Saturday, 10 March 2007

Tony Cottee's Call

Why Tony Cottee's call has left me in a dither
By Russell Brand

West Ham 3 Tottenham 4. Ultimately it becomes about numbers. 4-3. Away goals four, home goals three . But of course in reality there's so much more than numbers. Emotions for a start.

I've not been moved so close to tears by a football match since Italia 90 when England lost to Germany on penalties and I was a 15-year-old schoolboy, a hormonal mess and a little bit overweight. Football was a motif for everything that I wasn't: masculine, proud, strong, inclusive.

After Spurs' fourth goal I ran the mental program that one occasionally must to defend oneself against the horrors of being a West Ham, or indeed an England, fan. Right, that's it, I'm just not going to pay attention to football any more. I shan't get seduced by it. It is not a healthy pursuit for a man as emotionally volatile as me.

Regular readers of this column will remember that I said in plain black and white that Spurs would best West Ham.

I had already accepted that we were going to lose that game and yet how it hurt when it actually happened. Cruel, cruel football seduced me once more into hoping that victory was possible . After Mark Noble's brilliant first goal, assisted by the unbelievable Carlos T evez, a flicker of optimism arose within me.

But like the battered wife chained by love to her abusive partner but unable to walk away, Noble's first goal hooked me . When Tevez scored from a free kick I was in love all over again and West Ham were forgiven for the previous five defeats.

Tevez's goal was the realisation of hours of tireless, dogged running. He deserved it more than anyone.

When he scored and West Ham went 2-0 up, all 30,000 West Ham fans were as thrilled as Carlos himself as he pulled off his top to reveal his disgustingly fit little torso. Then, in one of the best post-goal celebrations of all time, he hurled himself into the Dr Martens Stand where I was stood, causing the kind of giddy euphoria that only the condemned can truly feel.

In that brief moment of reprieve CT was lost in a sea of team-mates who accumulated around him like a beard of bees concealing the chin of a loon.

After the interval West Ham conceded a needless penalty and who should score but arch foe Jermain Defoe. I always worry that I'll meet someone like JD, Frank Lampard, Paul Ince or some other old boy that didn't leave under the best of circumstances and my natural adulation of sportsmen will overcome my filial loyalties to the club. I worry I'll end up grinning and hugging them, forgetting that it will forever sour me in the minds of the people who sit next to me in Upton Park.

Then Spurs equalised and I swear I thought, bring on Bobby Zamora. I heard the bloke behind me say there is no one on the bench to bring on, but I thought Bobby would score against Spurs . Bring him on against his old club. Minutes later Z did come on - and before you know it the score was 3-2.

At this moment the release of tension was incredible. I haven't been to a football match for a very long time that has ascended (or descended, depending on your perspective) to such levels.

But Spurs equalised and then Spurs scored again. I sat with a belly full of lead porridge in my guts and a head full of splintered dreams that almost emerged as tears.

The only thing that has dragged me from this defeated slumber is an answerphone message from Tony Cottee.

I have met a number of famous people but it was still extraordinary and absurd to hear the words "Hello Russell, this is Tony Cottee. Can you give me a call regarding a charity football match?".

He went on to tell me that West Ham's team of 1986 - my favourite side, incidentally - would be involved. I gulped and gasped. Tony Cottee is inviting me to take part in a football match at Upton Park against Frank McAvennie, Alan Dickens and perhaps even Alan Devonshire (although he didn't mention that name in the message). It could possibly be the greatest moment of my life.

"I don't know if you play football, Russell, but I was wondering if you'd like to join this match," said Tony. Well, in short, Tony, I don't play football. I am the worst footballer on this planet. The sight of my gangly, ridiculous body simpering across the hallowed turf like something from a Tim Burton cartoon is a spectacle too ghastly to contemplate. I'm afraid to hit the ball, because of a) headaches and b) possible damage to hairstyle.

What am I going to say to Tony Cottee? I can't say no to an opportunity like this. What shall I do? However, given some of the games I've been treated to at that ground lately, perhaps I could do a lot worse than pulling on the claret and blue and standing up to face the heelers of the past.

Gurardian column

No comments:


Copyright 2007 ID Media Inc, All Right Reserved. Crafted by Nurudin Jauhari