Overseas: a tough place to go


Pleat, whose career took in spells in Nottingham AND Luton, bids to expand his horisons even further with friends

To the mind of David Pleat, Gareth Bale is too young to move to Madrid; at just 24 years of age, naive Gareth has designs on prematurely relinquishing his mother’s bosom and mixing it up in Spain.

“I doubt he’d find it easy. Many have failed when they have moved overseas,” Pleat said, demonstrating a quite exhilarating zest for life.

On this logic Bale would be gambling on the success of his playing career if he moved to Ireland. Pleat imbues ‘overseas’ with a sense of foreboding usually reserved for undiscovered lands, for which pioneering explorers gamble everything on the presence of food, morality and E! TV.

As I said, Bale is 24. To put that in some sort of perspective, at 20 Alexander the Great was the ruler of Macedonia, and at 25, he had created a city in his own name. The Premier League itself is chocker with players who left home as youths in a bid to become professional footballers; as far as intrepid exploration goes, kicking a football in Madrid for a few hours a day is hardly ballsy, and at most ‘a bit different’.

However, Pleat does feel Bale will be old enough… Next year. Agreed – I think we can all agree that the transformation between the 25th and 26th year is the most drastic in a man’s life.

Where the green 24-year-old sees optimism and unbound possibility owing to his being at a physical zenith and possessing an intrinsically positive regard for his fellow man, the 25-year-old sees only sadness and regret, forever hampered by chronic bitterness owing to a gruelling 52 extra weeks of existence. Steep decline in sexual prowess; a plethora of failed marriages; thwarted career ambitions; the unwritten novel; abandoned trips to Thorpe Park – 25 really is the new 40.

To be fair to Pleat, while he doesn’t seem to have spoken a word to Bale and was merely giving the standard ex-pro from-the-bog interview, entirely bereft of considered thought and nuance, one suspects that with his track record he more than any would know the specific differences between a 24 and a 25-year-old.

Having shown such a penchant for the arbitrary one could quite easily imagine the erstwhile Spurs boss losing his rag at things like The 100 Greatest Adverts, The 100 Greatest Football Players, or any other vacuous telly evening hosted by some appalling T4 commodity. He no doubt looks to eat in one of the world’s 100 Greatest Restaurants, lent its name by one of the 100 Greatest Chefs, on the banks of a river in one of 100 Greatest Cities.

This unfounded fixation on age also suggests that he’s one of those who attributes John Terry letting a harmless through-ball roll out of play for a goal kick to experience, and any defender-induced goal to David de Gea’s naivety. Pleat himself is 68, meaning that he wakes up in the morning assured that he knows slightly more about everything than a 67-year-old, but slightly less than someone of 69.

Quite where on the globe he imagines Madrid to reside one can only guess, but I’d imagine it’s a two-and-a-half hour flight from London, which is like going to Newcastle but getting there an hour earlier than you expected. David envisions Gareth walking into the dressing room on his first morning, only to be brutally bombarded with leeks by a Spanish cabal as they taunt him over his pale complexion.

As language is the only means of communicating with our fellow man, Bale would find himself In Crisis sooner rather than later. His 25th birthday in Madrid would turn into an eerily existential affair, what with there being no phone signal on the continent and commercial air travel soon to be rendered illegal. He’ll be sat in a cafe in a deserted Plaza Mayor during the siesta – a cultural habit no one will have been able to communicate to him, or that he’d be able to comprehend even if they had – as a begrudging senorita brings him a magdalena with an unlit candle on top, and the Spanish for “Fuck Off Gareth” written in ornate icing.

That he has already spent a few years plying his trade with Luka Modric seems to have been forgotten by Pleat. After all, the diminutive midfielder is Croatian, and seemingly never spoke a word of English in his time at Spurs – I doubt he’d remember Gareth at all, and one assumes he just buried his head in a suitcase full of fifties whenever he wasn’t playing football.

Perennial wild child Michael Owen also threw his euros into the mix: “Any player going from over here to Spain, it’s a lot different to what you imagine. It’s a slow pace of life. I was in a hotel for six months with a young child. It’s very difficult.”

Buy a house Michael. Just buy a house. Bale comes across as notably more intelligent and grounded than the average Premier League ambassador, and strikes you as the sort of bloke who’s got friends. I can’t think of one group of football fans in the entire world who feel any sort of genuine affection for Michael Owen, so for that reason I’m going to confidently assume no one came over to visit him. Judging by the quote above, even his wife couldn’t be arsed.

Tottenham aren’t playing Champions League football next season, while Real Madrid are. An injury could quite conceivably end Real’s interest in him. It makes absolutely no sense for him to postpone a move away from north London, and if it wasn’t Daniel Levy in charge, one suspects he’d already be there; the prices being quoted sound more than fair. If Levy was 52 he’d understand.


Too Cescy for his shirt


The End… We thought.

I hereby declare war with Spain. Or Catalunya, at least. I don’t need Cameron or Hague’s blessing, and that wimp Hammond would probably be more of a hindrance than a help. It should be eminently winnable for one 100% British man considering their piteous financial state, slothful nature and chronic diving tendencies.

Cesc Fabregas will be the first casualty. Actually, when Cesc is safely on his way down the Styx, I’ll immediately declare the conflict over – cue booze, bunting, ‘Gotcha!’ etc.

