Monday, 16 March 2015

I Think It's All Over - The Red Nose Diaries.



I'm football crazy, I'm football mad. And the football it has robbed me of the wee bit of sense I had.

It's not the actual watching of a football match every day for six weeks that has driven me insane, although it should have. I started on the 31st January with Chelsea vsManchester City and I have been bored out of my tiny mind every single daysince with Tottenham vs Arsenal, Newcastle vs Stoke... Everton vs Leicester,for fuck's sake! I even watched the 1982 World Cup final in the hope that Icould enjoy footsie nostalgically. But no. I have tried. Really hard. I havefailed. Even harder. The only time that I can say that I honestly enjoyedfootball was when I went to a match with Phat Paul and Dylan and they actuallytalked to me about football. They explained it to me. I started to pick a fewthings up, understand it a bit more. What has driven me mad more than anything is that football fans just don't want to talk about football. Paul and Dylan to one side, nearly every footsie fan I've spoken to just doesn't want to talk about the very thing that they seem to live for. 

I've got footsie loving friends who find my new interest creepy. I've spoken to complete strangers in pubs, barmen and cab drivers, who were all wearing football memorabilia, and none would engage in the simplest of footsie banter. I even talked to some men watching footsie in a hotel bar but they blanked me. In fact, they even asked me to keep the noise down when I started shouting support at the TV. I thought you were supposed to do that. It was like I was too late to talk sport. I had my chance when I was a boy to like football and I turned my back on it. I can't just decide at the age of 46 to want to be a part of it. Thank you for your interest but football just isn't taking on any new fans at the moment.

All my life, I thought that I didn't want football. How wrong I was. It was always football that didn't want me.

Six weeks. Six whole weeks and football just hasn't taken me under it's wing. Has this been worth it? Yes, I've raised nearly £1,700 for charity but two years ago I raised over £2,500 by getting drunk and falling asleep. More people accepted me doing that than spending a huge amount of time devoted to football. Plus I wrote to so many teams to see if they could help. Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal, Spurs, QPR... Did I get a reply? Not one. Then, just a few days ago, Brentford FC got in contact.

Brentford Football Club, currently riding high in the Championship League, invited me to their club. This was amazing. I would be going to a proper professional football ground on my LAST DAY of my Comic Relief challenge. A pretty good way to round it all off. But... Then it got better. I would be given a tour of the ground itself, I would be part of a training session on the pitch, I would meet the team players AND I would be offered ice cream and jelly at half time because on the 14th March 2015... I became a child mascot.

You must have seen it before. Right at the start of the match, the team players walk out. Each of these manly athletes hand in hand with a small boy who is beaming with pride because he was chosen by that player to be the team's child mascot. And now it was my turn. I guess it's just every middle aged man's dream, really. You grow up watching child mascots on TV and you think to yourself "One day...". But you never really imagine it happening. Putting on that kit, feeling the legendary turf under your boots and grabbing the hand of a man who definitely doesn't want to hold your hand. 

And that's where I found myself that day. Wearing a slightly too big for me Brentford FC costume and having people who actually work in football talk to me and welcome me into their world. As a child. Of course, when it came to actually kicking a ball around, none of the other child mascots would play with me. Children can be horrible and mean to 46 year old men in shorts, which is, of course, a good thing. So, Amber, a player from Brentford Women's team kicked the ball around with me. She was really nice. I kept expecting her to laugh at me being a child mascot but she never did. In fact, no one did. Not Amber, not the other child mascots and not the thousands of footsie fans there. And while kicking that ball around with Amber, it finally dawned on me: they all assume I'm dying.

As I stood outside the dressing room waiting for the players to come out in full costume, I got excited. The match was about to start and I would walk out onto the pitch as the child mascot of Stuart Dallas, Brentford's winger/mid-fielding ace, and I'd be in front of thousands. As we walked together towards Cardiff City's players, Stuart said I had to shake the opposing team players' hands. "They'll probably think you're in the team", he joked.

"God", I said. "That's what you say to all the kids, isn't it?"

"Yeah".

I shook Cardiff City's hand, posed for photos on the pitch and heard the roar of the crowd. Amazing. A brilliant, brilliant way to end it all. I took my seat for the match and felt proud that a nice amount of money had been raised but prouder still that I was now a Junior Bee. It only took 46 years but I was now a child mascot. 

Brentford lost 2-1. I didn't say I was a very good child mascot.

