An extract from My Favourite Year and a photo of me with the other contributors. Sitting between one man who was played in a film by Hugh Grant and another who was played by Colin Firth, I look like I've come from a painting and decorating job, My Favourite Year came out more than twenty years ago, so it is probably about time I thanked Simon Chapman for the Portsmouth story. Thank you, Simon.
Because I was broke and living in London, I only went to away games. I travelled on my own. This made me a prime target for Lone Lunatics (Teesside Branch). In America a Lone Lunatic would likely come armed with a 9mm automatic and a celebrity’s address. In England he is armed with either: a) a pair of tattooed forearms and a garish necklace of lovebites, or b) a copy of The Big Boy’s Book of Every Football Fact in the World. Ever which he has memorized from cover to cover, and a carrier bag.
Lone Lunatic A stalks his prey on station platforms. He relies on his intimidating appearance to cow you into becoming his companion for the day. As you watch him lurching towards you, you will yourself to run, but you are powerless to move – mesmerized by the rhythmic swish of his knuckles on the tarmac.
Loonie B prefers to strike when you are cornered in a railway carriage window seat. He slips in beside you, sniffing and giving off an odour of burgers and Biactol. He has cut off your line of retreat. You are trapped. Shoving him out of the way is impossible – he is wearing so much man-made fibre the static he produces could power an arc welder; touching him would be like jabbing a wet finger in a plug socket. He rummages in his carrier bag and pulls out his packed lunch. This consists of Wonderloaf and meatpaste sandwiches. Meatpaste is made from the off-cuts rejected by dog food manufacturers because they smell too bad.
Once at your destination Lone Lunatic B leads you on a five-mile trek to a pub where you can drink cask conditioned ale so authentic it has splinters in it. Why do you go with him? Why don’t you flee? Because he has broken your spirit. He has subjected you to the merciless mental torture of interrupting everything you say in order to correct you: actually it was after seventeen and a half minutes; actually it was John Mahoney; actually it was St Andrew’s.
Lone Lunatic A on the other hand drags you into the roughest pub he can find within 100 yards of the home end and unzips his jacket to reveal a t-shirt that says ‘Birds, Booze and Boro’.
‘Lot of Portsmouth Fans in here,’ you whisper nervously.
'Oh aye,' the Loonie booms in response, 'I had a fucking good barney when I come in last year.'