Subscribe to my feed...

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


Saturday 26th April, 1930 ; FA Cup Final: Arsenal 2 (James, Lambert), Huddersfield Town 0

We glide through misty blue. Wisps of cloud play around our bulbous prow. No ack-ack this time as we survey the hazy maquette of tidy suburbs down below. Then, out of nowhere, Wembley Stadium looms, a lime sherbet set like a rhinestone in plastic and concrete; the oval rim quite dull and grey besides the glinting jewel, but somehow the whole remaining mystical. I squeeze my father's hand as we peer down through the glass that stands between us and a freefall through the air outside. We're safe here in this chrome-lined basket, clinging like a barnacle to the underside of our blau gas bloated whale of a balloon. 92,488 watched the 1930 FA Cup final, but few could say they saw it quite like me.

We come in peace this time, but still the tracers come; flat caps, infinitessimally tiny dots tossed up towards us by a few among the ninety or so thousand other ever-so-slightly larger dots our dark hull looms above. Twenty or so ants scamper about the green stone kernel of the ring below our grey speech-bubble craft. They hug the white rectangles, cut diagonally across in such strange, beguiling stop-start patterns. Our engines' hum blots out the roar that accompanies all their frantic scurrying and scuttling.

When we are both a little older, my father will sit me down upon his knee and reminisce about that day and our exhalted, bird's-eye view. He tells me details of the game we saw, provides a concrete casing of facts and figures to support the emerald of memory. He croons a plodding, comic dirge of a song,

And when they've had a few they shout 'Is Ars'nal going to win?'
They think it's Alec James, instead of poor old Ann Boleyn

I'll sing the same song to Hannah when she is young as she fidgets on my knee, my accent turning Ws into Vs and THs into esses. Then, when I've sung my song I tell her how the pilot dipped the nose of the famous airship the Graf Zeppelin into a stiff Germanic curtsey before King George V.

And Hannah has come to visit me now, to fit some earphones to her father's wisp-haired head; another set of wires to join the myriad of tubes and cables all around me. I hear that chocolate-gobbling voice once more, preserved somehow amid the fizzing of the shellac, somehow aqueezed into a fist-sized gizmo. "With her head tucked underneath her arm", I mouth and nod along once once more and beam back at her as the day comes back entire. She'll see me smile, will Hannah, see her father's tired fingers dance a sprightly jig upon the sleeve of my pyjamas. She'll look back and realise that it's not her who's given something precious to her Dad, but her papa who's secreted something wonderful and special for the daughter that he loves. A present left for her to find and to unwrap in her own time.

For what better gift is there than a smile to leave behind me as I sail into the blue?

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

You can now subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' (it's free!!!) in iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

The Road to Moscow - part 10...

... is now available to listen to and download....

Subscribe here and get the lot - gra-tis!...

Subscribe to 'The Road to Moscow' in i-Tunes

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Monday, 29 October 2007


Sunday 28th October, 2007: Liverpool 1 (Gerrard), Arsenal 1 (Fabregas)

Sunday starts badly. I read two rejection emails:

Dear Robert Swipe

Thank you for contacting **** **** Associates through our website and for posting an extract from your novel there. We were pleased to read and consider this but have decided to pass on the opportunity of reading more material or representing this to UK publishers. I'm sorry to be negative but we did not connect with the narrative voice as much as we'd need to in order to feel confident pitching this to publishers, with their already crowded lists.

All the best for finding an agent who feels differently.

With best wishes...

I know you're not meant to take it personally and all that, but when you're writing as I am, you can't help but take things like that a little to heart. After all, that "narrative voice" they "did not connect with" is actually *my* voice. In fact, this voice you're hearing in your ears or realising in your head is not the figment of somebody's overactive imagination; it's actually *me*. Oh, and one last thing: *IT'S NOT A BLOODY NOVEL!* I start composing a righteously indignant, B.S. Johnson style rejoinder in which I quote T.S. Eliot ("...human kind cannot bear very much reality...") and point out to them in no uncertain terms the artistic validity of what I'm doing but, really, what's the point? Writing, for them, is something that gets sold in books and to me it's something more than that. So why waste the mental energy?

Already disheartened, I read the next one:

Thank you for your submission to join Litopia Writers’ Colony. Unfortunately, we are unable to accept your application at the present time. Please understand that we cannot accept all submissions for membership on the first attempt, and you are free to re-apply after a three-month period. This thread and your submission will be deleted shortly.