Six weeks of watching football matches and, on the last day, I was part of it. I was. WAS. But I think it's all over. It is now. Saturday night was a come down. Travelling from a gig late at night. Alone. I think I just imagined the end of six weeks to be more celebratory. I feel like I really reached out to footsie and, as good as the day with Brentford had been, I still felt that it could have reached out me more. All those teams I wrote to... They didn't want me. The real football fans I spoke to didn't want me either. Even my fellow child mascots wouldn't kick a ball around with me. I gave football six weeks and, in the end, nothing really changed. Then, about 11:30 at night, my phone beeped. I had an update on Twitter. It was this...




I am accepted. Sniff...

If you haven't donated to my Comic Relief campaign then please give what you can here: http://my.rednoseday.com/sponsor/michaellegge#_=_ And please, can we have a massive round of applause for Neal Peters, Christian Talbot and everyone at Brentford FC who were so kind in giving up their time and allowing this daft thing to happen. Especially Neal. Now, please enjoy these photos. 











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Thursday, 12 February 2015

I'm Out - The Red Nose Diaries.

When former comedian Mark Watson suggested I get into football for Comic Relief, I knew there and then that at some point I would have to actually go to a football match. I'd have to get on a train full of large drunk men wearing the same t-shirts all shouting and, for some insane reason, actually singing together in public and then some other large drunk men, who are also in matching casualwear, start singing a different song that isn't to the first large drunk men's taste and so they have to rest their voices and have a fight. Then the train doors open and we get spewed out of the train and swarmed into a hugely sponsored stadium (or cunt holder, as they are known) and I find myself in the middle of an ocean of screaming bastards who spend 90 minutes threatening, punching and setting fire to anyone and anything that isn't exactly the same as them. I'd have to go to watch Chelsea and stand in Chelsea's cunt holder with all their held cunts knowing that if they don't kill me then I will just die of fear. When I took the challenge, I knew that this is what I must do. I am many things but a coward is not one of them. That's why I went to my first ever football match last night. Yeah, that's right. I went to an anti-homophobia friendly match with a child.


 


Dylan and I didn't have the best start when we first met. My very good friend Phat Paul met Dylan in a maternity theatre about 8 years ago and, as soon as they met, Phat Paul seemed to just want to hang out with Dylan more than me. Phattie and I met in the queue for The Comedy Store Players in 1989 and the next day we were living together. That's pretty special, you must admit? But pretty much the same thing happened when he met Dylan so clearly Phat Paul is a very fickle and heartless man. I remember going round to their flat once and Dylan was just lying there on the sofa all asleep and Phat Paul just stared at him. After a while, he picked Dylan up and carried him to bed. I was so hurt. He hadn't picked me up and put me to bed in years. As time went by, nearly all my paintings were taken off Phat Paul's fridge and replaced by Dylan's that, fuck it I can say this now, weren't all that. They just weren't. They went on holiday together, he introduced Dylan to his Mum and pretty soon Phat Paul was sorting out this guy's education. Something he never did for me. So it's his fault I'm an idiot. Anyway, I was about to meet Dylan and, as there was quite a bit of bad blood between us, he had better be ready to win me over.

He turned up (LATE, may I add) with four packs of Match Attax trading cards and gave two to me. OK, I admit it. That was a classy move on his part. While Phat Paul went to get drinks, Dylan and I looked through our new cards to see if we had any doubles to swap (He had brought his large pile of swapsies with him) and indeed our friendship was cemented over him swapping me his Ryan Giggs (I've heard of him!) for my Man Utd emblem (which he immediately booed once he got it). The best part of this new union was that Dylan had now agreed to explain the rules of footsie to me.

It was Dulwich Hamlet versus Stonewall FC at the Superstore Stadium, and that is really what it's called, in an anti-homophobia friendy match. Dylan is a Dulwich supporter so, as we were all getting on, I had to also support Dulwich. This is my first match and it instantly made me anti-gay. The system works. We stood behind Stonewall's net with the rest of the Dulwich fans, The Rabble. I expected a fair bit of chanting, it's footsie after all, but I didn't expect this. It all seemed like an indie disco. Men and women singing chants to the tunes of not particularly popular John Peel tracks from the 80's. My favourite was the one sung to the tune of Gangsters by The Specials: " Why do you support Dulwich Hamlet? 'Cos we’re proud to follow you away. Said you’ve been threatened by Tooting. But we blew, blew them away. Da-da-da-da. Dada-dada-da-da-da". To be honest, I always assumed that footsie chants were supposed to be aggressive and, at the very least, belittling. The Rabble's chants were just surreal: "We are the famous Dulwich Hamlet and we look like Tuscany. TUSCANY! TUSCANY!!".

