Throwaway remark costs me dear
I had a torrid weekend. What I thought was a throwaway comment on the Focus sofa has left me in all sorts of trouble with the family. Let me explain. After talking to Gary Speed and Lawro about the Sheffield derby, I then turned to Gary and uttered these words... "Well, good luck to Sheffield United for the rest of the season".
When I got home my wife - Yorkshire's finest and a Sheffield Wednesday fan - held her hands up and said "Good luck to Sheffield United?" I logged on to Facebook and there was Auntie Sally complaining that I had let down the family. My father-in-law has gone very quiet, my best mate from university is disgusted and I think Uncle Terry is planning revenge. I had forgotten how many of my inner circle are solid Hillsborough rock.
The good thing about that comment is that it deflected some of the attention away from the shirt that I chose to wear on the programme. It always amazes me how many people love to comment about clothing. When I used to work on North West Tonight, I wore a pair of beige shoes with a black suit. I'll be honest, they weren't the best clogs in the world and they currently reside in the loft. But two days after the show I got a letter from a viewer who dissected my dress sense, insulted the beige beauties and even sent a picture of what he thought was a good look. The shot was of him wearing shell-suit bottoms tucked into ice-white socks accompanied by a polo shirt and tasty gold chain. I sent the picture back commenting that my beige shoes were the least of his worries.
I would say that probably 40 people have talked to me about the show since Saturday and about 38 have mentioned the shirt. I don't think Gary's suggestion he wear my shirt while running the London Marathon helped my cause much! When I picked it out of the wardrobe I heard a little voice saying: "Put the shirt away, you gibbon, it's only going to cause grief." But then a more powerful voice reminded me that "plain shirts are for wimps". You might be pleased to hear that my two-year old daughter spilt yoghurt on the fella on Saturday afternoon and it has been sidelined for a few months. Still, it is scheduled to make a return in 2010.
Anyway... enough on the shirt. Over the weekend, I noticed that our video piece looking behind the scenes at Arsenal proved to be very popular with punters. I was certainly amazed by the lavish nature of the dressing room at the Emirates. The chrome seat in the bath alone probably cost more than the tax bill currently hanging over Accrington Stanley.
Listening to Martin Keown talk about the changes Arsene Wenger has made at the club reminded me of a visit to Bolton's training ground at Euxton - just off the M61. I think it was a few months after Sam Allardyce had taken over. Phil Brown was his number two at the time and when we arrived for our interviews the players were all out on the pitch doing a bit of tai-chi. There wasn't a ball in sight and the kitman walked past us and said: "It's crazy isn't it? Whatever Wenger does, we do!"
It seems that the influence of Monsieur Wenger spreads much further then a small corner of North London. I know there are plenty of other innovators but I wonder how different the Premier League would have been had he never come along.
Wenger has had a hand in everything at Arsenal. There was once a pillar in the new dressing room which the boss had removed because it affected his team talks. He also came up with the idea to arrange the seats in horseshoe shape. Even the stadium has the Frenchman's stamp on it. On Wenger's insistence, there are huge cut-out sections in each corner that have been filled with glass, ensuring the pitch won't suffer from the lack of sun that causes so many problems at other big stadiums. And it clearly doesn't. Arsenal's carpet has been voted the best pitch in the country for the past four seasons!
It was fascinating to listen to Martin reminisce about the old times at Arsenal, but I still regret that he didn't want to replicate his dance for us. If you didn't watch the programme, the legend goes that before a home game Martin would be encouraged to inspire the troops with some moves. Michael Jackson would be on the ghetto blaster and Keown would go for it on the marble floor with his red boots on. I have never seen it - and I doubt I ever will - but Lee Dixon's description of it as "perhaps the most remarkable sequence of movements in history" makes you wonder exactly what sort of shapes Keown can throw. We can but dream.