With all good wishes:

Litopia Writers’ Colony

No problem. I'll just be sticking that banner of theirs I put up on the website somewhere the sun doesn't shine...And pillocks to your effing Colony.

And so it goes on; a bitter, bitty day when nothing seems to click. I don't do any writing because I'm shattered by a week of trying to squeeze in being creative and thoughtful around gaps in the everyday routine at work and at home. The only time I get that's entirely my own is on the mini-bus, with all the other fruit pickers, jotting down the day's efforts as I'm pitched up in the air, tossed around like a single-handed yachtsman by pothole and sleeping policeman alike. No wonder this thing is so fragmented; it's a wonder I can read my handwriting at all at times. Instead of working, I spend hours looking for an old demo tape I could swear I had in my hand three or four weeks ago, but now can I find it anywhere? I'm starting to get that feeling you get when you know this just isn't going to be your day. So it's with trepidation that I head off to the Prisoner of War ("Special screenings of Escape to Victory, whist drive and finger buffet every third Wednesday) to watch the game.

Unsurprisingly and with grinding inevitability it takes Liverpool a mere 5 minutes to score. Fabregas attempts to play the ball out from defence after a good passage of play from the home side that's already forced a full stretch save from Manuel Almunia. Cesc's attempt to cushion the ball with his thigh is too heavy and he clips the toe of Alonso's boot just outside the box in his attempt to retrieve the runaway ball. Almunia calls for one more man in the wall to defend the resulting free kick and Cesc duly obliges. But in his eagerness to charge down the ball as Gerrard shapes to shoot, he leaves a gaping hole for Stevie G. to aim at. His strike is so venomous though that you could almost imagine it cannonballing through regardless, Hannah Barbera style, leaving a smouldering Acme football-sized hole in the midrift of the Arsenal defender who was foolish enough to have stood in its way before scorching a similar shaped void into the net.

It's just my luck that this usually quiet local dotted with a handful of diehard regulars who appear to have been rooted to the spot since the last time you were there several weeks ago seems miraculously to have been chosen as this year's venue for the Liverpool Southern Supporters Annual Dinner Dance. That's the only explanation I can find for the sudden eruption of joy that surrounds me as the pub leaps in the air as one, expressing their fervour in a variety of south of Watford accents that run the gamut from plummy Received Pronunciation to Estuary tang. Away from their adopted home, back up north in Liverpool, Gerrard does one of those finger running along the keyboard, qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm slides along the grass on his knees to the touchline in celebration before being mobbed by jubilant reds. Here we go, you think. This is where it all comes crashing down.

Liverpool seem well up for this game in the wake of their European defeat midweek. Gerrard, in particular, is tackling ferociously and there are several audible crunches as he, Carragher and Voronin go crashing in. The Wolfish Sammi Hypia runs a lupine tongue around his lips as he leaves Adebayor pinioned to the ground writhing around in an even more carnally tormented than usual Jens Lehmann warm-up routine. But this is no place for Lambsy and, miraculously, the young Arsenal players hold there nerve. And then they start to play. Clichy, a preternaturally cool customer for one of so few years, as he has been so often this season, is the architect of many of these audacious, nonus shittus passages in which stout defence elides into attack through a sequence of calm and measured passes. For a lengthy spell in this first period, you could be forgiven the belief that the team with the one in the column beside their name is the one wearing white shirts and not red. Liverpool still manage to tee up Gerrard with another potent shot which Almunia manages to claw over the bar, but Arsenal's pressing and passing is looking more likely to bear fruit.

As Alex Ferguson looks on, blue nosed and looking rather glum, from somewhere deep in the Anfield stands, the game resumes. It's frantic, passionate stuff. Liverpool manage to prevent Arsenal from passing themselves into dangerous areas and when Eboue, suddenly starting to look plausible in his new position as an attacking midfielder, tiptoes into the Liverpool box and sees a well-struck low shot cannon back off the upright, it really does seem to be turning into one of those days. This feeling has compound interest added to it when the rebound lands invitingly at the feet of the one player on the pitch any Arsenal fan would most like it to fall. Sadly, Cesc can't adjust quite quickly enough to get his reaction shot on target.

I turn to H., who's joined me for the second half and ask, "how do Liverpool do it? They manage to do virtually nothing and win." With a quarter of an hour to play, I can't see Arsenal scoring. Wenger has made all the changes he can; Gilberto, Bendtner and Walcott have been brought on as Arsenal chase the game. Walcott gets jeered by the Liverpool faithful every time he loses his footing on what seems a very slippery pitch. They get to jeer a lot. Gallas, leading by example, goes on a daring dribble that runs out of steam just inside the Liverpool box. I start to worry that the team has tired. Oh me of little faith!