I think that was the best part. It was just idiots happily being idiots while a match went on. And the match was pretty good (I think. I'm still not sure). Dylan explained what a defender, a striker and a centre forward was and I think I understood. He even explained the offside rule to me and I'm pretty sure I got that too. The game ended in a result that football itself would be proud of with the (completely presumably) straight team beating the gay team 4-0. 

We went back to the club bar and played Match Attax. And it made me think, why isn't football like this? Smaller, friendly and surely better. Everyone in the bar talked about the match and just hung out and everything was relaxed and nice. I don't know if you've seen the news today but there isn't a single report of the violence at that match anywhere. And the bar does a series of guest ales. Look, that's not my thing but I just didn't expect a football club bar to have guest ales and friendly staff and no fighting. AND THEY ALLOW DOGS IN! It's lovely. There's no way Chelsea's stadium is this nice. And an anti-homophobia friendly match too! Would that happen at Chelsea? Or any of the major clubs? Has it happened? If not, why not? If the answer is the one I fear, then surely that's a better reason to do it. Imagine that? A stadium with people more interested in actual football than hate. It's a thought. Maybe the big clubs just aren't as brave as Dulwich and Stonewall. Maybe it's just big football that's utter crap because little football is great.

Of course, that doesn't help Dylan and me. Yes, he was very friendly when he first arrived (LATE, may I add) and he was very kind in being the first person to actually explain some things about football to me but Phat Paul used to be MY friend not someone else's. Never anyone else's. And it's hard to just forgive someone for stealing something that belongs to you. But I am more mature than Dylan so I accepted his offer of playing Match Attax. 

It's basically Top Trumps. All cards have high scoring categories and low scoring categories and as a result the game lasts for hours and no one ever wins. But I wasn't going to just give up. I had to show Dylan that by accepting his Match Attax challenge I was every bit the man he was. Phat Paul refused to play and he looked bored but really it was Dylan I was trying to impress. Surely if I beat Dylan then he will see that I'm best and therefore Phat Paul will too. Of course, Dylan is about 38 years younger than me and it did cross my mind to lose on purpose so that he would win and he could feel good about himself but how patronising is that? Phat Paul would see through my ploy in a second and I would lose what respect he had for me. No. I had to beat him. I had to beat Dylan.

AND I DID!

The game was going on so long that we decided to just use just 5 cards each and see if that sped things up. It didn't. He would win one of my cards, then I would win one of his. Time and time again. Until suddenly, I hit a streak. I couldn't believe it. In 5 straight goes I won each of his cards and was declared the winner. It was my first go at playing Match Attax and even Dylan had to admit that I was the greatest footballer of all time, mainly because I wouldn't shut up until he did. 

We said goodbye and I walked off to get my bus. I had a huge grin on my face because, mainly, I had beaten Dylan at Match Attax but also because my first experience of football was genuinely great. The match was great, everyone was friendly and Dylan taught me some football rules. Then I thought about our game of Match Attax. How come his last 5 cards all had low scores? Surely there had to be higher scoring categories to choose from? Why did he choose the low ones? Hmmm...

I have to be nicer to that guy.




Dylan explaining the offside rule to me using Match Attax cards.




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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Men United - The Red Nose Diaries.

Kick. Kick. Kick. Pass. Kick. Run a bit. Pass. Kick. Miss the net.

This is my life now. Watching footballers run and pass and kick and do almost nothing. This is what footsie fans never tell you. They never let you know how boring the game is, how little happens. It's like waiting for a bus. A bus with no doors so you can't get in. A bus that takes forever to come and once it does it stops beside you for 30 seconds and then drives away. Leaving you to wait. Again. Forever. 

But it must mean something, right? All my life, people have been outraged and sickened by my total lack of interest in footsie and become almost threatening in their keen encouragement to get me involved in it. Now that I'm finally interested, it's become a total closed shop. No one will tell me the rules. No one will tell me why they love footsie. No one will talk about it. Am I too late? Is there a cut-off age for being into footsie? Should I have supported Engerland in the 90's? Should I have played for my school team? Should I have twirled a football rattle in the womb? Look, I'm here now. Please let me into your rubbish, boring club.

Then I had an idea...

If I'm going to learn about football then I need to go to a pub on match day. There'll be some guys there. I can say "Hi!", they'll welcome me to their table and we can just chillax and rap about the game. These chaps will know. They'll see a fellow gent and they'll point out the whys and whats of footsie over a delicious flagon of the barkeep's finest ale. OR TEN! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Seriously, though. It's going to be great.

