Monday, March 02, 2009


(Another piece from Horsley's Over the Wall magazine)

As far as football is concerned, everything began to go wrong for me around the age of nine.

We had just started playing football at school and had to provide our own boots. While my friends all turned up in flashy black and white footwear, newly available in the shops and known as Continentals, my mum decided to buy me a good, solid pair of brown leather boots of a style resembling a miner's boot with leather studs nailed to the bottom.

It was not long at all before I became aware that my boots had a name. My boots – as my friends were quick to point out – were of a type known as Old English. Just the job for kicking over dustbins, but distinctly limited when fancy footwork was called for.

For a while I was tolerated in the team for the knack I had of crippling the opposition. One nifty kick to the shins with my Old English was sufficient to bring the first-aid box out. But there was no getting away from it; from the day my mum bought me those boots my footballing days were doomed.

And worse than that: I failed somehow to develop into a normal, healthy football supporter.

Ask the football enthusiast to explain the meaning of life and you'll get a clear, concise and direct answer. Ask me the same question and I'd be forced to admit to you that I'm not absolutely sure. Shameful, I know - but true.

Many's the time I have envied my football-supporting friends. They live on an exhilarating rollercoaster of emotional extremes. For them, every winter Saturday culminates in either ecstatic happiness or bleak despair – whereas for me, one Saturday is very much like the next.

No, there's no escaping it: the person who is indifferent to football is a figure to be pitied.

So mums (and dads), when you take your child to buy their first pair of football boots, buy them the Mizuna Morelia - hand-stitched from genuine kangaroo leather and endorsed by some of the world's top goal-scorers. They may cost as much as a weekend for two in Paris but it's a small price to pay for your child's psychological wellbeing.