A Week In The Life Of… (the best bits)

​Alas, the axe has fallen on my A Week In The Life Of… (AWITLO) column which I’ve written weekly for The Sun on Sunday since 2015. Budgets are tight even on the biggest of national newspapers these days.
I’ve imagined being Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola several times; unpleasant types such as Margaret Court and Richard Kilty, the latter sending me nasty messages in response; genuine heroes of mine such as Greg Rutherford and Lizzy Yarnold, whom I was scared stiff of offending; and downright silly ‘uns like Valegro the horse, a moth who invaded the pitch at the Euro 2016 final and, erm, the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
Some have been funnier than others, admittedly – Diego Costa and a Sliding Doors version of Sam Allardyce in (ironically) my final column have got the best feedback, while my Moussa Sissoko column went viral among Geordies.
Thanks to Shaun Custis for giving me the opportunity; James Brown and Martin Lipton for their continued backing; Ian Pope, who got it off to a flier with his contributed funnies in the early days; the page builders for tweaking the layout every week to get most of my words in; and the subs who subbed it (particularly those that didn’t cut off the punchlines to jokes and those who didn’t proclaim loudly that it was “total dogshit” or “too highbrow” because I referenced Zoolander).
Thanks to all of the sports stars I have lampooned, with special mention to BDO darts star Darryl Fitton for taking it in the spirit it was intended.
And thanks to everyone who read it… except for Kilty, obviously.
Here are some of my favourite gags from those three and a half years… 

SATURDAY

CRISTIANO RONALDO (the first ever AWITLO)

LAST night I dreamt I went to Manchester again. Probably why I woke up in a cold sweat/covered in drizzle. I had dinner with Sir Alex Ferguson last week and his words have been playing on my mind.
“Yav gah meld ah fooshin’ rara barturrrh,” he said, after two bottles of Rioja. No idea what he meant.

 NIGEL PEARSON

Absolutely buzzing after our 3-0 win over Newcastle. On the drive home, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid comes on the radio. I notice I’m being followed. I do a couple of sharp turns and manage to lose the vehicle behind me. Later I remember I hadn’t taken the caravan off the car – that’s my summer holiday ruined.

JURGEN KLOPP

I HOPE you all had a merry Christmas. I am like a kid at heart and still want to believe in that large, enigmatic figure, clad in red, who it seems only delivers once a year. Sure enough, Christian Benteke hits the winner against Leicester today.

THOMAS BACH

THE IOC is taking stick for not giving the Russians a blanket ban. I don’t see why we should have done that. It can get quite chilly at night – and taking away their blankets seems a weird punishment for participating in a state-sponsored doping programme. As far as I’m concerned, they’re innocent until proven… quilty.
Last night, I was woken by someone outside my window serenading me. Imagine my surprise when I open my curtains and see my good pal Vladimir Putin doing his version of a Steve Miller Band classic. He sings: “I’m a joker, I’m a doper, I’m a miiiidnight judoka…”
I’m glad our vote didn’t hurt his feelings.

CHRIST THE REDEEMER

HOLY cow! (Sorry Dad). But the Olympics have come to Rio and they put on one hell  – er, I mean heck, (sorry Dad) – of a party last night.
Who do I want to do well at these Games? Well, Team USA for sure. Those dudes freakin’ worship me.
Sure enough, the first gold goes to an American… for shooting. Would have been a shock if it didn’t, to be fair. Dad knows they put in the practice.

STAN KROENKE

YEEHA! I’m delighted to launch my new TV channel, MyOutdoorTV, in the UK. It’s a real game changer – specifically changing game from live to dead. It’s the go-to place for all your wild-animal-slaughtering needs.
I’ve always been a trophy hunter – and, sorry Arsene Wenger, but a couple of FA Cups ain’t gonna cut it. I love seeing walls filled with the heads of dead animals. I even keep a treasured meerkat pelt on my top lip.
My favourites are the different types of antelope – impalas, kudus, gazelles… and you’ll find every big-game hunter has a little dik-dik.

LEWIS HAMILTON

I’M trying to find a meaning to life aside from driving really fast and just being really, really ridiculously good looking.
A friend said I should go vegan. I said: “Dude, I dunno. I mean, Mr Spock is cool ’n all but space travel scares me…”
And he said: “No, I mean switch to a plant-based diet. It shouldn’t be that hard for you, as you’re already a Pescatarian.”
And I said: “Correction, hombre, I’m a Catholic.”

LIZZY YARNOLD

WHAT an incredible day! I’m Olympic champion in the skeleton… again! There has been much debate about whether funding of £6.5million is excessive for such a niche sport. On the face of it, the critics have a point. Our hi-tech aerodynamic skinsuits are actually just novelty onesies – £22.99 from M&S – with all the fuzzy bits shaved off.
And my sled’s cost? No idea. We just ‘borrowed’ a tray from the canteen.
Most of the money was spent on the computer technology behind the microchip implanted under my skin, which turns me from Elizabeth Yarnold, mild-mannered, middle-class lady from Kent, into THE YARNOLD 3000: A FUTURISTIC, ALL-CONQUERING CYBORG WHO WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO ACHIEVE MY AIMS.
I’M LIKE THE TERMINATOR! CALL ME YARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER!

SAM ALLARDYCE (alternate reality)

I’M a lucky man, I know that. The FA could have sacked me for my, er, indiscretions in 2016. But they gave me a second chance and the decision has been justified as we’re now in the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup.
I thought nothing would beat the feeling of our 1-0 aggregate win in the qualifying play-off against Ireland (after we’d finished second in our group to Slovakia).
But Harry Kane coming off the bench with ten minutes left to rescue a point against Tunisia was immense – Phil Jagielka was especially grateful after his comical own goal put us behind.
And who can forget us really laying down a marker with two Wayne Rooney penalties in the 3-1 win over Panama?
Losing 3-0 to a Belgian second string was disappointing but fewer yellow cards than the Tunisians means we’re into the last 16. Epic!

SUNDAY

JOHN CARVER

Loads of fans are having a go at my run of eight straight defeats but that’s just hypocritical. These are the same people who moaned about other Toon bosses for being inconsistent.

SEPP BLATTER

Some dare to say I’ve given Fifa a bad name. What nonsense! Before the 2010 World Cup, I brought in Tokyo Sexwale – and you don’t get many better names than that.

ANDY MURRAY

IT’S a day off, so Kim and I go for sushi. I can eat 50 pieces in one sitting. I’m not sure about our local restaurant though. Where we live in Surrey is so middle class, we don’t have a Yo! Sushi, we have an Excuse Me, Would You Mind Awfully? Sushi.

DR EVA CARNEIRO

I AM pretty rattled by Jose’s public criticism of me. He dared to call me “naive”.
I ask John Terry: “You don’t think I’m naive, do you?”
“Course not, Sweetcheeks,” he replies.
“Well, your groin feels fine. I really don’t think you need me to massage it every day.”
“Better safe than sorry,” he winks.

DIEGO COSTA

DIEGO shaken by aggro yesterday so go to Peppa Pig World*. Willian said he went there before and it was lots of fun. Only problem is Willian took his kids. Diego yet to meet lady willing to breed and have beast babies so just look a bit creepy.
Man asks if my children want photo with Daddy Pig. Diego gets confused, nervous, angry. Red mist. Diego runs for exit – smash Grampy Rabbit with forearm on my way.

(* yes, he genuinely went to Peppa Pig World)

TYSON FURY

MY wife Paris and I start the long journey home. It’s long because we’re not flying as Paris is pregnant with our third child – a baby brother or sister for Prince John and Venezuela.
On the ferry, we discuss baby names. It’s difficult but we’ve narrowed it down to Korky the Cat or Whambar for a boy; Polyfilla or the Democratic Republic of Congo for a girl.

GENERAL CHARLES KRULAK

I WAKE at oh-six-hundred hours. Although it’s really oh-five-hundred due to Daylight Savings Time or whatever you limeys call it.
“Rudy Gestede/Alan Hutton”, that’s how I remember it. Springy forward/full-back.
These are dark days at Aston Villa. It started as a noble quest for Randy Lerner and myself. Get Americans in, sort out the mess, that’s what we reckoned. But after initial successes, our intervention has turned into an expensive, protracted and bloody war of attrition. The natives are increasingly hostile and it seems unlikely we will withdraw with any dignity intact.
This is my Vietnam. And I was in goddamned Vietnam.

MARCEL THE MOTH

ZERE eez a party going down in Paris for ze Euro 2016 final. All of my friends are zere and we cause a commotion. Allez les Bleus!
Cristiano Ronaldo eez OK after Dimitri Payet’s tackle but I follow up with a kick to ze forehead and ‘e ‘as to be carried off.
Portugal still win, bah! But now England know what zey ‘ave to do. France’s best player in ze final was a Newcastle midfielder, while ze winner came from a striker who could not make ze grade at Swansea.
Just call up Jack Colback and Danny Graham and you ‘ave ze recipe for success.