On Saturday, I walked into the Traveller's Rest pub in the outskirts of Stoke and I immediately shat every pair of pants I've ever owned. It was full... The bar was full. Not full of chaps or guys. There wasn't a gent to be seen. This place was full to the rafters with men. Real men. Huge men. Men with big fisty hands that practically hid their pint of Olde You're Fucking Dead brown ale. Men that wore t-shirts in winter because the huge amount of tattoos they had was coat enough for them, lad. Men that screamed at the TV and whoever was on screen heard and sorted themselves the fuck out. Men who have never once taken their boots off. Men who have only eaten food in pie form. 

Men. Real men.

I have genuinely never been more scared in my life. There was only one seat left in the pub, near a huge group of huger men so I put my satchel down, took out my journal and sat down. It was then that I immediately noticed they weren't killing me. 

So far, so good. Liverpool were passing and kicking and doing fuck all else with Everton, and me and The League of Giants sat and watched. Ten minutes later, a deep ominous voice said "It's bollocks, isn't it?".

The voice came from behind me and, although I couldn't see the man, I knew he was talking to me. And he was right. It is bollocks. I shouldn't be here. I'm a third of the size of any other man in this pub. I'm watching a game that I can't understand. Football. THEIR football. What the hell was I thinking, coming into their headquarters and watching their football? It's bollocks, isn't it?

I turned round and pretended not to hear him. "Sorry, mate?", I said.

"It's a derby match", he said. "Well, it's supposed to be. They're not even trying".

Right. This very large man has spoken to me and the thing he's said makes no sense but I can't let him know that I don't understand and I am frightened otherwise he will punch my heart out and kick seven shades of grey out of my ghost. I gulped and said that Liverpool didn't seem into it on Wednesday either. They played Bolton and it wasn't much of a match but at least they won.

"Yeah", he said.

FUCKING HELL. Reader, you must completely understand one thing: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I MEANT. How the hell would I know if Liverpool were playing well or not? I know they won but to me that was just a coincidence. Who cares though? I've got away with it. A real man talked to me about football and I talked back. I finally have pubes. 

He asked if I was a Liverpool fan and, GET READY FOR THIS, I said "No. Don't get upset, just pity me, I support Charlton". He laughed and said someone had to. BRILLIANT! I did the footsie joke of being embarrassed about my team and he did the other footsie joke about someone having to support them. I've only met him and already we've done every football joke ever. This is going great. He even introduced me to the rest of his friends. Well, he pointed at them and grunted and they grunted at me. I asked them who they supported and they all said City, which could mean anything, quite frankly. They may as well have said Club. But, that's not important. What's important is that I'm in a terrifying bar with terrifying men and we're getting on. Drinking beer. Watching footsie. Being men. It was great. I even told them that I knew nothing about football and was only watching because of Comic Relief.

Luckily, someone helped the atmosphere by scratching a record player needle across an L.P. just as all the large men turned to stare at me. A huge and well-funded exhibition of swearing opened in front of me as I tried to explain to my new buddies that I was really trying to like football and, you know, if they could maybe hold the "FUUUUUUUUUCK OFF"'s for just a minny-mo then maybe they could help me out. No one else wanted to. Maybe they would be the ones to tell me all I need to know? More shouting happened and I said "Like, for instance, I don't know what a derby match is..."

"Derby Matches?", said one chap. "Derby fucking matches are the fucking best. The fucking best, mate. More fights than at any other match".

Yep. I was back to being scared. They mocked loudly and violently for a while longer until one of my new gang saw my copy of the footsie fanzine When Saturday Comes. "Is this where you're learning the rules from?", he said before taking it away from me. I was now too uncomfortable to say anything else. 

None of them could understand at all how someone could get to 46 and not know how to play football. They didn't know how you couldn't love football. How was football not the most important thing in my life, you twat? I needed to leave. This was uncomfortable... way too uncomfortable... And I needed to go. Then the man with my magazine, flicked through the pages, pointed to a photo and said "Oh. I like him."

It was a photo of Josh Widdecombe. He had written an article in the magazine. 

"He's in The Last Leg. Funny bastard", the man said and his co-henchmen agreed.

"I know him", I said.

It took 5 minutes of me convincing them and 5 minutes of them repeatedly saying "FUUUUUUUUCK OFF" but I was back in the gang. Good old Josh. 