I’m sure the basis for this ire is shared across the nation, or at least by anyone who reads newspapers, has adequate broadband, or owns a radio. Media coverage is sure to give this most noble endeavour a double thumbs-up – in the short term at least – as we haven’t had a war people can really get behind for quite some time now, and this way they can indulge their Fab fetish further by spreading the 26-year-old all over the front pages as well the rear. Perhaps his lifeless corpse could be used in a shocking Page 3 twist.

The Fabregas to Man Yoo saga already is quickly catching up with the Fabregas to Barcelona horror for ennui, and one potentially painful irony of the whole hellish narrative is that the midfielder ends up back at the Emirates… Before inevitably bleating about trivial things like: his heart, the Barca DNA that coarses through his veins, his family and… you know, it would just be sort of… I dunno, cool, if I could… go back for a bit – just see people, ya know? Catch up, swig a few cervezas, man. I’ll definitely come back, like, honestly I will.

I don’t doubt it for a minute Cesc, it’s as if you’d never left. The Spaniard is already in our debt to the tune of two summers – I fear he won’t be able to repay a third – and should this speculation resurface in 2014 I may have to turn to rugby. Union. Twickers.

The old maxim that today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper ironically hasn’t found it’s way to Fleet Street, which appears to be shooting itself in the foot royally with its Cesc addiction. No wonder no one’s interested their wares anymore – no matter how beautiful you thought the prose you wouldn’t buy a daily copy of The Great Gatsby; few eyebrows would be raised if distributors of the nation’s dailies started cutting out the consumer middle man and going to straight to chippies.

Now obviously this isn’t entirely Fabregas’s fault – you just wish he’d drop that perpetual on-the-verge-of-tears countenance and openly embrace the concept of fightin’ for ya place – and his sanctioned death is by no means an attack on him, rather a means of securing salvation for us – your classic ends justifying the means scenario. It’s largely United’s.

Barcelona were managerless until their recent appointment (apparently this Martino nobody’s got the gig, another cruel and unforeseen blow to top, top gaffer ‘Arry) and it would have been quite some feat of incompetence had they sold off key assets while conducting the search for Vilanova’s replacement, akin to Darcy informing Liz Bennet that he sold Pemberley while he was wooing her fine self down in that Longbourn, as she alights the carriage to discover that she’s living in a two-up two-down affair some ghastly estate backwater – a full five miles from ‘society’, no less – and may as well be shagging the gamekeeper.

We read this morning that the club have said no, which only prompts idiots nationwide to spout meaningless drivel along the lines of “everyone has their price”. According to ESPN, United are preparing a third bid, which seems staggeringly hubristic. No simply doesn’t mean no in this day and age – a truism I never fail to stand by when chasing maidens round London’s parks.

Barcelona’s repeated rebuttals are falling on deaf ears, so to really nip this at the top of the canopy, Fabregas needs to hold an impromptu iphone conference from the privacy of his own loo, where he implores Moyes to learn that just because his pockets are a little bigger than they used to be he’s still yet to win so much as a raffle in football, and that being at a Big Club doesn’t mean you have to spend money to justify your position. It’s as if Moyes feels he won’t become the manager at Old Trafford in earnest until he’s splashed out a load of zeros on some foreigner with a lovely tan. Hopefully Cesc’s oration will be carried out in English (everyone speaks English) so that the fourth estate don’t decide to lose the “Fabregas Says Spanish Words” scoop somewhere in the culture section.

At a human level – irrelevant, I know – one has to question the Manchester club’s decision to relentlessly bang down the doors of a club whose former manager was rendered redundant due to cancer, which seemed to have been doomed to poor taste from the off…

He’ll probably go there now.


Apparently some bird’s had a baby, which we’re being told to believe is Our William’s. My personal opinion is that we’ll have to wait until we know the sprog’s hair colour before rushing to judgement, as many sages seemed to do after the ‘Harry is Ginger = It’s Hewitt’s’ pub theory propagated in the Eighties.

Either way, with his nominal dad an ardent Villan and myself a salt of the earth lager-drinking tax payer, I fully expect the nameless Royal to abide by the status quo and adopt his father’s choice of team. Nothing would do more for ensuring the longevity of the Windsor dynasty than releasing photos of the lad in a ‘N’Zgobia’ adorned away shirt, or naming him Stiliyan, or perhaps, when he’s of suitable age, he could tweet photos of himself on the bus, larger-ed up to eyeballs with the boys, “#fuckingM6” etc.

But let’s face it, the poor sod will probably end up at as a perennial guest of honour in JT’s depraved box at Stamford Bridge, while the rambunctuous host ribs him about his handsome mother, and he is driven to question the metaphysical implications of somewhere called Birmingham.


This summer’s runner-up saga is unquestionably Our Wayne to everyone’s favourite community club Chelsea, which comfortably beat Luis Suarez to Anywhere Else. There can be little doubt that we’re in for long haul on this one.

If the sight of CFC-4-life’s JT and Super Fucking Awful Frankie Lampard arm-in-arm, hogging the lion’s share of the Stone Island-clad cheers of the Bridge for goals scored by Didier Drogba and set up by Juan Mata didn’t manage to incite an interminable nausea in you, do now join the rest of us with the news that Wazza is going to be thrown into that most potent mix. Or will he? Find out in tomorrow’s Sun!