CHRIST THE REDEEMER

I’M going to try not to get involved. Dad stuck his oar in for Diego Maradona at the 1986 World Cup and we haven’t heard the end of it.
These days we limit our sporting miracles to things like Leicester winning the title and John Inverdale remaining in gainful employment.
I just want it to be clean – the only thing we want to see athletes test positive for is the Holy Spirit. Amiright, guys?

MOUSSA SISSOKO

FIRST big decision today in the French camp. Rice Krispies for breakfast, I think. Yes, I love Rice Krispies. I have my heart set on Rice Krispies. Yum.
After my Frosties, I chat to Hugo Lloris.
“Come join me at Tottenham,” he says.
It is a nice offer but I can’t possibly do that. Not with Arsenal being the club of my heart.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC
AN interesting fact about me is that I own the entire world’s supply of donkey cheese. Yes, really.
Some people think that’s weird but, actually, it tastes no different to horse cheese.


CRAIG SHAKESPEARE

DUBAI or not Dubai, that was the question. Whether ‘twas nobler in the mind to take the lads warm-weather training or to cancel it once Claudio Ranieri got sacked.
Parting was such sweet sorrow – but uneasy lies the head that wears the crown because the champions are there to be shot at and it’s a results business at the end of the day, Geoff.
The course of defending a Premier League title never did run smooth.
I will never forget bumping into Claudio after he’d heard that he had been stabbed in the back. He looked at me forlornly, and whispered: “Et tu, Craig?”

DAVID MOYES

Tonight, I watch Blue Planet 2. It’s amazing how they send a submarine down into the Marianas Trench.
David Attenborough explains how few people have ever plumbed such depths. Just this camera crew, a handful of scientists and my Sunderland squad.

MONDAY

STEVEN GERRARD

Got a few headaches about the new pad in Los Angeles. I’ve been stressing out because the main shower room seems really dangerous to me. Luckily, my wife Alex has been great and ordered some extra-safe bathmats online.
This doesn’t f***ing slip now.

SEPP BLATTER

I SEE the doctor because I’ve not been able to shake off this cold.
He asks me if I feel “bunged-up” then giggles.
This is outrageous. I demand that he fixes my catarrh problem.
He just shrugs and says: “It’s your own fault for being seduced by their oil money.”

MO FARAH

I VOICE my concerns to a member of the backroom staff at the Nike Oregon Project. He tells me they would never advocate the taking of drugs to succeed in athletics. They insist that, to them, the very essence of long-distance running is that everyone – from elite athletes backed by global mega corporations to those from the poorest nations in the world – competes on a level playing field with no unfair advantages.
Then he tells me to stop worrying and get in the multi-million-pound hypoxic chamber or else I’ll miss my 1pm slot on the low-gravity treadmill.

DIEGO COSTA

WATCH highlights of games from weekend. Nearly every player dirtier than Diego. Refs don’t notice the grappling, the shoving, the stud-raking. And there is definite handball for late winner by Japan. Oh, hang on… this is rugby.
Then Paloma Faith lady starts singing and Diego blacks out. When Diego wake up, somebody has bitten chunks out of the wall.

RAFA BENITEZ

IT’S my first game in charge of Newcastle, away to Leicester. My pre-match war cry of “Come on Toons!” is widely mocked.
Not sure why. Silly Toons.

MARCEL THE MOTH

I FEEL very delicate today. At ze final whistle last night I flew down Pepe’s throat and ‘e threw me straight back up. I spend all day sitting on a wall.

ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN

I’M very excited about the Game of Thrones finale. With all the insane, power-hungry individuals, the backstabbing, the sense of impending doom and the hordes of attackers walking through a once-impenetrable defence, it’s sometimes nice to forget about my Arsenal troubles and watch some TV about dragons and incest.

PHIL NEVILLE

EXCITING times at my old club United, as they finally land Alexis Sanchez on £505,000 a week. His grand unveiling features him playing a piano.
His move is not without controversy, though. Someone shouts out: “Do you know your salary is obscene and could pay for more than 1,100 nurses?”
“No,” says Alexis. “But you hum it and I’ll play it.”

KATIE ORMEROD (injury-jinxed snowboarder)

REPORTERS are asking me about how Team GB will do at the Winter Olympics.
“What about speed skating?” they ask.
“Elise Christie will win at least one medal.”
“And curling?”
“Our women in particular have a great chance.”
“And what will happen with the skeleton?”
“Well, I expect I’ll chip a couple more bits off it but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”

JAMIE CARRAGHER

NEWS of my spitting shame has made the front pages. My agent is on the phone, trying to sort damage limitation.
“What you’ve got to do, right,” he says, “is go on Sky News, right? And apologise loads, right?”
So I do. Man, it’s a tough interview – I even get a bit teary-eyed.
“How’d I do?” I ask my agent afterwards.
“I thought you came across as contrite,” he replies.
“What? I thought it went well. And there’s certainly no need for that kind of language.”

NEIL WARNOCK

I CAN’T deny it, I’m like Marmite, me. By which I mean, if you leave me with my top off in a hot car for more than an hour, it’ll take months to get the yeasty smell out of your upholstery.

TUESDAY

CRISTIANO RONALDO

My mood improves after a kickabout with Cristiano jnr. Boom! 76-0. I make him wear a Messi shirt and shout: “In your face, midget!” after every goal.
He stomps off crying and whining – that’s my boy!

PAUL POGBA

RETIREMENT does not worry me. I am in talks with a fellow pro about going into business to build a pet-pampering service set in a pirate-themed pub. We’ll call it The Pogba & Drogba Grog Bar Dog Spa.

CHRIST THE REDEEMER

MICHAEL PHELPS keep racking up gold medals in the water – so much so that he’s being called the Greatest Of All Time. Errrr, hello? I could freakin’ RUN past him if I wanted.
Phelps is an advocate of cupping. I’m not sure what that is, although I understand a few priests have got in trouble for that in the past.

JOSE MOURINHO

MOVING to Manchester has been a disaster. I’d like to go for a walk but I’m trapped in the hotel. I feel like Alan Partridge.
I try to make friends with a Geordie called Michael but he’s a bit simple and I can’t really understand a word he says. That’s a problem, as he’s my most experienced midfielder.

GORDON STRACHAN

PEOPLE are slating me for my comments about Scottish genetics, saying I’m not big and I’m not clever.
But I’ve spoken with a top-class biologist and we’re going to genetically engineer a squad of superhuman Scots. We’ll start by splicing Leigh Griffiths’ genes with a kangaroo’s, so he can leap higher in the box. We’ll mix Robert Snodgrass’ eye cells with a falcon’s so he can see passes like no other.
And we’ll create an 8ft x 24ft wall-shaped human so that never again will Scottish goalkeepers be the butt of jokes.
It still relies on me not being tactically inept, though, so qualification remains a pipe dream.

ROMELU LUKAKU

QUEUEING for lunch in the training-ground canteen today and Monsieur Mourinho is still ranting about Man City’s lack of respect.
He’s right. I swear, if I ever hear another Oasis song, I’m going to go crazy.
The guy pouring my soup asks: “D’you wanna roll with it?”
“You f***ing what, mate?”

LIZZY YARNOLD/THE YARNOLD 3000

<SYSTEM ERROR 3450://snot/wheezy/headaches>
<INSERT:// Lemsip>
<RUN:// steam bath>
<GO TO:// bed>
Ugh! Sorry, I’ve been feeling ill all week. It’s amazing I even competed, let alone won.
The doctor says I have a chest infection but I think it’s just a heavy code.

DAVID MOYES

JOE HART’S not even going to be on the standby list for England.
He’s certainly had a rocky season.
By which I mean he’s taken blow after blow and can often be heard screaming “ADRIAAAAAN!”

SAM ALLARDYCE (alternate reality)

IT’S not been the ideal preparation for the biggest game of my career against Colombia. It’s a brutal encounter and Jack Wilshere limps off after 15 minutes. Danny Drinkwater replaces him.
A Kane penalty puts us 1-0 up but Colombia equalise late on. We hold on for penalties despite sub Andy Carroll’s red card for an elbow in extra time…

WEDNESDAY

DIEGO COSTA

SO angry to be banned for League Cup game in Walsall that bossman Jose says Diego should be kept in specially built cage. It is probably for the best. They leave me half a dead goat for my tea, though. Yummy!

JIM WHITE (Sky Sports News presenter)

OVER breakfast, I read about Marseille’s bizarre tribute to loan signing Steven Fletcher.
They say: “We have added a Scotsman to the mix. If you know anything about the mentality of that people, you’ll know that’s good news.”
What the hell? Do they really think they can get away with stereotyping a whole nation of people like that?
It’s enough to make me spit my porridge down my tartan pyjamas.