We had beer and watched the rest of the first half and that's when the scariest thing happened. It was one thing to be sitting with these men watching football but what are they going to be like when football isn't on? Are they going to shout until the footsie come back on? Will the fight? Start throwing chairs around? Set fire to the pub? Force me to get a tattoo? Force me to support City? Force me to be dead?

A beauty product advert featuring Reece Witherspoon came on TV and we spent the next 15 minutes talking about Legally Blonde. I never saw that coming.

As the second half began, I decided to sneak off. I think I'd done well. I'd watched 45 whole minutes of footsie with a pack of bears who didn't eat me so why take any more chances. Just as I got up, one man grabbed me and I got my first bit of advice on the game of football. His scary eyes looked into mine and he said, "Be careful, mate. If you get into this game... It will ruin your life".

And with that, I was gone. They didn't kill me but they didn't really explain anything about football to me either, apart from how weekly disappointment will depress you (like I don't know that), so I left them to shout at the TV without me. Also, I wouldn't belong to any massive group of scary bastards that would have me as a member.

The thing is, I really need to learn a bit more about footsie before tonight because I'm going to my very first ever live match. Luckily, I'm going with my friend's son who has promised to fully explain football to me. That's right, I'm being taught by a child. Oh, and I don't know what your first match was. City vs United? Rovers vs Wanderers? Well, this is my first one...








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IMPORTANT!!!! CAN YOU HELP WITH THIS? https://www.facebook.com/leggefootball

Also, please donate anything you can to Comic Relief here: http://my.rednoseday.com/sponsor/michaellegge

Friday, 6 February 2015

Let's Put I In Team - The Red Nose Diaries.

On Wednesday when my Dad and I sat together in a hairdresser's, drinking white wine and watching Liverpool vs Bolton Wanderers, I couldn't help thinking that I was going about this all the wrong way. This was my 4th football match in 5 days and I still wasn't into it. But at least I knew why. I don't know anything about football. I mean I literally have no idea what they're doing at all at any stage. I don't know why they change sides in the second half, I don't know why they're all called different things (midfielder. Striker. Bowler) when they all clearly do exactly the same thing and I will never know why they walk on to the pitch holding the hand of a small boy. Is anyone ever going to say anything about that? 

Not only do I know nothing about the game but neither does the company I keep: My Dad. We just sat there in that hairdresser's, drinking our wine and coming up with ways to make football nicer. We think that tackling would be a lot friendlier if the players had their first name on the front of their shirt. It would certainly be nicer if the players smiled more. And they should all bring a dip each. But Dad and I being great at making footsie nicer doesn't get us closer to knowing anything more about it. Luckily, help is at hand.

This week I'll be discussing footsie with footsie fans, I'll be going to a match with footsie fans and, most terrifying of all, I'll be getting a lesson in actually playing footsie. I should know a bit more about it after all that. To get me started though, former comedian Ian Stone has suggested I pick a team to support. That way, I'll get more out of the experience. If I invest an interest in a team that I actually want to win, then there's more of a reason to keep watching. Great. That's good advice and I can do that easily. I live in Lewisham so it seems only right to support them.

Well, Lewisham have let me down already, just like your team should do. They let me down by not existing so I've decided to go for one of the nearest two clubs: Crystal Palace or Charlton Athletic. But I've also decided that the choice should be completely up to them. Whichever team donates the most money to my Comic Relief campaign, then I will become their loyal supporter. I mean I will be a brilliant supporter. They will not regret having me on board. So, am I a Palace fan or a Charlton supporter? The choice is theirs.

And this is where I need your help. So far, neither team has tried wooing me by donating a single penny to the appeal. Why not write to their Facebook pages or their Twitter accounts letting them know they have a lifelong fan waiting for their interest. I'm not just going to support some team at random. They have to WANT me. So let's let them know. Let's let them know a lot that I am here and I am ready to support them. For a fee. 

Go on, everyone. Let's see which team are Legge men. Drop them a line. Now.

Crystal Palace on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialcpfc?fref=ts and on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CPFC
Charlton Athletic on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialCAFC?fref=ts and on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CAFCofficial

And here's my donation page: http://my.rednoseday.com/sponsor/michaellegge

Thanks, guys. You are my favourite team.





www.twitter.com/michaellegge

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Match of the Dad - The Red Nose Diaries.




Why do I hate football? Perhaps a better question is why am I not more like a real man? That one I can answer. The answer is: My Dad.

