Saturday, 28 February 2009

I Envy Spurs' Day Out At The Wee-Wee Cup

Spurs fans shouldn't bother watching their team dismantled by United's kids. If that sounds bitter, yes, it is because I'm jealous
By Russell Brand

It's the Carling Cup final, a competition as weak as the lager it promotes. A tournament so insignificant that Tottenham are able to muster up enough consecutive victories to reach its climax. My mate Mick supports the "Mighty Spurs" and will be going with his son Yiodis (they're Greek and Mick's full name actually has enough syllables to fill this page) to see Spurs take on Manchester United. Will it become a cherished memory of a Wembley upset? Or a day where they share in defeat and console each other that it was "a lovely day out".

I reject the "lovely day out" philosophy; failure pains me. I don't enjoy watching West Ham lose, I'd rather not go. On days where I've debated attendance then declined I feel strangely comforted when I learn that we lost. "Good," I think, "I saved myself the aggravation."

Witness, for example, the fans who travelled to the Riverside this week to see West Ham capitulate before Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round, I would've resented that if I'd been there.

If I'd been stood in that cold midweek monument to the decline of England's premier domestic Cup, watching the one remaining narrative thread of our season being jizzed out like grey sperm into the drab hankie of the fifth round I wouldn't turn to my companion and say "well, that was a lovely day out". I'd probably weep, or worse, begin the introspective dig through the flaccid tendrils of wasted hope which must be discarded to cope with yet another loss.

Dismantling dreams in the face of the corporeal is an exercise in bereavement. The realities we envisage but do not live leave tearful traces in our memory of what never was. Frankly I regret watching it on the telly, it was obvious we would lose.

Boro typically do well in cup competitions and in spite of a Hammers victory against them in the 2006 semi-final I intuitively knew that we'd be knocked out on Wednesday. Well not intuitively, rationally because I'd already made tentative plans to watch the quarter-final tie against Everton should West Ham triumph.

I've got a couple of friends who follow the Toffees and I allowed myself to indulge in the reckless fantasy of speculating beyond the game in hand.

Any manager will tell you that's foolish. "We're taking it one game at a time," they say - and they don't mean the next game but one, they mean the game directly in front of them.

You'll never hear a manager's adrenalised pontifications on what the future holds, well not now Kevin Keegan's resigned. By contemplating a trip to Goodison Park I was not only counting my chickens before my eggs had hatched, I was naming the chickens and signing them up for university.

Well now those eggs will never hatch, they're barren, brittle ova of nothing. In fact, worse than that, they're them eggs where there's a spot of blood in the yoke. Yuk! A tiny scarlet speck of unfulfilled potential.

How can Spurs fans be excited about winning the warm wee-wee trophy? They won it last year and look at subsequent events: boomerang transfers, sackings and disillusionment. They should refuse to attend or just send mascots, that's what United will do; field a team of children and cuddly twerps in foam suits and they'll still stuff the cockerels of north London. Mick and Yiodis are countenancing a day where their side is laid waste by toddlers and cartoon red devils and paying good money for the privilege.

I suppose all this sounds rather splenetic. Well yes, that's because I do feel a bit jealous and the more I decry it the more a shot at a trophy, any trophy, sounds inspiring. Perhaps we should invent something that West Ham can win: "most rapidly balding manger" for Gianfranco Zola, who is vehemently adhering to the cliche of the stress-ridden gaffer by ageing a generation in three months like some half-arsed, lottery-funded parody of Benjamin Button.

Yes, a trophy of that nature may seem hollow and, to a point, in bad taste, but at least it would be a victory, something to cling to, a marker of the passing days and our inevitable, unremarkable trudge towards the grave. Not to mention "a lovely day out".

Guardian column

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