ROY HODGSON

I get home late. Sylvia’s still up and looking hopeful.
“Soooo,” she says expectantly, “they said on the radio that you’d gone for a diamond.”
I chuckle. “No, no, my darling. You’ve misunderstood. It was a bastardised 4-3-3 with Wayne Rooney dropping in as a No10.”

MARCEL THE MOTH

Big Sam Allardyce is tipped for ze England job. I wouldn’t do it if I were him. Leave ze Stadium of Light? Zat place is heaven to a moth.

VALEGRO (Two-time Olympic dressage champion and horse)

POOR Hiroki Ogita, the Japanese pole vaulter. He didn’t qualify for the final because he… well, he knocked the bar down with his penis.
One of the stablehands laughs that Ogita must be wishing he had a smaller willy.
Don’t we all, pal?

ERIC BRISTOW

MY agent is keen for me to do some damage limitation on daytime TV.
“At the moment, Eric,” he says, moments before I go on air, “our aim is to remind people you are NOT the most obnoxious, reactionary prat on the planet. OK?”
The cameras start rolling. I begin: “Hi Piers, thanks for having me on the show.”
It’s working already!

PEP GUARDIOLA

I have read that Antonio Conte has had great success at Chelsea by getting his players to drink beer to rehydrate straight after a game.
I try the same trick with my players.
“Sorry, boss,” says Yaya Toure, “I can’t drink beer. I am a strict Muslim and cannot touch a drop of alcohol. I’ll just stick to my brandy and Coke.”
“But Yaya, brandy is alcoholic.”
“Oh,” he says. “That puts a new slant on my drink-drive hearing tomorrow.”

RORY McILROY

AMERICANS tend to love me but there has been a bit of pushback since the presidential election. A lot of people have been saying I shouldn’t have played golf with a deluded megalomaniac lunatic, whose sexist views should be utterly condemned – even if he is one of the most powerful men in the world.
Hey, I’d never condone such comments but when Peter Alliss asks you for a round, you accept.

CRAIG SHAKESPEARE

SAMIR NASRI doth slander Jamie Vardy, calling him “cheat”.
Oh, poor, foolish Samir. Do you not realise he is not a cheat but merely human, like the rest of us?
If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you lean in with your forehead, do we not exaggerate massively to get you sent off?

JOHN MOTSON

THE spat between Sporting Lisbon and West Ham continues over the alleged tapping-up of William Carvalho. Sporting president Bruno de Carvalho nicknames Hammers co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold ‘the Dildo brothers’, while director of communications Nuno Saraiva called them liars and parasites.
Sullivan has got his lawyers involved, insisting that he and Gold are absolutely NOT brothers.
I wouldn’t be surprised, you know, if Fifa probed that ‘dildo’ remark, especially as they’re looking to punish Dele Alli just for sticking up a finger.

MARK HUGHES

GOODNESS knows we need some good news round here, so I’m delighted when I hear Peter Crouch and Abbey Clancy have had their third child, Jonny. A bouncing baby boy of 8lb 3oz and 5ft 6in.

SAM ALLARDYCE (alternate reality)

THE response to last night’s defeat has been ferocious but I maintain we were absolutely right not to practise penalties. As every other England manager who has lost a World Cup shootout has explained, you simply can’t replicate the atmosphere.
I just feel for the lads who missed – Theo Walcott, Michail Antonio and a clearly unfit Adam Lallana.
The Sun mocks up my face in a big bowl of cocaine with the headline: YOU BLEW IT!

THURSDAY

SEPP BLATTER

I’m shocked as I catch a glimpse on TV of that beardy American idiot admitting he took bribes ahead of the 1998 and 2010 World Cups. Moron! How can people believe him? He looks like a department store Santa who spends the other 11 months of the year living in adumpster.
He makes me so mad. Aaaaagggghhh! CHUCK BLAZER!! THROW SHIRT!! HURL TROUSERS!!
Before you know it I’m standing there in my underpants being asked to leave the Sports Bar.

MO FARAH

I speak to my friend Usain Bolt about good causes.
“So,” I tell him, “after the success of the Mo Farah Foundation, I need a name for my new charity working with cats suffering from hayfever in the capital of Somalia.”
“Mogadishu?”
“Hmm, not bad, Usain. Certainly better than my original idea of Pussysniffles.”

DIEGO COSTA

DR EVA CARNEIRO has left Chelsea because bossman Jose said mean things about her. Diego miss pretty doctor. She gave Diego special medicine to keep my rage down and was nice to Diego even though I bit her once and she had to get a rabies shot.

 JIM WHITE

MY girlfriend is fed up with my miserable mood. She’s never been pleased that I work with such beautiful women as Natalie, Kate Abdo and Kirsty Gallagher. And she’s been watching Breaking Bad so now thinks the reason I have two phones is because I’m either alove cheat or a drug dealer.
“It’s just for keeping up to date with all the breaking deals… honest!” I assure her.
I try to redeem myself by giving her some special Jim White lovin’. Unfortunately, I ruin it by shouting “THIS JUST IN!” at a critical juncture.

GABBY AGBONLAHOR

GUTTED to hear about Prince. I was a big fan. He came to see me at Wembley before our FA Cup final in May.
He told me I didn’t need to be rich to be his girl and I didn’t need to be cool to rule his world. He said there wasn’t a particular sign he was more compatible with. He just wanted the score to be level at 90 minutes and my… kiss.

MARK SELBY

I GO out with my wife Vikki for a celebratory meal. But she soon regrets asking me to hurry up when choosing something off the menu. I panic and order peas.
Can you imagine?
After each one, I have to walk around the table, working out which pea is in the best position for me to eat next. We are asked to leave at 3am.
I’ve got a very serious problem, actually.

GEN CHARLES KRULAK

I’M on friendly terms with lots of celebrity Villa fans. Only last night, for instance, I went out drinking with the UK’s premier grindcore death metal band. I ended up crashing at Barney Greenway’s house with the rest of the boys and wake up in a room stinking of beer, cigarettes and flatulence.
Not many 74-year-old ex-Marines would enjoy this – but I love the smell of Napalm Death in the morning.

MARCEL THE MOTH

A DISASTROUS day. I fly to Ventoux for ze Tour de France.
Alas, I fly into the face of a motorcyclist, he brakes sharply and it causes mayhem behind.
I only got so close because I liked the look of Chris Froome’s Yellow Jersey. Nom nom nom!

GARETH SOUTHGATE

THAT film company I invested in is in big tax trouble and needs its backers to cough up £454million. I leave my meeting with my bank manager very upset. Not because of the money but because he kept going on about me facing a massive penalty.
I have one of my flashbacks. “FOR GOD’S SAKE, MAN, IT WAS 1996! CAN’T YOU LET IT GO?”

PEP GUARDIOLA

Yaya is in court today. He pleads with me: “Boss, please, you have to write me a character reference. It’s my best chance of getting cleared, according to my defence lawyer.”
“Your what lawyer?”
“Defence.”
“Sorry?”
“Defence. D-E-F-E-N-C-E.”
“No, you lost me…”

DIMITRI PAYET

THE fans are giving me real flak. But this is what you get with Payet, Dimitri Payet. I just don’t think they understand.
Karren Brady tells me I’m a disgrace because it was only in September I was given a £1m loyalty bonus.
“Nah,” I explain, “that was a ROYALTY bonus. Royalty. Because everyone at the club thinks I’m a king.”
“No, it was definitely ‘loyalty’.”
“Don’t think so. I mean, that’s not even a word, is it? Not one I recognise anyway.”
“It was a loyalty bonus. Pay it back.”
“Can’t. Already spent it on a diamond-encrusted crown.”

JOHN TERRY

DAVID LUIZ is a top geezer. He tells me he’s going to buy everyone at the club an expensive gift for winning the title – even Roman Abramovich!
“That’s a lovely thought,” I say. “But what do you get the man who already has everything? What the hell do you think you can get Mr Abramovich that he doesn’t already own?”
David replies: “A special key made from a meteorite, 600million years older than the Earth itself.”
Fair play to the guy, I think he might have nailed it.

MARGARET COURT

MARTINA NAVRAILOVA calls me a bigot. But the fact tennis is full of lesbians is all her fault. Back in the day, there were only a couple.
Then Martina took some of the girls to parties, Billie Jean King played k.d. lang songs in the dressing room and it snowballed from there.
You might say you can’t turn someone into a lesbian but I had a lucky escape when Billie Jean showed me that Brookside episode with Anna Friel. I felt a definite, sinful tingling in my foo-foo but I ran from that room and never went back.

GORDON STRACHAN

I LEAVE the manager’s post by mutual consent. We fell just short and the job was too big for me. Also, my mad scientist friend has walked out on our project over creative differences. Wouldn’t be a problem but we’d already started.
Leigh Griffiths is raging. Not sure why. A pouch is very useful. He just needs time to get used to it.