My Dad can do things. He can drive and fix clocks and get women pregnant 5 times. Well, one woman. All of these things he has never shared with me and, although I'm delighted that he's never shared the experience of getting my Mum pregnant with me, I wish he'd told me more stuff when I was a kid. How can my Dad fix a clock and I can't? I mean, if I had a child and I knew how to fix a clock, I'd share that knowledge with them. It would bring us closer together and it would give that child something to pass on to someone else later in life. Why don't I know how to fix a clock? Why did my Dad never want to show me how to fix a clock? Sometimes I wonder why I broke the clock in the first place.

Yesterday, Dad and I went shopping. I didn't know what we were shopping for because Dad never says why he's going to the shops. Readers of this blog might remember my last shopping spree with Dad. After 15 minutes wandering around Lidl, I asked him why we were here. He said "I want a bag of grapes and a hammer". I stopped asking questions after that. 

Dad needed snow chains for the tyres on his car. I should point out that he most definitely didn't need them but he said he did because, really, he just wanted them. So there I was. With my Dad. Looking at snow chains for car tyres. Because my Dad is a man and I am, in his presence, a boy. He kept tutting and saying numbers that I didn't understand about tyre size. Dad must have known about the sizes of tyres for 50-odd years yet he's never shared this information with me so I don't know how to respond. Just like when he talks about driving or fixing clocks. I just don't know how to be as manly as him. "Son", he said to me, once again forgetting my name. "Can you ask that man if they have any snow chains for 235-50 tyres?".

He knows I can't.

Well, if Dad isn't going to make me more of a man then I'm going to have to make him make me more of a man. I have to do this stupid Comic Relief thing and my Dad loves sport so me and my Dad should watch sport together. He can explain football to me and I'll finally get some knowledge from him. Yes, He's mainly a huge Formula 1 fan but he's also a life long Manchester City supporter. Not that he ever shared his love of his team with me. He barely mentioned them. But he did have a manly sticker on his manly car that had a picture of Sylvester the cat wearing a Man City shirt and saying "Hear the Man City ROAR!" on it. It was time for Dad and I to bond.

We sat together to watch Match of the Day, a Loose Women-style programme for people who like to watch little bits of football but mainly love seeing other people just sit there talking about it. Dad was very happy to sit with me and watch although, obviously, I wasn't keen. Maybe if he sat and watched it with me when I was a child we wouldn't have this problem but he didn't. He kept his precious football to himself. Manchester City was his and his alone. I'd never have known he even knew who Man City were unless Sylvester thaid it to me. But that's the past. And this is now and my father and I are going to bond.

I have to give Match of the Day it's dues. It really, really tried to get me to like it. The opening credits are a montage of things I know nothing about. Things like goals and cheering and numbers on the back of shirts. Then, for no reason other than to get me interested, Tom Baker appears dressed as Doctor Who. Two seconds later The Young Ones pop up. Guys, that was SO lovely of you. You've made me feel really welcome. Then they played The Smiths! Bloody hell! Is football trying to get off with me? I'm getting wooed.

It didn't last. Gary Lineker, a man I know little about but for some reason I like him, introduced us to Alan Shearer and Danny Murphy. Both men had a look as if to say "do we have to talk about football?" which made me laugh immediately. Dad didn't laugh though. To be fair, I understood. Football isn't my thing but it is something my Dad loves and if we're going to bond at all then I better take it seriously. We watched the three men briefly discuss that day's football and I sat back and waited for my Dad's knowledge to pour out. He said nothing.

Come on, Dad. BOND!

The first match highlights began. It was Chelsea vs Manchester City. Brilliant. Not only have I seen this, and therefore can somewhat discuss it, but it's Dad's favourite team. Perfect. "Did you watch this match?", I asked. Dad said no and we immediately went back to silence. Right. "I won't tell you the score then", I said. 

"One all", said Dad. 

Ah, of course. He didn't see the match but of course he kept up with it because he loves Man City. That's his team. Of course he knows the score. Stupid of me. We aren't going to bond if I'm going to be this stupid. I better say something clever. "That first goal by Remy was good".

I had no idea if it was good but one thing I did know for sure was that Dad would know. He'll explain why it was good or bad and pass his knowledge on to me and we will bond. But he said nothing. As silent about his love of football as ever. What he shared with a fictional cat, he would never share with me. And Match of the Day went on...

I wish I liked footsie because Match of the Day actually seems quite fun. There's smiley chat with some guys and little jokes keep popping up in graphics across the screen and the whole thing is quite jolly. It's basically a podcast that's done really well. I just wish it had more Tom Baker in it. It's clearly not for me but it's definitely a really great programme. And it introduced me to my new football hero. His name is Kane and he plays for Tottenham Hotspur and every time he scores he seems really happy. Like someone has given him a Valentine's card. He just looks chuffed. I didn't know footballers did chuffed. Anyway, I liked him and Dad never gave an opinion on him so it was time to give bonding another go. "Who's your favourite footballer?", I asked.

