POSSIBLY, some of you are not interested in football. Fear not, for I am not – lots of nots here, are there not? – about to discuss the increasingly stupid game itself, in which every other goal is chalked off because of a nasal hair being offside and, rather than booting the ball up the park as they did in the good old days, the defenders and, worse still, the handless keeper “pass it out from the back”, faffing about and almost conceding goals, before – you guessed it – booting the ball up the park.

No sphere of this writer’s muddled life is more idiotic than football. Apart from the columns, obviously. But, this week, your bewildered host will lecture you about the culture surrounding the game, which has become increasingly mental.

Sometimes, my closest friends say to me: “Are you going to the game, Ralph, if that is your name?” And I say: “No.” And they say: “How no?’” And I say: “Because I cannot sing.”

It’s a requirement nowadays, where singing has become more important than the actual ball-fondling on the park (wish I wouldn’t call it a park; it’s a pitch; damned lower-class patois again). This is particularly bad in Scotland, where interviewers would say to baffled, victorious, foreign managers after European games: “Never mind the score, whit aboot a’ the singin’, eh?”

Funnily enough, when I did go to games, no-one around me sang. I fear I exerted a forbidding influence. Actually, I was lucky if anyone even sat next to me at all. At the cup final in 2016, the only empty seats were near me. It was the same when I had to join the herd on buses. The last empty seat was always next to me. Sometimes, people would see it and still prefer to stand. Maybe it was all the drooling.

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Football nowadays is all about singing, chanting and fireworks. It never used to be like this. Even if there were a racket from the terraces, commentators would ignore it. No-one talked about an “atmosphere”. It was uncouth.

Today, though, “atmosphere” has descended into a lot of droning and comically amateurish drumming by “ultras”, teenage boys dressed in black hoodies. It’s not even organic any more. It’s choreographed.

Worse still, these soft-brained saps have political views, expressed via a medium even worse than Twittex, or whatever it’s called now: a message squeezed onto a banner. I have complained before about ordinary people having political opinions. They’re not qualified. They never had opinions in the good old days or, if they did, kept them to themselves for fear of sounding stupid.

No such fear nowadays. Today, ordinary people’s opinions are a major threat to our democracy. And they don’t come any more ordinary than football fans. Back in the 1950s, no-one sang or took political banners to games. When a goal was scored, smiling chaps threw their hats in the air to celebrate. Afterwards, they shook hands with the other fellows saying: “Well played, sir. Your victory was well deserved.”

Is it too much to ask for a return to such civility and decency? I’m getting a voice in my earpiece: “Aye, it is. You’ve said your piece, now gie’s peace and shut up.” Wish I’d kept my stupid opinion to myself now.

Bath time

LIKE most top executives, I’m far too busy to wait for a bath to fill up. Haven’t had one in years. Yet I know that, pre-bedtime, it’s the best cure for insomnia going. The caveat is that, like every “cure”, as soon as Jehovah the Merciless gets to hear about it, it doesn’t work a second time.

But it’s worth a shot one time if you’re desperate, or have an important appointment next day (for which the Lord usually blesses you with insomnia).  This finding has been borne out by researchers at Kyushu University in yonder Japan, who also say the optimum time for staying in is 15 minutes. That’s quarter of an hour: almost a year. A bath is so last century, though. It belongs back in the past, when people had shorter lives and more time. 

Machine headers

THE coding is on the wall for the human race. That’s how one of Britain’s top science journals described claims that we’ve possibly 100 years left before artificial intelligence takes over as top banana on the planet. The Daily Star was responding to the view of Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, who added: “If this happens, our species would have been just a brief interlude in Earth’s history before the machines take over.”

A brief interlude: the allusion suggests that, in football terms, we’re already well into extra time. But will anything change?  If the machines are programmed by the last dying humans for football, they’ll still faff around with the ball at the back, feign injury and waste time, while on the terraces black-clad droids drone on and on to the beat of a drum machine, as a perfectly good goal is chalked off by the soulless technology known as VAR because of an antenna being offside.

Stay up and don’t get down Who didn’t pull an all-nighter when young? In my case it was sitting up discussing philosophy. In yours probably dancing and inebriation. Now they’re saying all-nighters can reverse depression. Researchers in Seattle found it was due to dopamine an’ that. Alas, the effect only lasts days. Then reality exerts its grim hold.

Evil wobblies

Now the Lord is sending jellyfish to afflict us. The Marine Conservation Society reports record sightings. Listen to the beasts’ evil names: Mauve Stinger, By the Wind Sailor, Portugese Man o’ War. Decent ratepayers: remain on dry land at all times. Wild swim at your peril.

Bad hair

Baldies have it easy. Your columnist’s hair requires gel, nets and kirby grips to control it. Now we learn one in five citizens worries about their hair. A Shark poll says 6% cancel plans to go out because of it. Silly: just wear a woolly bob hat. No-one in the restaurant or theatre will notice.


People took selfies instead of helping a drowning man screaming for help in the River Ouse in yonder York. This was despite life rings being available nearby. Luckily, the man was saved by police, who issued a statement saying they were “concerned” by the bystanders’ behaviour. O tempora, o mores.

Hug addicts

One in five adults snuggles up with a teddy in bed. Sleep experts Emma found Scots among those most guilty. But cuddling’s no cause for shame. It’s spreading exponentially, yea, even unto the animal world. The lion has not yet lain down with the lamb, but it has, on YouTube, with the dog and cat. Cuddling’s the antidote to evil.