Alex has kept toiling quietly away without too much drama until eventually, like a master of mystery waiting for the perfect moment to apply a twist to the plot, he's where we want him to be; running at the Liverpool defence. The wily old Belarussian coyote decides that it's time for that old claw on the ball of wool trick again. He waits and waits and waits a little bit more, sensing something special in the air. Or maybe he can hear the galloping of Fabregas as he charges towards the box. Finally Hleb puts an end to the suspense. He clips a ball beyond the Liverpool line and Fabregas is Speedy Gonzalez, racing onto it to stab the ball just inside Reyna's near post. This time it's Fab's turn to qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm on his knees towards the corner flag in emulation of his hero, Stevie G. He lingers there a second before punching an arm in the air at the Arsenal fans who are dancing in delight in the Michael Thomas end. He and Alex have set us up for a fabulous finale.

It's end to end in the last 10 minutes and you feel both sides want to win the game right up until the final whistle blows. Gallas' despairing dive foils a Gerrard shot from a tight angle and Fabregas combines with Bendtner to recreate Eboue's earlier effort to dismantle the Liverpool goal. This time it's Fab's shot that strikes the woodwork. Bendtner snatches at his shot when the ball bounces favourably in front of him, blasting over when he had time to take a touch and pick his spot. Fabregas runs away with his palms tapping his crown in agonised disbelief. For a while, you share young Fabregas' frustration. But then, there's enough post-match purring from the pundits as it is. This draw has made a few people reconsider this young Arsenal side's credentials. How unbearable would they have been had we won?

So there you go; lessons learned. Never give up - especially not on this young Arsenal side. let's hope Sir Alex's nose is even bluer and his expression just as glum at the Emirates in just under a week.


So it goes on; the daily battle between your consciousness and the competing clamour of the world of work. Sometimes you feel it's drowning you, but you *must* persist, you must prevail. Keep its fire burning, cherish it and nurture it. Because in the end, it's all you've got.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The Wizards of Twiddly...

Pier Head, Liverpool; just after sunrise. The glare of the light is rapidly spreading over the still misty, muddy water as the wind whips in from the Irish Sea. The Beatles once stood where you now stand, with a piece-of-string-strapped acoustic guitar between you; the new John and Paul. Caspar is there too, now studying at C.S. Mott College over in Prescott. We've accompanied him back on the cramped and dingy overnight coach after whichever vacation it was that had just come to an end, in 1984 - or was it 1985? We crane our necks at the Liver Building and squint up at the distant Liver birds.

Caspar is our guide on this magical mystery tour. In Mathew Street you have the record shop where Pete Burns used to work and the car park where the Cavern used to stand a few steps up from the new (and rather tacky) Cavern Walks. What was once Eric's (now - or rather, then - Brady's, if Wikipedia is to be believed) is opposite. You can peer up at the the photos of all those heads it's had the pleasure to know that run up the staircAse walls. The Grapes, Ye Crack, Penny Lane and even Knotty Ash you get to see them all and take that cliched ferry across the Mersey too. Then, at night, the club - I can't remember the name of it - where they filmed an early Frankie 'Relax' video and a couple of scenes from Letter to Brezhnev. You move on from there to the Casablanca; a cosy drinking room in the once-smart Georgian terrace opposite the Anglican Cathedral. There beneath the vast, looming Bogart and Bacall whose painted, parting clinch takes up most of a wall, you drink your Newcy browns and gobble down a bowl of chilli. It's been generously ladled from the huge vat of the stuff and is all this late night 'restaurant' ever serves. Who cares? It gives them a late license.

On one of our visits - I couldn't find a record of it to verify the date - we go to see a gig at (I think) the Liverpool University Academy. Caspar's mates, Andys Delamere and Frizzell, have a band called Perfect and they're the support act for the up and coming Woodentops. These same two Andys will go on to form the wonderfully named Wizards of Twiddly a few years later and between them build up an impressive portfolio of collaborations with some very well known artists; Kevin Ayers, The Coral and - this is *really* impressive - the late Vivian Stanshall. To give you some idea of the level they're on, they develop a sideline tribute band called The Muffin Men. The artist whose repertoire they're reviving? Frank Zappa.

I don't remember much about that evening except that there was a very large red and black banner draped behind the stage. It was most likely something to do with Militant Tendency. Militant had a strong presence on Liverpool Council and for most of 1984 and 1985, the time in which I'd make my visits to the city, there was a stand off between local and central government over the Tories attempts to curb the rates. In 1984, Liverpool threatened to ignore the proposed cap (in effect, a council spending cut) and continue to provide the services they'd been elected to by running at something like a £35 million deficit.