"There are a lot of good players now.", he replied. "Who's yours?"

"Dee Hepburn".

Dad said nothing. A shame as I had thought of that gag two days previously and was really hoping to get it into this conversation but Dad either didn't get it or didn't care. Come on, Dad. I'm really trying. I'm sitting here watching something you love and wanted you to share that with me. Open up. Bond with me, Dad. BOND WITH ME.

"Do we have to watch this?", he said.

What? I explained to him that, although I was doing this for Comic Relief, I was also using it as an opportunity to spend time with Dad and appreciating something that he loves.

"But I hate football".

WHAT? But what about us bonding? But what about your support of Manchester City? What about the sticker? The cat in a football shirt? What about the Man City ROAR, Dad?

"It was just a sticker, son".

It was just a sticker?

"I haven't liked football since I was 5. My Da took me to see Bangor play and Bap Dunlop kicked the ball into the crowd and it hit me in the face. It wasn't Man City I liked, it was Sylvester".

My childhood was full of fear because of football. I was made to play it at school and was terrified of the ball or any of the players coming anywhere near me. I was scared of football being played in the park, the school playground and on TV. To me, it was just bullying with some rules attached. I didn't like football because I was scared of it. And my father was the same. I was scared of football, not because my Dad didn't share it with me and gave me confidence, but because Bap Dunlop is a prick. A huge man who kicked a ball way too hard into the face of a child. My father and I sat together in front of Match of the Day and we bonded.

And that's why I am who I am. Sometimes, I mess up because I just don't have the confidence or strength of character that maybe I would have if it wasn't for the arrogance and cruelty of Bap Dunlop. Every mistake I have ever made, every ridiculous step I have taken, every opportunity missed is solely down to the spite for humanity that boiled in the very blood of Bap Dunlop. And who knows how many people he has destroyed through his hatred? Dad? Yes. Me? Yes. You...?

All I know is that the next time I screw up in work, in love, in life... I will turn to the person I have upset, and you can do this too, and I will say "No. Do not blame me. It was Bap Dunlop's fault".

You're welcome.




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Monday, 2 February 2015

Soccer Punch - The Red Nose Diaries.

Ever since I was a boy I have had a dream that one day I'd be good enough to finally get to Wembley Stadium and burn it to the ground. Simply put, I hate football. I think it's the worst thing that's ever happened. How can something that anti-social and violent be so paint-dryingly dull? 

I have only watched one footsie match from beginning to end. I didn't want to, obviously, but I was persuaded to by my two footsie fan friends who were watching the match in a pub near my house. I wanted to drink. They were there. I had to watch a match. 

It was Liverpool vs AC Milan in the final of the 2005 UEFA Champions League Cup. No. I don't know what that is either. I mean, I know what a cup is but other than that it was all a mystery. The only thing that I was certain about was that I hated football and I was guaranteed to suffer one of the most boring nights of my life. Oh, how wrong I was. My two friends are such fans of Liverpool FC that they were even born in Liverpool and at the end of the first half AC Milan had scored 3 goals and Liverpool had completely forgotten to score any. God, I laughed SO MUCH. Looking at these two stupid fucking thick cunts (my friends) getting really upset over a tedious game was brilliant. Maybe this is my sport? I can go to stadiums and watch men look sad over ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Or pay Sky a fortune to subscribe to their "Disappointed Lads" package of channels? For every tear, I let out a cheer! (Hey! That's almost a chant!) Then the second half started and I settled down with my beer so that we could both enjoy another 45 minutes of laughing at two useless awful twats (my friends).

Liverpool scored 3 goals and it was now a draw.

FUCKING HELL! I was totally sucked in. It was one of the greatest dramas I have ever seen. Liverpool, the underdogs, have turned the whole thing round. They had nothing, NOTHING, in the first half and now they're focused, they're united, they're a fucking force to be reckoned with and all that came from nowhere... FROM NOTHING. It was like watching an eagle having the bandages removed from its once broken wing and seeing it soar. It's gone from 3-0 to 3-3. There's a chance Liverpool could win, I thought. Liverpool could win! WE could win!

