious memories?

We might, instead of our fortunate and cossetted existences, have emerged in the 12th century, digging privies for the feudal Lord, or for a brief and consumptive existence in the typhoid slums of 19th century London.  Or we could have been born at a time when Leeds United were a mere appendix to a footnote in football history, meriting hardly a passing mention anywhere the game was discussed. Are you cheering up yet?

On the whole, we don’t have it so bad, and as we’ve seen, there is good cause for all of us to be extremely grateful we’re here at all.  And that makes even Big Brother seem a little easier to live with, though naturally we’d draw the line at the former Chelsea owner Papa Smurf still being in charge down Beeston way.  A little philosophical rumination along these lines might have been therapeutic for traumatised Leeds fans a year back, unsure as we were whether to be more worried about TOMA or the End of the World.

And just think – if those ancient predictions had been right and we’d all been plunged into oblivion two shopping days short of last Christmas, well then – at least we’d have been spared the January sales and the heart-wrenching loss of Luciano Becchio.  Every cloud…..

More Honours For Man U

Jones (Left)       Beaker  (Right)

Jones (Left) Beaker (Right)

If anything could possibly top-off another fantastic season for the Mighty Man U, it has to be the news that their young and heart-meltingly handsome player Phil Jones has been honoured by Hollywood, not once but TWICE.  In a glitzy ceremony in Beverley Hills, Jones – described by well known but demented judges as potentially Man U’s greatest player – was awarded the Top Prize for the prestigious 2013 Hollywood Awards (Man/Muppet Lookey-Likey Competition) for his uncanny representation of Beaker.

The President of the Honors Panel, his voice shaking with emotion, stated “This is a wunnerful moment for me.  I’m a big fan of those there Uniteds, all of us folks hereabouts are just crazy about those boys.  They have to be the winningest Franchise on the Englandish side of the Pond, and we’re real proud to be able to honor Phil this way.  He makes a great Beaker, just great – I plumb could not tell them apart when we came to judge this category. We hope that Phil will enjoy this accolade, we’re all real happy for him here in the US Manchesters Franchise fans family.”

When we tracked down the genuine Beaker for his comment on the matter, he confined himself to a rather cryptic “Meep.”

The Jones boy has been successful in another category of the Awards, walking away with “Best Gurn” for the same image used to compete for the Best Muppet Award.  The Honors Committee pronounced themselves “very impressed” by Phil’s winning gurn, describing the look as “a face like the smell of gas”.  One judge who wished to remain anonymous enlarged upon the panel’s captivation with the stalwart defender’s mobile features.  “Phil is a phenomenon,” he gushed, “and we’re truly thinking of passing on his credentials to NASA – because that there boy, if they gave airmiles for having a face like a smacked ass, why he could be the first man on Mars.”

Phil Jones was unavailable for comment today, as he was on duty at the Theatre of Hollow Myths.  It is understood that retiring Man U manager Alex Ferguson may figure in next year’s Muppet Awards, but no confirmation has been received; however he is already posted as an early favourite in the “Animal” category, just ahead of Luis Suarez in the advance betting lists.

Ingenious Suggestions Invited

ImageSo, I’m writing this book.

It’s going to be about my team, Leeds United, and how the club have accompanied me on the highs and lows of my life, giving me misery when I’ve been at my happiest, and more misery when I’ve been down. It’s been done before, but every fan’s story stands alone and is unique in its way. Football affects us all differently, and we all react in an individual way to the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune that the game visits upon us. I started relatively late watching Leeds, and it was all my dad’s fault when I finally got round to it. Thanks, Dad. I think.

Really, I wasted the first 13 years of my life farting about watching old films and reading Biggles and Billy Bunter books, when I could have been watching Revie’s heroes stomping all the opposition into submission, and winning the occasional pot along the way. Instead of seeing us win our solitary FA Cup, I was reading a poem out loud at a Music Festival in Ponte, finishing runner-up in true Leeds United style. Instead of watching us take two league titles, I was being a bookworm and dreaming of a career as an astronaut. Talk about a misspent youth.

I finally started watching Leeds in April 1975. Revie had gone to his ill-fated stint as England boss. Big Jack had gone. The great days had gone too, although that wasn’t apparent at the time. Leeds were on their way to the European Cup Final, and my first game was a 0-2 defeat to Liverpool four days before I saw us beat Barcelona 2-1 in the European Cup Semi, First Leg, Cruyff, Neeskens and all. So, fittingly it was Billy Bremner who gave me my first Leeds goal, rocketing a shot into the top left corner in front of the South Stand as I watched stood precariously on my milk crate in that weird shelfy bit halfway up the Lowfields Stand. I still have the commentary of that goal as a ringtone on my iPhone. Fantastic.

And the rest is history; my history and the downs and ups of Leeds United FC over the subsequent 38 years to date. I hope you’ll buy the book, when it appears, and read more of my memories, interspersed with various rants here and there about how the game was, is and (I’m afraid) will be.

