Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Jefferson's Lost Paragon

Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you

I raised a toast and drank to auld acquaintance on Tuesday, writes Frank Keating in this morning's Guardian. There was a bitter taste to it, of course, because it would – should – have been Bobby Moore's 70th birthday had cancer not so wretchedly cut him down at 51, in 1993.

Had he made his three-score-and-10, ponders Keating, I wonder what the great, good fellow would have thought about his lovely uncomplicated game becoming, in the meantime, so angry and malevolent with itself; or how the most valorous of all England captains viewed the sulkily tedious machinations over the captaincy of Signor Capello's current ragbag squad. I fancy an incredulous, despairing little smile would be playing around Bob's lips, writes Keating, as it usually did whenever provocatively posturing twerps squared up to strike airs and attitudes.

Fond, faraway memories of Moore can at least help restore one's faith in big-time football and its players. Moore's beguiling, unhurried, clean-cut skills on the field are taken as read and celebrated by history, and the longer he has been gone the more lustrous shines the legend for chivalrous goodness and constancy, the more hallowed and undying his niche in sport's hall of fame.

In the week a new, bold young Masters champion has been anointed Keating is reminded of a piece he never tires of quoting by Alistair Cooke, about another Bobby, another courtly nonpareil, Bobby Jones, who inspired the very foundation of the Masters at Augusta in 1934. The paragraph holds luminously good still for Bobby Moore:

"What we talk about here is not the hero as sportsman, but that something which a civilised community hungered for and found: the best performer in the world who was also hero as human being, the gentle, wholly self-sufficient male. Jefferson's lost paragon: the wise innocent."

How bemused then Moore would have been to hear the news that Benni McCarthy has left his beloved West Ham after having his contract terminated by mutual consent. McCarthy struggled to make an impact at Upton Park, failing to score in his 14 appearances after joining from Blackburn at the end of last winter's transfer window for a fee in the region of £2.2m. According to conflicting reports, the South African will walk away with a sum somewhere between £1.5million-£2million after agreeing to the deal. The striker, 33, would have received a further £2.3m if he had opted to sit out his £38,000-a-week contract until it expired in June 2012.

A statement on the club website,, read: "West Ham United have mutually agreed with Benni McCarthy to part company with immediate effect." It continued: "The club would like to wish Benni the best for the future." McCarthy was left out of the Hammers' 25-man Barclays Premier League squad for the second half of this season following the transfer-window signings of Robbie Keane and Demba Ba. The club had initially tried to send him out on loan in January but Championship sides were put off by his high wages. He was also fined £200,000 after failing to adhere to a weight-loss regime. An insider with an obvious gift for litotic understatement stated: "Benni has been a bit of a disaster. He hasn't been involved in the matchday squad for a long time and it's not really worked out."

How incongruous would Moore have found a situation where gross professional incompetance can yield hyperbolic pecuniary reward? Similarly, how bewildered would the decorous legend have been by the news Carlton Cole is to contest his FA charge for improper conduct following his Twitter 'race' jokes. The West Ham striker caused controversy after making ill-advised immigration quips about the Ghana fans at Wembley. He posted several comments during England's 1-1 draw in the friendly match - all of which he then hastily removed after he was inundated with criticism and complaints from a large section of his followers.

Firstly, Cole wrote: 'Immigration has surrounded the wembley premises! I knew it was a trap! Hahahaha' The England international, who wasn't involved in the game, then posted: 'The only way to get out safely is to wear an england jersey and paint your face w/ the St. George's'flag!' Realising that his comments were causing offence, Cole tweeted: 'To my ghanian brothers dont take it so seriously, its just jokes! Youve played well! Done africa proud!' However, his jokes didn't stop there as he followed it by writing: 'Next friendly is gonna be Poland then Albania, government think their sly! I see it a mile away! Haha' Responding to the complaints from fellow Twitter users, he then posted: 'Why are there so many sensitive people out there! it was a joke & its not even racist!'

The West Ham striker has until 6pm tonight to respond to the charge and sources close to Cole last night claimed the centre forward would respond before this evening's deadline. West Ham officials have reminded Hammers players of their responsibilities when they use Twitter and other social networking websites. Lord Herman Ouseley, head of Kick It Out, football's equality and inclusion campaign, said apparently harmless comments could cause offence. Ouseley said: "We continually urge the responsible use of mediums such as Twitter, particularly due to their increasing accessibility and popularity. "What can seem like harmless comments can be deemed offensive by others and lead to unwittingly reinforcing negative stereotyping, including racist ones. We will work with all our partners to ensure that education on what is and isn't unacceptable behaviour, is ongoing."

Elsewhere, West Ham co-owner David Gold is planning to watch their home game against Aston Villa on Saturday, his first outing to Upton Park since he recovered from cholangitis and septicaemia. In unrelated news, Blackpool's Charlie Adam has revealed he is flattered by his PFA nomination - but has backed West Ham's Scott Parker to win it. The Blackpool midfielder said: ‘I gave my vote to Scott because he’s been terrific all season.’ At last, a sentiment that Bobby Moore would recognise.

Which brings us back to Frank Keating, who was blessed as well as lucky in that the last task of his youthful flibbertigibbet career with Independent Television was at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, as Moore's "minder" when he was signed to join our commentary team after England's calamitous quarter-final defeat against West Germany in León.

It could only be called a dream assignment for we were both of an age and he was inevitably the most matily congenial, humorous and wise of comrades, recalls Keating. Minding Moore in Mexico remains one of the most memorable fortnights of his life. English football's tragically lost paragon would have been 70 on Tuesday, he concludes, truly an immortal to stir the nostalgia and to give thanks for on egregious days such as these.

1 comment:

Hank said...

Another beautifully written little piece. Bobby is a true legend.


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