JOE HART

ANDY CARROLL announces he’s called his newborn son Wolf Nine. He’s a bit defensive when we take the mick out of him.
He says: “What? I’m only following in the footsteps of other celebrities. David Beckham called his little girl Harper Seven, and Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler’s daughter is called Fifty-Four.”
“No, Andy, it’s Liv. Not Roman numerals.”

JAMIE CARRAGHER

ANOTHER sad loss yesterday as Dr Stephen Hawking died. I played against him in a charity match once, believe it or not. And he was really good.
OK, he wasn’t the quickest but he had an amazing football brain – like literally the size of a football.
And when he was on the ball, nobody could work out how he had so much time and space.

SAM ALLARDYCE (alternate reality)

WE arrive back in Heathrow with the UK entering its third day of riots. I suppose there was a small possibility a decent World Cup showing could have gone some way towards uniting a country divided by Brexit and a hundred other things, but our pitiful displays have instead lit the fuse on the powderkeg.
Theresa May imposes martial law and a 7pm curfew. The pound drops 30 per cent. And my local runs out of draught Stella. NOOOOOOOOOO!

FRIDAY

PETER ALLISS

IT SEEMS I’ve caused quite the brouhaha by saying that if women really want to play a round of golf at Muirfield, they should marry a member.
I apologise and retract my statement. Of course, ladies, you needn’t marry a member. Letting them have a quick fumble in the club shop should suffice.

CHRIST THE REDEEMER

SHOCKED to hear that Heather Stanning and Helen Glover have been embroiled in a race row.
Ah, no, “row race”. As you were.

 CLAUDIO RANIERI

LIKE all Eetalians, I am an ‘opeless romanteec. I am already writing my Valentine’s Day card to my one true love. How’s thees for a poem?
Roses are red
Our home shirt is blue;
Come back, N’Golo,
We’re shit without you.

ALVARO MORATA

I’M friendly with Patrice Evra, as we spent two years together at Juventus, so I shouldn’t really comment on what happened before his side’s Europa League game last night. But in case you missed it:
My Evra buddy was kung-fu fighting,
That kick was fast as lightning.
For the fan it was a little bit frightening.
Marseille now regret him signing.

JERMAIN DEFOE

IT certainly looks like Sunderland will be going down this season. David Moyes looks haunted. But then that’s just his face.
I wonder whether being vegan is enough. Maybe I should try the paleo diet. I think I could manage being a caveman – after all, I’ve been carrying this club for two years.

DAVID WAGNER

WHEN I joined Huddersfield, the players did not believe we would ever find ourselves in the position we are in now. I simply told them they should have “no limits”.
This has had an excellent effect on all the players, with the exception of Dean Whitehead, who already had nine points on his driving licence.

JOHN TERRY

David Luiz is looking upset. He’s seen the 4.9billion-year-old meteorite key on ebay. Turns out Mr Abramovich already had three.

SAM ALLARDYCE (alternate reality)

THE FA phone me. I’m sacked. “Good luck finding someone who’d do any better with that mob,” I tell them.
They’re giving the job to Gareth Southgate. What a joke!
I close my door on the blazing police cars and sound of army guns firing rubber bullets at the marauding hordes, then I pour myself a pint of Pinot.
It’s Colombia v Germany tonight but I can’t watch. I just stick on my Sliding Doors DVD instead.

 

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A Year In The Life – the best bits 2017

As the New Year looms ominously over the horizon, I thought I’d share my favourite bits from my column in The Sun, A Week In The Life Of… (AWITLO for short), featuring Lewis Hamilton as Derek Zoolander, Craig Shakespeare as, er, William Shakespeare, Dele Alli’s finger and Eddie Jones’ faeces.
Not all of the following made it into print for one reason or another (although it all got past the lawyers and the middle-bench taste police… just), so some of this is EXCLUSIVE! I hope you like it.

SATURDAY

STAN KROENKE

YEEHA! I’m delighted to launch my new TV channel, MyOutdoorTV, in the UK. It’s a real game changer – specifically changing game from live to dead. It’s the go-to place for all your wild-animal-slaughtering needs.
I’ve always been a trophy hunter – and, sorry Arsene Wenger, but a couple of FA Cups ain’t gonna cut it. I love seeing walls filled with the heads of dead animals. I even keep a treasured meerkat pelt on my top lip.
My favourites are the different types of antelope – impalas, kudu, gazelles… and you’ll find every big-game hunter has a little dik-dik.

LEWIS HAMILTON

I’M trying to find a meaning to life aside from driving really fast and just being really, really ridiculously good looking.
A friend said I should go vegan. I said: “Dude, I dunno. I mean, Mr Spock is cool ’n all but space travel scares me…”
And he said: “No, I mean switch to a plant-based diet. It shouldn’t be that hard for you, as you’re already a pescatarian.”
And I said: “Correction, hombre, I’m a Catholic.

SUNDAY

JOEY BARTON

I MAY have been in trouble for placing bets recently but all sportspeople have a gamble now and then.
There’s plenty of hypocrisy going about. Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard accepted a date with a stranger when she lost a Super Bowl bet to him on Twitter.
But despite her DMing me last week to say Lincoln would never beat Burnley, she’s now ignoring my calls.
Come on, Genie. I’d love to treat you to a McDonald’s. Would have to be a drive thru, mind – they still don’t let me in.

SIMON COPE

I HAVE a big week coming up. Dr Richard Freeman and I are being quizzed by MPs on the Committee for Culture, Media and Sport. They will want to know more about the details of my dash to France for British Cycling in 2012.
We rehearse our answers.
“What was in the Jiffy bag?”
“Don’t know.”
“Where are the medical records for Bradley Wiggins?”
“Beats us.”
“What do you know about the Criterium du Dauphine?”
“They’re marine mammals, eat fish, have flippers.”
We’re ready.

CRAIG SHAKESPEARE

DUBAI or not Dubai, that was the question. Whether ‘twas nobler in the mind to take the lads warm-weather training or to cancel it once Claudio Ranieri got sacked.
Parting was such sweet sorrow – but uneasy lies the head that wears the crown because the champions are there to be shot at and it’s a results business at the end of the day, Geoff.
The course of defending a Premier League title never did run smooth.
I will never forget bumping into Claudio after he’d heard that he had been stabbed in the back. He looked at me forlornly, and whispered: “Et tu, Craig?”

MARGARET COURT

NOW I’m copping it for a letter I wrote about tennis player Casey Dellacqua having children with her ‘partner’, Amanda Judd – especially for putting scare quotes around the word ‘partner’.
It’s very important that people realise I don’t hate gay ‘people’. I ‘love’ them. They are just abominations in the eyes of the Lord who will burn for eternity because of their wicked ‘lifestyles’.

JOE HART

BACK to training ahead of the friendly with Brazil. I’ve never seen the manager so angry.
“How could you, Joe?” he yells, trying but failing to screw up the teamsheet.
“How can I pick you again after you let yourself down and embarrassed yourself at that seedy dive of a club?”
“But gaffer,” I protest. “You gave us permission to go out, I only had a couple of beers and Morton’s is actually very high class.”
“Morton’s?” Gareth splutters. “I’m talking about West Ham!”

DAVID MOYES

Tonight, I watch Blue Planet 2. It’s amazing how they send a submarine down into the Mariana Trench. David Attenborough explains how few people have ever plumbed such depths. Just this camera crew, a handful of scientists and my Sunderland squad.

MONDAY

EDDIE JONES

I’M getting a lot of flak for saying that I’ll be reincarnated as an otter. But I bloody love those little critters.
We’re quite similar. Otters might look cheeky, cute and chubby-cheeked… but rile us up and we’ll have your fricking fingers off in a heartbeat.
Also, I’m quite elusive and the best way of tracking me down is by searching for the trail of pungent, fishy faecal deposits I leave behind.

BARTON

SUTTON UNITED’S brave Cup run comes to an end to Arsenal, while roly-poly goalie Wayne Shaw causes a fuss by eating a pie on the bench. It seems like it’s for a bet.
Hey, pies and gambling have been inextricably linked for years. Who can forget that Coolio song? Y’know… Ginster’s Pair o’ Dice.

LIONEL MESSI

I FEEL for Ghanaian striker Mohammed Anas. After a man-of-the-match display in South Africa, he tells an interviewer that he’d like to thank everyone – “my wife; my girlfriend…”
Oof! He makes things worse by trying to explain that “girlfriend” is a pet name for his daughter.
Hey, it happens to the best of us. I once told a press conference that I wanted to thank “my partner; my financial adviser who helps me commit massive tax fraud…”
Ay! Caramba! And when I said “financial adviser who helps me commit massive tax fraud” was just what I call my dad… well, that just got us both in trouble.

ANTONIO CONTE

IT has been a long, illustrious career for John Terry but now is time to tell him he is no longer required at Chelsea.
It shows what a loyal servant he is that he takes the news really well, standing outside my office for an hour chanting my name.
Or at least I think he’s yelling “Conte”. Maybe it’s “Kante”. Either way, he’s Blue through and through.

