Dressed for success?
I was looking after the kids on Saturday afternoon. After failing miserably to get two-year-old Susie interested in Final Score (despite the comedy of the beach-ball incident) I decided it was time to chuck her and little sister Jess in the pram and head for a tour of the local shops.
We were queuing up for breadsticks in our local shopping emporium and two blokes in front of us - about 35 - were buying the nation's favourite sugary sports drink.
Susie asked me, in an awkwardly loud voice, why the men were wearing shorts. In fact, they were wearing full football kits - one West Ham and the other Chelsea. The subject of their conversation was quite entertaining. They were talking about the aforementioned beach-ball incident, which resulted in Darren Bent's shot taking a wicked deflection and beating Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal. This was the best bit...
West Ham bloke: "Did you hear about that beach-ball thing at Sunderland?"
Chelsea bloke: "I know - Benitez must have been mad. I am sure the referee should have disallowed it!"
West Ham bloke: "I have never seen anything like that before."
Chelsea bloke: "That's nothing. I was playing in a match once and a bloke hit a free kick that was going in before it hit a dog in the face."
At that point in their conversation, I laughed out loud and the two blokes became aware that I was listening in. I explained that I would have loved to have been there for the dog incident. The guy who was playing in the match assured me that the Labrador involved was unhurt and became something of a team mascot.
The conversation moved to their slightly worrying outfits and continued out of the shop. They were on their way to a football kit party where - unsurprisingly - everyone had to wear full kit. Shirts had to be accompanied by the correct shorts and socks. Shin pads were also an essential item.
Everyone who was going all played for the same football team, who had signed a strange pact when they were at school to attend this party every year until one of them turned professional. The West Ham bloke laughed. "Obviously the plan was that these get-togethers should have finished a long time ago, but we'll keep going just in case." It was at this point that I glanced down at their stomachs and wondered if the dream was now well beyond their grasp.
We said our farewells and, as they strolled off to their party, the girls and I tucked into the breadsticks and headed back. As I wandered homeward, I couldn't help thinking that there was a little bit of those blokes in everyone who has ever kicked a ball.
I used to pretend to be Hoddle for hours on end in the back garden and, at one point, even asked my parents to call me 'Glenn'. Thankfully, they declined. Even the hideous Hoddle and Waddle (or was it Glenn and Chris) collaboration on 'Diamond Lights' did little to dent my enthusiasm for the pair.
I was actually a half-decent footballer in my younger years. Much of that was down to the fact that I am now 6ft 6in and stopped growing at about the age of 12. You know how every school team has one massive kid - normally with a beard - who is huge. Well, that was me - without the beard. I was a big unit and defenders were tugging at my shorts while I was heading in goal after goal. Anyone who has played with me beyond the age of 16 will know that I have struggled to maintain the goals-to-games ratio that made me the envy of all young lads at Three Bridges Middle School.
It was in my middle teens that I realised I wasn't going to make it as a professional footballer. There were two incidents which really sealed it. The first took place at Gatwick Airport. I can't remember why I was there, but I remember spotting Glenn Hoddle and his Swindon team-mates in a queue. Quick as a flash, I got a pen and paper and asked for a signature. I was ignored. I had spent the summer pretending to be this bloke and he'd just blanked me and my mate, Pete. Crestfallen and heartbroken, I moved away with my view of professional footballers forever bruised. There was a suggestion, made by my mum later, that perhaps he didn't hear me, but I had been pretty persistent.
The other incident was far more disappointing and including it here will only deepen the wound. Our school team - Hazelwick - were playing in the County Cup final against our fierce local rivals, Thomas Bennett. I think I was about 15 at the time.
Me in my prime. Yep, I know, that's a rugby ball tucked underneath my left arm
I somehow managed to bag two goals in an inspirational 4-2 win. One of them was a tap in from three inches but it was significant moment for all involved. The report of the game made the inside pages of the fabled Crawley Observer that weekend and I sprinted to the shops to get my copy. I flicked through the paper and found the report but to my horror read this:
"The game came to life in the second half with two goals coming from Hazelwick's David Wacker". My heart sank... the biggest moment of my football career and no-one knew it was me! The only good news was that I got off lightly. Our coach, Steve Avery, was gutted to see a quote from a "Mr Ovary". Looking back, those two incidents were the nails in my footballing coffin.
And so we come back to those blokes in their full football kit. Okay, they looked ridiculous, but why let the dream die? I'll be honest, despite the fact I am spectacularly average at football, there is a small part of me that still thinks that if Fabio Capello saw me playing with the rest of the staff in the Football Focus office on a Tuesday, or with my mates from church on a Friday, he would make a mental note: "If Frank Lampard gets a knock between now and the end of the season, that bloke has got a chance of making the plane to South Africa."
I know it's stupid but every now and again when I do something tidy on a football pitch a little voice in my head thinks that Real Madrid, Barcelona or even Crawley Town might have read that report in the Crawley Observer and are still out there looking for David Wacker! It's invariably at that point that my next touch shins the ball out of play.
Friends, I know you feel the same way. Get your kits out and I'll see you next week.