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A Few Verbals

“The Football Association has made a complaint to World Cup organisers Fifa after a fan breached security and entered the England dressing room. ... The intruder was escorted out shortly after a ‘few verbals.’”

Can I have everyone’s attention, please? Thank you very much. Mr. Capello, if you could just give me a couple of minutes, I’d appreciate it.

OK.  Pleased to meet you all--my name is Alan Bartholomew. I don’t suppose any of you have ever  heard of me. I own a petrol station in Barnstaple, which for this last week I’ve left it in the capable hands of Mrs. Bartholomew and Darrell, her sister’s son; he’s been in and out of borstal, so we thought a couple of weeks with real responsibility. ... Anyway, I’ve been saving up for a couple of years to come down here to South Africa to cheer you lot on, so I feel I have a right to an opinion.

Ashley, could you put your sexting on hold for a couple?  Thank you. 

Boys, let’s be frank, man-to-man: Not your best performance. Yes, we all thought we’d walk over Johnny Foreigner today, so it was disappointing, frankly; I’m sure you’re all feeling a bit down. The fans are glum, out there, too--they’ve paid good money, etc. And far be it from me, a petrol station owner–and Exeter fan, too boot; come on you Grecians!–to pretend I know more about football than anyone else in the room. But I think if we break the game down, player by player, performance by performance, we might be able to get some perspective on what just happened out there. Are you with me? I said, ARE YOU WITH ME?

Alright then, let’s start at the back, and let me say straight off: Robert Green? Fantastic day for you I thought. David James, no calamaties there, nice performance – you sang the national anthem with gusto.  Now, Glen Johnson, right back–not really your position, I know ... what, it IS your position? OK then, erm, I liked your ... hair. Granted, that look is not for everyone–and lord knows it’d be beyond me since the petrol station fire–but. Now, Jamie Carragher, pal, were you having a stroke? You went very red after about five minutes and basically stayed that way for the rest of the game. A lot of us in the ground thought you might actually burst into flames. I’ve been on fire, Jamie, and I can tell you it hurts. Our hearts were with you.

Former captain Terry, I thought you did well. I know you took a kick to the goolies in the first half, but you seemed to run it off. I’m sure lots of ladies held their breath, and I don’t just mean when having to kiss your ugly mug! Just kidding, John; chin up; she never loved you anyway. Ashley ... Ashley ... ASHLEY COLE! You had that half chance early on when you cut in from the left, remember? Did you run out of ideas, dear? It seemed that way; but we know you’re not awash with intellect in any case, so to you we say, LMFAO.

Now, midfield, listen up! Not sure the sprinkler system of glory quite went off on your heads like it did me that fateful day the Unleaded ignited, but in any case. Gareth Barry, good to have you back. I don’t mean this unkindly, but you’re a limited player, aren’t you? You seem to run sideways like a crab, you’re so left-footed. Fat Frankie Lampard. You could have scored first half, couldn’t you? But you did hold your head affectingly right after, and I know a bit about holding one’s head in pain. Sorry you got substituted straight afterwards ... What, you stayed for the full 90? Oh.

Now, we turn to Stevie. Stevie Gerrard–you had those incredible three and a half minutes against the Americans, and since then? You really haven’t quite set the tournament on fire, have you, like that cigarette someone dropped by the pump as I was filling a Cortina? Your hearts set on Italy or Spain, is it? Have you considered Exeter instead? It gets quite warm in July, especially if your head’s on fire.

Since my accident, friends have told me I’m an inspiration, laughing through adversity, and I have to say, Emile Heskey, that I think that means you and I have a lot in common. How we laughed when, aflame that fateful morning, I quipped, ‘This’ll make me even more hot headed!’ I was reminded of that today when you tried to dribble the ball early second half, only to be surprised to find yourself dealing with a spherical object on grass. How we laughed indeed! I realize you’re not getting much help from those wee wingers, Shaun Lennon and Aaron Wright Phillips-Head Screwdriver, and I’m surprised–I would have thought that given how small they are the altitude wouldn’t have affected them as much as, say, Peter Shit-It's-Cold-Up-Here Crouch, the human asparagus.

Which brings me to Wazza. Oh, Wazza! As was once said to your Manchester United predecessor Georgie Best, caught as he had been in a hotel room, with naked supermodels drenched in champagne cavorting all around him, "Where did it all go wrong?"  Wayne, I was disappointed to hear that as you walked off the field you yelled into a camera, "Nice to see your own fans booing you. If that's what loyal support is  ... for fuck's sake."  We aren't your fans, Wayne--we were booing you because you play for United, and because you're talented. Bless.

Where to go from here? Well, let me say this: I was once fully engaged by flame at a Barnstaple petrol station, and as I frantically stuck my head in that little windshield-cleaning bucket thingy, and screamed "Damn you, BP!," Mrs. Bartholomew spoke the truest words I’ve ever heard.  "Alan," she said, smacking the last flame off my crimson pate, "Alan, they've never heard of you." That’s what I learned that terrible day–you can scream and shout and live and die by every missed pass and every passionless display and every overpaid Premiership player and every overpaid gas company executive and every fucked up river and sea and ocean and forest, but in the end? They’ve never heard of me, they’ve never heard of any of us. They don’t care. They’ve never heard of you.

Well, now they have.  Now, you have.