ANTHONY JOSHUA

I MAY be on my way to becoming boxing’s first billionaire but I’m keeping it real.
I’ve got bills to pay – including £120 at the local laundrette. That seems like a lot, but they do a great job getting out the blood of my vanquished foe.
I still live in a council flat with my mum, Yeta. She came to the UK from Nigeria when she was young. My dad is half Nigerian, half Irish. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Bloody immigrants, coming over here, creating one of the greatest sportsmen this country’s ever seen…

ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN

I’M very excited about the Game of Thrones finale. With all the insane, power-hungry individuals, the backstabbing, the sense of impending doom and the hordes of attackers walking through a once-impenetrable defence, it’s sometimes nice to forget about my Arsenal troubles and watch some TV about dragons and incest.

HAMILTON

THIS vegan thing is definitely the way to go. I explained to Toto Woolf yesterday how cow farts are causing huge damage to the environment and I don’t want my lifestyle to support that.
He said: “Lewis, you drive race cars for a living and we’re currently flying in a private jet.”
Cars and planes don’t run on cow farts, silly!

TUESDAY

JERMAIN DEFOE

LOTS of people are asking how I’ve managed to stay at the peak of my powers at the age of 34. Well, the secret is that I expose myself to extreme cold, spending periods in blisteringly low temperatures at the limits of what the human body can endure.
And when I’m not in the North East, I use a cryo-chamber.

GORDON STRACHAN

PEOPLE are slating me for my comments about Scottish genetics, saying I’m not big and I’m not clever.
But I’ve spoken with a top-class biologist and we’re going to genetically engineer a squad of superhuman Scots. We’ll start by splicing Leigh Griffiths’ genes with a kangaroo’s, so he can leap higher in the box. We’ll mix Robert Snodgrass’ eye cells with a falcon’s so he can see passes like no other.
And we’ll create an 8ft x 24ft wall-shaped human so that never again will Scottish goalkeepers be the butt of jokes.
It still relies on me not being tactically inept, though, so qualification remains a pipe dream.

ROMELU LUKAKU

QUEUING for lunch in the training-ground canteen today and Monsieur Mourinho is still ranting about Man City’s lack of respect.
He’s right. I swear, if I ever hear another Oasis song, I’m going to go crazy.
The guy pouring my soup asks: “D’you wanna roll with it?”
“You f***ing what, mate?”

WEDNESDAY

RORY McILROY

AMERICANS tend to love me but there has been a bit of pushback since the presidential election. A lot of people have been saying I shouldn’t have played golf with a deluded megalomaniac lunatic, whose sexist views should be utterly condemned – even if he is one of the most powerful men in the world.
Hey, I’d never condone such comments but when Peter Alliss asks you for a round, you accept.

SHAKESPEARE

SAMIR NASRI dost slander Jamie Vardy, calling him “cheat”. Oh, poor, foolish Samir. Do you not realise he is not a cheat but merely human, like the rest of us?
If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you lean in with your forehead, do we not exaggerate massively to get you sent off?

JOHN MOTSON

THE spat between Sporting Lisbon and West Ham continues over the alleged tapping-up of William Carvalho. Sporting president Bruno de Carvalho nicknames Hammers co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold ‘the Dildo brothers’, while director of communications Nuno Saraiva called them liars and parasites.
Sullivan has got his lawyers involved, insisting that he and Gold are absolutely NOT brothers.
I wouldn’t be surprised, you know, if Fifa probed that ‘dildo’ remark, especially as they’re looking to punish Dele Alli just for sticking up a finger.

MARTIN GLENN

GREG CLARKE and I take a battering at the hearing today. Is it just me or is it hot in here? Although not quite as stuffy as the FA boardroom.
Eni Aluko claims I told her she’d get the second half of her hush money only if she put out a statement stating that the FA wasn’t institutionally racist.
She says this was “bordering on black male”. Now who’s being racist? Not many of those round here, love.

MOYES

WE certainly live in interesting political times. Today, Priti Patel resigns just a week after Michael Fallon was forced to quit, too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Cabinet in such a sorry state.
Well, not until David Sullivan takes me on a tour of the stadium tonight and I see the West Ham trophy room.

THURSDAY

DIMITRI PAYET

THE fans are giving me real flak. But this is what you get with Payet, Dimitri Payet. I just don’t think they understand.
Karren Brady tells me I’m a disgrace because it was only in September I was given a £1m loyalty bonus.
“Nah,” I explain, “that was a ROYALTY bonus. Royalty. Because everyone at the club thinks I’m a king.”
“No, it was definitely ‘loyalty’.”
“Don’t think so. I mean, that’s not even a word, is it? Not one I recognise anyway.”
“It was a loyalty bonus. Pay it back.”
“Can’t. Already spent it on a diamond-encrusted crown.”

JOHN TERRY

DAVID LUIZ is a top geezer. He tells me he’s going to buy everyone at the club an expensive gift for winning the title – even Roman Abramovich!
“That’s a lovely thought,” I say. “But what do you get the man who already has everything? What the hell do you think you can get Mr Abramovich that he doesn’t already own?”
David replies: “A special key made from a meteorite, 600million years older than the Earth itself.”
Fair play to the guy, I think he might have nailed it.

DR TONY XIA

I AM quite relieved when I see Arsenal have had crowd trouble before their Europa League match.
Not that crowd trouble is good, it’s just when I saw the headlines about loutish behaviour, too much Cologne and an unwanted advance, I feared we’d gone back to ‘the bad old days’ of John Terry.

COURT

MARTINA NAVRAILOVA calls me a bigot. But the fact tennis is full of lesbians is all her fault. Back in the day, there were only a couple.
Then Martina took some of the girls to parties, Billie Jean King played k.d. lang songs in the dressing room and it snowballed from there.
You might say you can’t turn someone into a lesbian but I had a lucky escape when Billie Jean showed me that Brookside episode with Anna Friel. I felt a definite, sinful tingling in my foo-foo but I ran from that room and never went back.

STRACHAN

I LEAVE the manager’s post by mutual consent. We fell just short and the job was too big for me. Also, my mad scientist friend has walked out on our project over creative differences. Wouldn’t be a problem but we’d already started. Leigh Griffiths is raging. Not sure why. A pouch is very useful. He just needs time to get used to it.

 

HART

ANDY CARROLL announces he’s called his newborn son Wolf Nine. He’s a bit defensive when we take the mick out of him.
He says: “What? I’m only following in the footsteps of other celebrities. David Beckham called his little girl Harper Seven, and Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler’s daughter is called Fifty-Four.”
“No, Andy, it’s Liv. Not Roman numerals.”

FRIDAY

CLAUDIO RANIERI

LIKE all Eetalians, I am an ‘opeless romanteec. I am already writing my Valentine’s Day card to my one true love. How’s thees for a poem?
Roses are red
Our home shirt is blue;
Come back, N’Golo,
We’re shit without you.

STRACHAN

TODAY I find out I’m being replaced by ‘king of banter’ Malky Mackay. I reckon it’s because the SFA think he’s 6ft 2in but I’m convinced he’s really a shortarse on springy stilts.
I’ll be watching him closely, bouncing on his falsies.

ALVARO MORATA

I’M friendly with Patrice Evra, as we spent two years together at Juventus, so I shouldn’t really comment on what happened before his side’s Europa League game last night. But in case you missed it:
My Evra buddy was kung-fu fighting,
That kick was fast as lightning.
For the fan it was a little bit frightening.
Marseille now regret him signing.

DEFOE

IT certainly looks like Sunderland will be going down this season. David Moyes looks haunted. But then that’s just his face.
I wonder whether being vegan is enough. Maybe I should try the paleo diet. I think I could manage being a caveman – after all, I’ve been carrying this club for two years.

DAVID WAGNER

WHEN I joined Huddersfield, the players did not believe we would ever find ourselves in the position we are in now. I simply told them they should have “no limits”.
This has had an excellent effect on all the players, with the exception of Dean Whitehead, who already had nine points on his driving licence.

TERRY

David Luiz is looking upset. He’s seen the 4.9billion-year-old meteorite key on ebay. Turns out Mr Abramovich already had three.

Making friends – the 5-year-old way

(This column appeared in the Herts & Essex Observer in August 2016)

AH, the school holidays are just flying by – though not exactly at sparrowhawk speed, more one-winged heron carrying a sack of potatoes.

That said, the six-week hiatus doesn’t fill me with dread, the way it does some parents. Toby being an only child certainly helps in this regard. If I had to keep multiple children fed, entertained and generally content for nearly 50 consecutive days, I’d begin to resemble the dessicated, eye-bagged husks I see pushing around double buggies or trying in vain to referee mini-MMA bouts between their various offspring.

But I have to admit, even with a child (singular), this break is taking its toll.

Matters aren’t helped by the Olympic Games. As a sports journalist, I’m putting in some gruelling late shifts in the office. I’m not asking for sympathy – 98 per cent of you will have jobs more pressurised than watching sport and writing puns about it.