The game went to penalties. The final score was 3-3 but, due to a rule that I fear I will never understand, Liverpool FC won 3-2. Holy fucking shit. It was amazing. The pub cheered. It rose to its feet. I cheered and jumped around with them. I hugged my friends (the lovely cunts) and we drank and we cheered and we cheered some more. Both friends crying, they'd seen their team all the way to this match. This Champions League final. And they saw their men come so far to be kicked, battered and demoralised in 45 minutes... Saving the very best to last. I had electricity belting through my bones at the end of that match so I can only imagine how they felt as their team captain lifted the cup. OK, I admitted. I get football now. I understand.

They turned to me and said "Never ever watch another football match. They'll never come close to that".

And that was that. I had finally got footsie and already I was told to hang my boots up.

In the last 10 years, I've been firmly back to my position of hating football. My friends were right. Nothing will come close to that Liverpool win. Every time I see it, I'm bored senseless. I hate the money involved, the players, the fans, the sponsorship, the hatred of women... All of it. And with that loathing in mind, former comedian Mark Watson asked me to get involved in his 27 Hour Show, raising money for Comic Relief, and he suggested I tackle football. Watch a match every day from 1st Feb until Red Nose Day and blog/tweet about it. People like seeing me sad or angry so it might raise a couple of quid for a good cause. So, I accept the challenge. I am going to watch football every day until Red Nose Day. I will talk to footsie fans, I will learn the rules, I will watch it on TV, I will go to matches... Fuck it, I'll even play a game. I will hate every second of it but I'll do it. 

So... to my first match.

1st Feb was a day I had to spend with my family so I decided to skip that day but start a day early also, just to make up for it. On Saturday, I watched Chelsea vs Manchester City.

As the day wore on, I started to feel a bit sick. A month of football? A MONTH? And it hasn't started yet. It hasn't begun and I feel sick and scared and alone already. Alone was OK though. That was actually the good part. If I'm going to get this horrible month to build then I better start small. Just me. Alone. Watching a... (dry throat)... Match.

I phoned my local pub to ask if they were screening the match. It was like I had decided to just call a random person in Japan and wing speaking Japanese to them. Fuck it, I've heard some of those sounds. I can do it. How hard can it be? "Are you showing the Chelsea match tonight?", I said in a voice that went deeper on it's own. It was like I didn't trust myself with those words so my voice just naturally compensated for my lack of manliness. The person on the other end of the phone let out a heavy sigh and said "Yes, we can do that for you".

I DON'T FUCKING WANT YOU TO. THIS ISN'T MY IDEA. IT'S CUNTING LENNY HENRY MAKING ME DO HIS FUCKING DIRTY WORK FOR HIM. I don't want you to screen the fucking match. Don't get arsey about it. Just say no and we'll both be happy and I can just lie and say I watched it and tell everyone how jolly exciting the whole thing was.

But I did watch the match.

It was tedious.

In many ways this really was the perfect start. Alone, watching a game I didn't understand with the sound off and no subtitles. It meant I had no choice but to just watch and try to figure it all out. It was impossible, like staring at a brick wall and trying to guess what it's thinking. Kick. Kick. Pass. Kick. Pass. Kick. Kick. Fall a bit. Kick. Pass. Kick. Flag.  That was what I watched. For ages. I didn't know what was going on or who anyone was. Then, 30-odd minutes in, the camera closes in on a player's face and his name appears on the screen. "John Terry". Ah, John Terry. I've heard of him. So he must be a cunt. I've said it before but if it wasn't for violence against minorities, I'd never know a thing about football. 

Years later, the game ended on a 1-1 draw and absolute indifference from the world. Basically, nothing happened. That didn't stop three men going into hysterical analysis on nothing after the match on Sky Sports, of course. But, hey, I can't let my first match of this torture month be a negative experience. The whole point of all this is for me to learn to love footsie. So, what can I say about it positively.

The gardener does a good job. He does, doesn't he? That grass was lovely and neat and green. Does the gardener ever get any recognition? To be fair, the sound was off so those three men getting excited on Sky Sports could have been talking about the grass and I don't blame them. It was lovely. So, if anyone knows who does the gardening for football, let them know I'm a huge fan.

Of course, I can't go much further with this if I don't know how footsie is played so today I'm watching Match Of The Day, a sort of Loose Women for pricks, today with my Dad. He can explain everything. One match done. Will I make it? I'm not completely sure. Still only 4 weeks to go.

RED NOSE DAY IS IN 6 WEEKS? Ah, fuck....






www.twitter.com/michaellegge


I set my target at £500. Although I've already hit it, please keep donating. It will be a horrible month for me so that should make you a little bit happy. So PAY UP: http://my.rednoseday.com/sponsor/michaellegge