Anorak News | The Bench Markers

The Bench Markers

by | 15th, August 2005

‘WHAT is it about seeing a five-year-old boy in the full Manchester united kit walking along a Dorset beach that makes me want to go up to him and laugh in his face.

‘I was there’

Clearly, I am a danger to children at large, and it is inevitable that this piece will end up on the desk of some Government wonk who will then spend the better part of their life dreaming up a law to have me deported.

And while I am being watched, I’d like it on the record that whenever Manchester United play Chelsea this season, I shall, as an Arsenal supporter, want the game to end in a 22-man hand-bagging leading to the deduction of points from each team’s tally. Or, better yet, they’ll be banned from ever playing again, or relegated.

But back to the opening point about those little shirts. You say that the real person to direct my mocking stare at is the kid’s dad. He bought the thing and surely was instrumental in choosing that kit from the myriad coloured football tops that hang in sports shops.

And if dad is also wearing a piece of Man Utd merchandise, I’d agree. He is clearly inadequate in many areas of his life and has a desperate need to look rich (or, given the club’s post-Glazer condition, impressively in debt), popular and successful.

Only, dad is not always at fault. Children know that they want. And they will nag until they get it. And if that means them having a United kit that little Wayne can live in for the entire summer, then it’s a cheap wardrobe acquired with ease. And so much the more understandable if dad’s teenage daughter wants one too.

The lad wants to fit in, to be associated with the winners, the biggest, the flashiest and the wealthiest.

And it’s a process that has led to a sharp increase in the sightings of little boys in Chelsea tops. A few years back what Chelsea fans there were wore their colours inked on their low sloping foreheads. A couple of hundred million pounds later, and there are a sea of thousands of boys in deep blue shirts.

And it’s not just the fans who want to be part of the best gang. Just look at Shaun Wright-Phillips. Like all those other little desperados clad in the kit of the champions, Wright-Phillips has swapped a regular place in Manchester City’s first team and the adulation of their fans for a bit part on the Chelsea bench.

He’ll tell you he went to Chelsea to win things. But how many games does he really think he’ll play in this season’s campaign, let alone start in? Five? Ten? Twenty? A key part of the Carling Cup run? And then how many of these games will be vital must-win occasions?

If Chelsea do win some silver this season, then Wright-Phillips will have played a part similar to that boy who wears the shirt of his favourite team. His is a support act. His team wins the Cup, he brags to his mates and shows everyone his medals, but knows deep down that he was never really involved. Not really.

Sure he’ll be hideously rich, and be able to talk fast cars and yachts with team-mate Joe Cole and Manchester United’s Alan Smith, but when talk turns to football, the conversation will sound like those little kids in their replica kits all grown up talking about the time Chelsea won the big one.

“I was there,” Wright-Phillips will say. “I was on the bench…and I’ve got the kit prove it…”’

Posted: 15th, August 2005 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink