Saturday, 19 December 2015


As the runners entered the crucial phase of an Olympic middle-distance race the former BBC commentator David Coleman was given to gurgling "Oh my word … and has he gone too early?" Viewers often feared that Coleman himself had gone too early, reaching a pitch of excitement in the final curve of major finals that seemed unsustainable without access to helium. Yet somehow, just when you thought he was going to yodel his lungs out through his nostrils and let the final 50 metres pass in blissful silence, the great man found something extra. Coleman was a commentator whose hysteria knob went up to 11, and likely way beyond that.

This week I found myself wondering if Carlos Tevez hasn't gone too early. The Man City striker was wearing a fleece snood back in the balmy days of mid-November. Given that the striker has been here for long enough to know that this is not the coldest time of year in the UK, it was a sartorial decision that if nothing else proved that in Argentina they have no equivalent of the popular English phrase, "You want to take that off, or you won't feel the benefit".

It has been remarked that the Argentinian forward is no oil painting, though only by those who have never studied the work of Pieter Bruegel. Take a peek at the Flemish artist's festive masterpiece, The Massacre of the Innocents, if you don't believe me. Look, there's Carlos in the far right foreground, apparently trying to prise a baby out of the arms of Peter Beardsley and Sally Gunnell.

Fittingly, the snood is by all accounts the name given to a type of cowl once popular in the middle ages. It is clearly not the garment for everyone, but since Carlos has the mien of a medieval swine-gelder he carries it off quite splendidly.

Unfortunately in professional football trends spread quicker than athlete's foot at a toe-wrestling championships. Faddism is rampant in Premier League dressing rooms. Fifteen years ago, for example, there was not a striker in the land who did not don a pair of thigh-hugging cycling shorts. They were so ubiquitous the FA even had to legislate on their colour. The lycra trunks were supposed to guard against hamstring strains, though the main effect was surely psychological. They suggested dynamic bursts of speed even where none existed: the football equivalent of the go-faster stripes youths used to apply to the side of their Austin Allegros. Even the Middlesbrough striker Paul Wilkinson wore them and, whatever his many other fine qualities, Wilko was so slow he'd have needed a quad bike to round up the stock on a snail farm.

Yet despite the alleged protection they offered against injury, where are cycling shorts now? Mouldering in the back of the changing-room lockers with the peroxide bottles and those strips of sticking plaster players used to wear across their hooters apparently to increase oxygen intake.
As a result of this insatiable desire among his peers to fit in and keep up, Tevez has already been joined in his snoodiness by Marouane Chamakh and Emmanuel Adebayor. In current climatic conditions many more are bound to follow in their swaddled wake. The question is, if the Argentinian felt the urge for a snood three weeks back, what will he wear now it is genuinely cold – legwarmers, balaclava, jumpsuit?

Certainly, it as well Alan Curbishley is not currently on the scene. A decade ago the then Charlton Athletic manager – a man so mild, if he was cheese he'd be Edam – launched a, for him, unprecedented tirade against modern footballers' reaction to winter: "When you wear woolly hats, gloves and all sorts you cannot play properly," Curbs thundered. And quite right too.

Older readers will recall a time when no footballers dared wear gloves. Even goalkeepers rejected them for fear of mockery. Thirty years ago any child who tried to slip a pair on when taking up a position between the sticks would find the PE teacher sneering: "Oh dear, does the nasty ball sting diddum's ickle-wickle fingers? There, there, baby-boo-boo, here's oo rusk." The games master would then go on sarcastically to posit a future in which a generation of namby-pamby stars would refuse to head the ball unless they were wearing a crash helmet, insist that the floodlights be fitted with heat bulbs and strap hot water bottles to their torsos on frosty afternoons (to judge by his body shape, an approach already adopted by Yakubu Ayegbeni).

As if gloves were not bad enough, many players these days are flagrantly wearing vests under their shirts. For managers of the old school, raised in the harsh environment of, well, the old school, such developments must set alarm bells ringing. They know where it will lead. One minute it's keeping his vest on during games, the next it's a note from mother excusing him from showers because he's going through "that awkward phase".

And now we have the snood. Perhaps it will prove to be an isolated outbreak. Back in the 1970s, the bubble-permed Leicester City maverick Keith Weller decided to fight off the cold by wearing a pair of white tights under his shorts. Nobody followed him. He had gone too early.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.


  1. Seasons greetings Harry and thanks again for a great blog
    Austin Baird

  2. Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year Harry, that piece made me laugh out loud. I remember Keith Weller torturing Boro when he was at Millwall(?).

    All the best like.


    1. Cheers, John. W never seemed to do well against Millwall. One of my first games was a dismal 0-0 against them in the FA Cup.

  3. Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year Harry,welcome to my site to pick some gift for yourself


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