Yet with Fran working too, my days are filled with Daddy Daycare duty, so sleep is at a premium.

For some reason, we’ve gone all out this summer to keep him occupied.

This week it’s football camp, last week it was a swimming crash course, with a day trip to Diggerland in between.

That means me getting home from work at 2am, then getting up at 7am almost every day. My brain don’t be functioning good on such little shuteye, eh?

Mind you, the boy is a joy and great company for a five-year-old. It’s not just me who thinks so – his peers seem to agree.

On day one of swimming, for example, a boy in his class struck up an immediate conversation based on the icebreaker of them both owning the same Spider-Man towel.

For adults, the coincidence of having the same (not necessarily superhero) towels might be deemed worthy of a slightly awkward nod or even too embarrassing to acknowledge at all. (I suppose if you’re two grown men with Spider-Man towels, you’d be more likely to be the type of person who’d use it as a conversational gambit).

Yet in the two minutes before class started, the boys had moved on to names, ages, where they lived, favourite films, schools, school uniforms, what else they’d been doing in the holidays… They were best buds before even hitting the water – and asking “Do you want to come to my house?” before they got out.

The boy’s mum and I engaged in more circumspect chat, gradually becoming comfortable enough to exchange numbers for the pre-arranged playdate after five days. This was in spite of the fact that I was becoming more and more sleep deprived – and therefore dishevelled and monosyllabic – as the week wore on, so kudos to her.

What is it that changes our approach to making friends? Something alters as we grow older and we lose that pure, unadulterated joie de vivre, the delight in talking to anyone and everyone, and the belief that anyone and everyone will be happy to talk to us.

I suppose, over time, it becomes apparent that it’s NOT worth taking the time and energy to converse with everybody who comes your way.

Toby proudly asserts that there’s literally nobody at school he doesn’t get on with, whereas I think most of us grown-ups would happily belt around 40 per cent of our colleagues in the face with a frying pan if it didn’t come with disciplinary action.

It’s easy to write off childish naivety. But as adults, we’ve gone too far in the other, cynical, direction. I know I have.

In this age of social media, I have become notably more antisocial. I’m happy to have discussions online with anybody. And yet there have been occasions when I’ve seen Facebook friends at the railway station, for example, and waited at the other end of the platform because I couldn’t summon up the energy for face-to-face smalltalk.

Is that bad? I saw another mate on the train last week and we had a cracking catch-up, which really made my day.

Perhaps the difference is degrees of friendship. Social media have lumped friends and followers into one homogenous block and it’s worth taking time to remember that true friendships, the kind which will make you laugh, reminisce and lift your spirits on the commute to Liverpool Street – rather than ‘friendships’ that make you exhale wearily at the thought of maintaining – are the ones into which you should put your energy.

You often hear parents bemoaning the fact their kids have better social lives than them. A lot of that is to do with the fact they are more sociable.

Yes, we adults are time poor: we work, we have chores, we have to take our children to sports groups and JCB-inspired theme parks. In many cases, we no longer live in the vicinity of our best mates.

It does take effort to nurture the most valuable friendships but it is worth it – vital in the long run.

Yet we also need to find a balance in the trade-off between maintaining the truly great, longstanding relationships and making new, local friends you’re going to see on a daily basis.

That’s why I’m not ruling out the five-year-olds’ tactics. If I see you at the pool and you have the same towel as me, prepare to get your chat on.

A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF… MARGARET COURT

A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF… MARGARET COURT
As imagined by DAVE BROMAGE

 SATURDAY

STREWTH! I’m getting loads of flak about my open letter to Qantas, saying I wouldn’t fly any airline that promoted the sin of gay marriage.
Yup, it’s strictly homophobic airlines only for me from now on. That means shunning any company with a name I suspect might be slang for homosexual acts – so that’s a no to Bangkok Airways, Alitalia, Scoot and Aer Lingus. Ugh.

      SUNDAY

NOW I’m copping it for another letter I wrote about tennis player Casey Dellacqua having children with her ‘partner’, Amanda Judd – especially for putting scare quotes around the word ‘partner’. It’s very important that people realise I don’t hate gay ‘people’. I ‘love’ them. They are just abominations in the eyes of the Lord who will burn for eternity because of their wicked ‘lifestyles’.

MONDAY

DON’T these people know who I am? I won 24 Grand Slam titles for goodness’ sake.
I suppose with the name Court, I was always going to be a tennis star. Nominative determinism, they call it. It’s why Alan Ball went into football, Peter Bowler became a cricketer and why there’s a Russian athlete called Maria Syztematicdopingallova.

 TUESDAY

ANDY MURRAY joins in the criticism. Wind yer neck in, Murray, ya great dull drongo.
Tennis isn’t like it was in the olden days when you had characters with personalities. I phone Ilie Nastase and he agrees. Back in the 1970s, it wasn’t frowned upon to deny gay people their rights, or make racist jokes about unborn babies.
Happier times.

 WEDNESDAY

AS a tennis player, the only way I know how to deal with a hostile homosexual lobby is by hitting back with a fierce heterosexual smashy.
In an interview on Christian radio, I say transgender people are the work of the devil.
You’re either a boy or a girl  – it’s black and white. Just like the word of God in the Bible, or the sorely missed policies of apartheid-era South Africa. Oh… what?! I suppose the Leftists will have a go at me for that, too?
I also say the LGBT people are “just like Hitler” because they target the minds of children.
But I can’t spend all day ranting, I need to go to a primary-school prayer group, so I can tell four-year-olds they’ll be tortured for ever in Hell if they don’t do as they’re told.

THURSDAY

MARTINA NAVRATILOVA calls me a bigot. But the fact tennis is full of lesbians is all her fault. Back in the day, there were only a couple. Then Martina took some of the girls to parties, Billie Jean King played K.d. lang songs in the dressing room and it snowballed from there.
You might say you can’t turn someone into a lesbian but that’s a lie. I know because I had a lucky escape when Billie Jean showed me that Brookside episode with Anna Friel. I felt a definite, sinful tingling in my foo-foo – but I ran from that room and never went back. Get ye behind me, Satan!

 FRIDAY

DONALD TRUMP pulls out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. He doesn’t believe recent weather disasters are down to carbon emissions. He’s right! We all know who’s really to blame, don’t we…
*narrows eyes at the gays*

I watch Australia’s cricketers in the Champions Trophy. Former Aussie Luke Ronchi is now playing for New Zealand and I’m furious. No way should he have batted for both teams.

Charles Darwin and genocide – a rebuttal

A friend posted a link on Facebook to an article What Your Biology Teacher Didn’t Tell You About Charles Darwin.  He called it an “exposé of the implications of the evolutionary worldview.”

The article is here: http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/what_your_biology_teacher_didnt_tell_you_about_charles_darwin

I’m all for challenging my beliefs and this is, on the face of it, a thought-provoking piece. I read it with consternation that one of my heroes could actually be “a very bad man indeed”. And then I did some research.

Below is my riposte to most of the points made in Moore’s article. I do not claim to be a biological expert and if there are any evolutionary biologists or indeed Creationists who want to put me right in the comments section, I am all for that!

So let’s begin…

‘…I feel I have to point out that he wasn’t a British hero but a British villain. You don’t have to be a bible-thumping evangelical to question whether Charles Darwin’s thinking deserves to be given a bit more thought.’

Woah, woah, woah! First up, what is meant by “Charles Darwin’s thinking”? Presumably this is an entry level into attacking Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, but science doesn’t work like that.

Whether Darwin was a stark raving mad white supremacist (which, as we shall see, he wasn’t), it still wouldn’t make the Theory of Evolution – supported, corroborated, bolstered and proven as it is by the following 150-odd years’ worth of scientific study and investigation, including by those seeking to disprove it – any less factual.

Indeed, no scientific claim in history has been more vigorously tested. Were anyone to disprove the Theory of Evolution or in some way ascertain that it is in any way false, that person would become as world-renowned as Darwin and would have riches and honours lavished upon them. It’s not happened.

Positing that Darwin was “a villain” as a means to refute the Theory is a clear fallacy.

“Whatever your views on origins and evolution, we can hopefully all agree that, at present, we give far too much honour to the British thinker who justified genocide.”

This is a big claim. And it doesn’t stand up. Darwin never ‘justified genocide’ and the examples made by the author in this piece can be explained.

‘Darwin didn’t hide his view that his evolutionary thinking applied to human races as well as to animal species. The full title of his seminal book in 1859 was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.’

Moore seems to use this full title of Origin as a GOTCHA! moment, but it’s disingenuous to claim this.

Humans are mentioned once in the book – and that’s mostly to say that he will discuss them in some point in the future.

Darwin used ‘races’ more generally, using the term in relation to plants and animals (which Origin is virtually solely about).

Elsewhere he talks about races and sub-races of cabbages, for example. This does not make him racist towards cabbages.