The thing is – I really need a title. I’m a bit stuck there, call it sub-editors’ block. The actual book is coming along nicely, and I think a lot of Leeds fans will empathise with what’s contained between the dust-covers – but I’m damned if I can think of a title for the front. Hang on – “The Damned United”?? Hmmmm, ideal – but I have the feeling it’s been done.

I would really appreciate some suggestions. If I end up using one of them, I will happily credit the owner of the idea on the inside front cover, as you do with proper books. And I’ll furnish a complimentary copy also, so you don’t have to wait for it to appear in the bargain bins for 99p. Can’t say fairer than that.

Honestly, I’m fresh out of original, snappy titles. Please help. As Brian McDermott says, we need to sing Marching On Together, and really mean it, suiting actions to words – so your support and inspired suggestions would be right in line with that Leeds United MOT spirit.

I look forward to some brilliant ideas, thanks in advance.

Guest blogspot: BELT! Why a Black Eye Reveals More About Those That View You – by Hilary Robinson

(This article first appeared in The Huffington Post on 5th February 2013.  Hilary’s Huffington Post archive can be found here.)

In that great grand slam of life you could say I’ve achieved something Andy Murray hasn’t.

It wasn’t a particularly vicious assault, but last week I accidently, and forcefully, whacked my cheekbone with my own tennis racquet and, as a consequence, turned my blue eye black.

Image

Ace: Hilary’s shiner

Interestingly had I bruised any other part of my body the injury would probably have been deemed socially acceptable. But facing up to dinner party guests, mourners at a memorial service, the supermarket cashier as well as staff and children at a school visit in the week following the injury has enlightened me to a broad spectrum of colourful reactions.

So here, for those, forced to looking at strangers and friends through a “periorbital hematoma” or “shiner”, is the BELT – the Black Eye Litmus Test.

Black:

To some a black eye smacks of domestic abuse. It’s that dark, murky badge that screams out “victim!” It is the ultimate symbol of repression. It is the last taboo. Needing a new kettle my daughter wryly advised me to go to the local neglected town because “You’ll fit in well there mum.”

Sadly, a pupil with whom I had been working on an author workshop just days after my fate said “My mum gets them.”

Red

“I hope you hit him as hard as he hit you.” joked the supermarket cashier as he helped me bag up the frozen peas. Once again I explained how lunging for the same ball as my backhanded partner meant that if I hadn’t hit myself he might have hit me and then he would have been deemed the abuser.

Then the cashier turns it all into a joke and tells me I should be buying “black eyed peas” and “if you’d hit your nose you wouldn’t have to buy a red nose for Comic Relief.” Really funny that. Worth tweeting.

Yellow

“What have you been doing?” said a knowledgeable friend who, as an ardent squash player, frequently suffers the same fate. This is the sensible, enlightened response. It comes from those that have a broad appreciation for the range of accidents that can lead to the black eye and, in doing so, adopts an objective, enquiring, sincere approach.

Green

“Mine was worse than that.” No matter how bad your black eye you will always see the green eyed monster who claims to have suffered a worse fate, whose eye completely closed up for a month like when they “headbutted the dog by accident”, who “feared for their sight” and then suffered “recurring migraines” and has “been on the sick ever since.”

White

Like the colour of lillies this is the sympathetic, protective male keen to make amends for his primal kind effectively yelling out “We’re not all like that!” In my case this turned out to be a Greek waiter, who made an extra special effort by topping up my drink, “free of charge” or the lovely gentleman who told me to “hold on right there” when my satnav sent me into the gutter, disappeared for ten minutes, only to return with a photocopied map.

Opaque Rose/Pink

These are the people who talk to you while trying to pretend they can’t see anything is amiss. They tend to look at the white eye politely, occasionally glancing across to the black eye, then make an extra special effort to put a positive spin on anything that’s said, even the economy or Andy Murray’s loss.

But the best reaction and final word has to go to my dear Nigerian friend, Nick, who joked… “the colour just don’t suit you Hilary, leave the black eyes to me.”

Oh, and just a footnote; while everyone in my dark eyed moments seems to have felt sorry for me – I’ve felt sorry for tennis balls ever since.

Oh, and another footnote, just for the official social services record, my husband was at work the day it happened – but I did use his lethal tennis racquet. Zemblanity.

Hilary Robinson

Hilary Robinson was born in Devon and brought up in Nigeria and England. She is the author of over forty books for young children of which her latest, The Copper Tree is the first in a series of accessible picturebooks that tackle challenging social issues as they affect children such as bereavement, prejudice and adoption. She is also a freelance network and regional radio producer for the BBC having produced Aled Jones with Good Morning Sunday for Radio 2 as well as specialist documentaries for the network. Hilary is also a regular feature writer for regional and national publications. 

You can find out more about Hilary here