 ‘He followed this up more explicitly in his later book The Descent of Man by spelling out his racial theory: “The western nations of Europe … now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilisation … The civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races through the world.”’

‘Today, most British people are, thankfully, pretty embarrassed by the racist rhetoric which undergirded the late-Victorian British Empire. What is astonishing is how little they understand that Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution provided the doctrine behind its white supremacism.’

Firstly, in relation to that last sentence, it is clear to note that he is not advocating, nor justifying genocide. He is pointing out that genocide will happen. Looking at the way the Native Americans and Aborigines were wiped out by white colonial Europeans (largely Christians, I point out, apropos of nothing), we can see that he was right.

Again, it is disingenuous to say Darwin’s Theory of Evolution gave these people the idea that they were superior and should therefore eliminate the natives. Certain peoples were wiping out other peoples long before Darwin was around.

Indeed, in the Bible, God not only advocates genocide but orders it, giving the Jews precise instructions on how to do it: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations…then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy.” Deuteronomy 7:1-2.

There are issues with Darwin’s phrasing, for sure. “Civilised” and “savage” are not ‘nice’ terms for describing different races. However, it is important not to judge too harshly the words used by 19th Century people by comparing them with 21st Century values.

While it is still disconcerting to see someone describe different races in this way, it needs to be put into context. In Darwin’s time, with a burgeoning British Empire spreading as if contagious, the differences between biology and culture were largely unknown. It wasn’t until later in the 19th Century that the concept of “Nature and Nurture” was introduced.

Indeed, while Darwin seems to be disparaging of “savage races”, his Theory of Evolution, based as it is on the idea of common descent from shared ancestors, proves that human beings (Homo sapiens) are all equally evolved.

And yet culture plays its part in how humans live. So white Europeans moved ahead in terms of construction, medicine, writing, travel, weaponry etc, and therefore stole a march on their fellow humans who lived elsewhere.

As an example, an aborigine moved at birth to Western civilisation would be able to grow up perfectly normally, be able to be taught to read, be familiar with new inventions, and live longer and healthier than if they had remained in their “uncivilised” homeland.

This is because culture and biology are not related. Darwin never once suggested the white race was superior to other races due to biology.

If he was racist, then it was a cultural, not biological racism. I do not condone this in the slightest but, in mitigation, this was the overwhelming viewpoint of the time in Victorian England, wth its imperialistic haughtiness becoming stronger all the time.

‘Whereas the British Empire of the early nineteenth century had been dominated by Christian reformers such as William Wilberforce who sold badges of black slaves which proclaimed, “Am I not a man and a brother?”, Charles Darwin’s writings converted an empire with a conscience into an empire with a scientific philosophy instead. Four years after Darwin published his Origin of Species, James Hunt turned it into a justification for slavery. He argued in his paper ‘On the Negro’s Place in Nature’, published in 1863, that “Our Bristol and Liverpool merchants, perhaps, helped to benefit the race when they transported some of them to America.” Christian reformers had spent decades in the first half of the nineteenth century teaching Britain to view non-European races as their equals before God. In a matter of years, Darwin not only swept God off the table but also swept the value of people of every race in God’s eyes off the table with him.’

The author, as with the likes of James Hunt, confuses Darwinism with Social Darwinism. The latter, despite bearing Darwin’s name, has nothing to do with Darwin, nor the Theory of Evolution. Latching on to the phrase ‘the survival of the fittest’, and using it to support genocide and white supremacism just goes to show the lack of understanding these people have of the Theory and biology.

‘What has been forgotten is his contemptible attitude towards the Aborigines he also found there due to his beliefs about natural selection. When The Melbourne Review used his teachings to justify the genocide of the indigenous people of Australia in 1876, he didn’t try and stop them. Charles Darwin simply commented that “I do not know of a more striking instance of the comparative rate of increase of a civilised over a savage race”.

It’s certainly not untroubling that Darwin reacted in such a seemingly cold and detached way to the genocide.

‘Meanwhile, several thousand miles away, Cecil Rhodes was gleefully embracing Charles Darwin’s thinking as the justification for white expansion across Southern Africa. He was so inspired by the thinking of the Darwinian evolutionist Winwood Reade in his book ‘The Martyrdom of Man’ that he later confessed that “That book has made me what I am.” What it made him was the architect of one of the most brutal and immoral acts of European expansion and genocide in history. He wrote in 1877 that I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race … It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race, more of the best, the most human, most honourable race the world possesses. (John Flint, Cecil Rhodes p. 24).

The very fact Rhodes used “Anglo-Saxon” race shows that he did not understand the Theory of Evolution and the atrocities he comitted cannot be put down to Darwinian thinking because, as stated, the Theory shows all Homo sapiens are equally evolved.

‘I could have pointed out the ways that Hitler and his Nazi philosophers used it to justify wars of expansion and horrific holocaust.’

Darwin often gets the blame for inspiring the Nazi eugenics and the Holocaust but the accusation is baseless. Indeed, the two links usually used as evidence are the fact that his half-cousin Francis Galton WAS a white supremacist who coined the word ‘eugenics’, and Darwin’s correspondence with Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist and champion of evolution.

However, it would be unfair to hold Darwin accountable for the sins of his half-cousin. And secondly, Haeckel was not the inspiration for the Nazis eugenics programme, as is regularly claimed. In fact, the Nazis dismissed his work entirely. Their atrocities were not done in the name of Darwinism at all.

‘The British example is enough to make us question whether Charles Darwin was truly a British hero at all. At the very least, we should strip him of his place on our £10 banknote and stop protecting his thinking from the scrutiny it deserves to receive in school classrooms, on TV documentaries and in the corridors of power.’

There are two arguments going on here. Should we venerate a man who said occasionally racist things in incredibly racist times?

And two, should his Theory of Evolution be dismissed as a result of these things?

Firstly, despite Darwin’s occasional lapses into cultural, Eurocentrist racist rhetoric, he was actually more progressive than most of his peers at the time. He was stridently anti-slavery, coming into conflict many times with the pro-slavery captain of HMS Beagle, Capt FitzRoy.

If we are to dismiss the work of everyone who lived in Imperial Britain, which was an inherently racist place in an inherently racist time, then we are to wipe out huge swathes of scientific discovery. The Theory of Evolution has enabled us to learn more about the world, and has been the catalyst driving every major medical advance in the past 150 years.

Again I shall point out, even if Charles Darwin ate babies for breakfast, it doesn’t make the science behind the Theory of Evolution any less solid.

‘Who would you rather discover was right all along? The Christian reformers of the early nineteenth century, like William Wilberforce and the Earl of Shaftesbury, who argued from belief in divine creation that slaves should be set free and that children should not be forced to work themselves to death in the factories for having been born to the wrong parents?

Pitting Christian reformers of slavery and the anti-slavery Darwin at polar opposites of the scale is misleading and insulting.

Were the likes of Wilberforce and Shaftesbury really driven by Christian beliefs? Their arguments for ending slavery seem more Humanist to me. They certainly don’t come from the Bible, which, as we know, has long lists of rules about how to buy and treat your slaves. I particularly like this beauty from Exodus 21:20-21… “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”

‘Or Charles Darwin, who argued from his belief in a godless beginning to the universe that natural selection was a virtue and that, consequently, acts of genocide were part and parcel of the way the world was always supposed to be?’

This too is disingenuous claptrap, as the author is inferring that any biological scientist or anyone who even believes the Theory of Evolution to be true, automatically thinks that genocide is OK, even virtuous. This is insulting nonsense.

Firstly, natural selection is not, and has not been argued as being, a virtue as such. That it is just the way things are, is true.

However, this does not justify genocide and does not mean genocide is merely part and parcel of life.

For one of the the most incredibly interesting things about evolution I find, is how morality has evolved over time. Basic morals – like Do not kill; Do not steal etc were not handed down on stone tablets on Mount Sinai but rather have been ingrained in us through millions of years of biological evolution. Those weird little mammals you see on Walking With Dinosaurs soon discovered that if they were murderous or violent or unfaithful or showed signs of kleptomania, they’d likely be shunned from their society and would be less likely to survive long enough to pass on their genes. We have evolved along these lines.

However, biological evolution among big animals like us is soooo slow and sooooo imperceptible, that genocide is not an evolutionary thing. It is a cultural thing. And as a Brit, like the author, I realise we now live in a culture that should be more tolerant, more caring and, yes, more civilised, ironically, than the culture in Darwin’s England.

That means opposing genocide on moral grounds. Morals evolve quicker than biology in some cases, and they are different according to different cultures – for example treatment of women, gays etc.

We can argue against genocide. It is not something that is the way of the world. Morally today, the idea of genocide is repugnant and rightly punished severely under international law.

Darwin’s detached views on the topic are hard to take, sure, but he lived within a different culture. And he certainly didn’t advocate or justify it.

Godlessness does not mean we should embrace genocide. Yes, it seems more than likely that humans are generally meaningless in the context of the Universe. But it does not mean humans cannot and do not create their own meaning – that other people, nature, hobbies are not meaningful to us.
The premise that without a God for which there is no evidence and who doesn’t intervene in human affairs, we’d all be murdering on a massive scale, doesn’t hold up.

 ‘In the words of Jesus Christ himself: “By their fruits you will be able to judge their teaching.’”

Yes, but Darwin’s fruit is not that genocide is AOK. His teaching, in terms of the Theory of Evolution, is sound. And this would be the case even in the event that Darwin was “a British villain”.

Altogether now, boys and girls (The problem with feminism)

(A version of this column first appeared in the Herts & Essex Observer in August 2016)
IT may surprise some of you to hear that I don’t set out to antagonise anyone while writing this column. But even I can appreciate, as I sit in front of my laptop, that an article with the working title ‘The Problem With Feminism’ might raise a few hackles.
It begins, dear reader, with me getting involved in an online spat. (“No, Bromage,” I hear you yell, “that is soooo unlike you.”)
Well, it’s true – and it came in the wake of Team GB’s magnificent hockey gold medal in Rio.

Amidst the celebratory status updates and haliographic tweets came a complaint. Why were these women – and female athletes in general – being referred to so regularly as ‘girls’?
This nomenclature was being used not only by media dinosaurs such as the Inverdaleosaurus but also by Kate Richardson-Walsh, the captain of the Olympic champions.

“When sportswomen refer to themselves as girls,” moaned the self-appointed language police officer, “it gives interviewers licence to describe them in the same way.

“Referring to women as girls undermines what they achieve.”

Well, referring to female scientists or politicians as ‘girls’, perhaps. But sportswomen? No, it doesn’t – any more than Chris Hoy referring to the “team pursuit boys” undermines Bradley Wiggins and Co’s accomplishments.

Sportsmen and –women have always and will always refer to each other as ‘boys’ and ‘girls’. It’s a quirk of language, of human nature, that we use infantilisation to express friendship and camaraderie.

When I asked the complainant for an alternative, the reply was ‘women’. That’s it.

Calling British soldiers in the Middle East ‘Our Boys’ is not to belittle them. Nobody in history has ever gone on a “Women’s Night Out” – or if they have, it didn’t involve much letting down of hair.
When playing sport (playing – therefore inherently childish to some degree) it is even more understandable that the terms ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ are used.

Richardson-Walsh’s “I’m so proud of these girls” and Wayne Rooney’s “I’m so pleased for the lads” are being used in the exact same context. That’s equality right there, isn’t it?

Well, perhaps not. As sure as night follows day – or maybe knight follows dame – an accusation of “mansplaining” was made… by a man, ironically.
Now, I’m aware “mansplaining” exists. But, all too often, accusations of mansplaining are used as a tool to shut down debate.

“Even if a discriminated population occasionally over-reacts to language used in a non-discriminatory fashion,” the man mansplained, “it will be because that language CAN be and HAS been used in a discriminatory fashion and it’s not your place to tell them that it’s not so.”

Er, with respect, this is utter bilge.

Of course the word ‘girl’ can be used in a disaparaging way. Yet the same is true of virtually any word – ‘woman’ included. See ‘bloody women’, ‘women drivers’, ‘stop being such an old woman’. But nobody would advocate a moratorium on the word ‘women’ just because it features in certain undesirable phrases.

It is understandable that such over-reactions occur. But for the politically correct language prefects to forbid anyone from calling them out leads us down a dark path where context becomes irrelevant. And once words can be blacklisted (if, indeed, I’m allowed to say ‘blacklisted’) regardless of context, we paint ourselves into a corner, linguistically.

Context is everything. I’m all for pushing to make uttering the phrase ‘throw like a girl’ a more eyeroll-worthy offence. But greeting a group of female friends with a cheery ‘Hi, girls’ is not the same thing.
If there is a sexist stigma to words such as ‘girls’, then let’s work to destigmatise them rather than wrench them from the vocabulary altogether.
Otherwise, we’ll be able to call men ‘boys’, ‘blokes’, ‘lads’, ‘guys’, ‘geezers’, ‘dudes’ and ‘bros’ but we won’t be allowed to describe women as anything other than ‘women’, without being perceived as sexist. How terribly po-faced.
I’m not advocating a return to the commonplace use of ‘chicks’ or ‘birds’ (although, again, in context, it would be churlish for anyone to moan about calling GB goalie Maddie Hinch “one awesome chick” for her penalty shootout heroics). Yet ‘girls’, particularly when framed in the colloquial, friendly way it was during the Olympics, is innocuous. 

Social progression has come a long way in a short space of time. Not long ago, there would have been a lot more focus on the hockey players’ looks.

Finding offence where none is intended hampers the cause. That’s particularly true when you’re criticising a vocal feminist, openly gay, hard-as-nails double Olympic medallist for being unhelpful in the fight for equality.
In terms of role models for girls (actual, literal, under-18 girls) and minorities (hell, even majorities), it’s hard to imagine someone more inspirational than Richardson-Walsh.
And this is my gripe with the current state of the feminist movement.

Often, it goes after the wrong targets, picks the wrong battles, alienates those supportive of their cause.
This is not a trait limited to feminism, either. I see it across a lot of the Left and among minority groups battling for equality.
I’m regularly rendered agog by some of the more visceral attacks launched by trans-activists at their allies for some perceived minor trangression in terminology used, for example.
Of course, on a more public level, the Labour Party is taking this self-destructive behaviour to new lows. The viciousness of the rival factions on the Left is uncomfortable to witness and counterproductive. Those who cherish social progress and liberalism should unite as best they can, rather than descend into civil war.
I might not agree with the views of the Right, but I have to admit they know their enemy and target their foe with a ruthless efficiency that puts the Left to shame.

Those who see social justice and equality as desirable need to stop sniping at each other if they are to tackle those who wish to deny it. It’s time to band together – both boys and girls.

A Week In The Life Of Eddie Jones

(As imagined by DAVE BROMAGE)

SUNDAY

THE Vunipola brothers both have knee injuries. Well, carrying around that sort of weight has got to put a strain on the old joints.

It’s a blow. Mind you, it means there’ll be more food to go around at dinner time! Have you seen the rest of my squad? They’re positively malnourished.

We’re big favourites to win the Six Nations but I know to my cost how complacency can make you slip up. So I order rubber safety mats in the showers for all.

MONDAY

I’M getting a lot of flak for saying in an interview that I’ll be reincarnated as an otter. But I bloody love those little critters.

We’re quite similar. Otters might look cheeky, cute and chubby-cheeked… but rile us up and we’ll have your fricking fingers off in a heartbeat. 

Also, I’m quite elusive and the best way of tracking me down is by searching for the pungent, fishy faecal deposits I leave in my wake.   


TUESDAY

FORMER Scotland coach Jim Telfer says I’m arrogant and disrespectful like Donald Trump. 

Well, I HAVE made England great again. Bigly. 

Telfer’s problem is he’s just a loser. Sad.

He’s even called Twickenham fans ‘poshos’. It’s totally unfair and inaccurate. I tell the head of the England Supporters Club what Telfer’s said and he damned near chokes on his black-truffle caviar blini.

WEDNESDAY

MIKE BROWN reckons his designer girlfriend Eliza Woodcock has made him a fashion icon. Hmmm, your head still looks like a potato, son. Now it’s just in a more expensive jacket.

George Kruis is the latest injury in training, following Anthony Watson.

“Hey, you either go tough or go home. If you want non-contact, play volleyball,” I tell my players. An hour later, I’ve got a rebellion on my hands. Maro Itoje’s set up the net and the lads refuse to get off court.

THURSDAY

IT’S great that Joe Marler is available to play for us just three weeks after breaking a leg.

He’s put it all down to drinking two pints of milk a day, while I reckon it’s got something to do with all the sea air he gets down in East Sussex.

Certainly beats the usual rugby-player routine of drinking aftershave and breathing in the smoke from the farts you’ve just lit.

FRIDAY

RUMOURS abound of cocaine use in rugby but there’s nothing like that in our squad. Our uber aggression and inflated egos are all natural, I promise.

Not like those football wimps. I read about Saido Berahino testing positive for MDMA. Suspicions were first raised when he was sent on a three-month training camp to Ibiza.

Berahino grew up in Burundi, which is ranked as the second unhappiest place on the planet. Behind Stoke.  

SATURDAY

WE may get called arrogant but it’s hard to be modest when you’re as terrifyingly brutal as we are.
I’ve been building up talk of war this week, because I figured that was all I needed to do to make the French surrender.

Mind you, for a while it looks like we’re the kind of soldiers who shot themselves in the foot. Luckily, Ben Te’o wins it for us in the end.

Fifteen in a row! No one can beat us! And I mean that in a real sense, not the Jurgen Klopp sense.