There's broad support initially for the council's programme of public works and house building and, with the government having somewhat bigger fish to fry in the form of the National Union of Minerworkers, a compromise is reached. However, this only defers the confrontation until the following year. Emboldened, perhaps, by the apparent success of their stand in '84, the council, led by former fireman Derek Hatton, once again refuses to comply with the Thatcher government's financial restraints. With the council workers poised to come out on strike and the Miners' dispute raging elsewhere, it appears to be a critical point in the decade. Factor in the romanticism of youth and it's a very heady time. With all the banners waving and the spirit of defiance in the air it felt as I imagine Barcelona must have done when Orwell joined the anarchist militia there during the Spanish Civil War.

But looking back, with time behind me and all the further cynicism that's accrued, there was something else you picked up on. It was there in the voices of the busdrivers and the Chinese lady who served us chips, taking our orders in her thoroughly assimilated scouse; something older and wiser with an air of 'seen-it-all'. This time would be no different, the quiet resignation of those sing-song lilts was telling you; and life would still go on.


The double decker pauses for an age outside a desolate parade. Boarded shops fester on the facade of a characterless single storey block of soviet starkness. Someone's aerosoled a line through the first word on the orange hoarding of the Labour Exchange. The one they've sprayed above it appears to be a better fit; at least it must feel that way, the hundredth or the thousandth time you trudge down to the Joke Centre to find there is no work.

Up ahead and to the right of the front of the bus where you sit, as you used to as a kid, pretending that you were the driver of the bus, you can see Anfield. "This is Anfield" it says at the end of the tunnel, on the sign above the players as they run out onto the pitch. It's meant to scare you; back then, most likely it did. The place certainly seemed to scare the Arsenal. They lose 2-1 on 11th February, 1984; 3-0 on the 12th February 1985; 2-0 on 17th August that same year. This is not Anfield, but even so you are scared. Because everything is broken down here and you can only hope that does not extend to the bus you're sitting on right now.


Life would still go on. And so it went. The council ballsed it up. They lost the support of their employees when they gave them the impression they were prepared to sack them without any guarantees that those staff would get their jobs back after this legal formality had been observed. Or maybe something else had started to sink in, taken the fight out of the city as it tottered on the brink. There's no doubt in my mind that Hatton favoured the grand gesture over the pragmatic. But the bus drivers still drive and the chip lady from the orient continues to batter away. Heseltine came up here, as local band (and Tory supporters, as it goes) The Icicle Works observed, and flowers started sprouting everywhere. Liverpool still beat Arsenal when they made the trip to Anfield, so what had really changed?


One of Caspar's friends is Caroline Aherne (or 'Titch' as she seems to be more widely known back then) who will go on to write The Royle Family. But you don't get to meet her on any of the occasions you come up here. Another friend is a guy called John Dunbavin (Eddie Izzard with Tom Selleck's moustache - no, strike that; he's Tom Selleck with Tom Selleck's moustache...) whose room is a little down the corridor in Caspar's hall of residence. He has a tube of 'sun-in'. It reacts to the sun when you put it on your hair and gives you 'natural' highlights. You try some, hoping to emulate the honeyed tones of his smooth 1980's quiff.

You sit there, in the Prince Albert pub on Lark (or was it Linnet?) Lane where one night Paul handed a Shimmy Shimmy demo tape to Ian McCulloch of Echo & the Bunnymen. He did the same at Guildford Civic Hall, handing a copy of the same tape to the soundman when we went to see the Smiths on 28th February, 1985. We still haven't heard back from either of them. He's huge is Mac; a rugby number eight under that baggy jumper and bulky miserablist's overcoat. His hair is so majestically dishevelled. No one has any money. You're each despondently nursing your last pint when Caspar tries to sip the last few mouthfuls of his beer without using either of his hands. The glass lifts slowly and just as the beer is about to trickle down towards his throat, the pint pot snaps and an anarchy of glass and Guinness is rained upon the table. We take one look at Caspar, a pathetic beak of glass protruding from his mouth, and collapse hysterically. Spirits bouyed by this insanity, Dunbavin seeks a cash point and, wedged up once more, we grab a cab to Casablanca to have ourselves a good time, with no money, at someone else's credit card's expense.


I'm looking through the box of papers, notebooks and assorted scraps I brought back from the old family home, trying to find a scrap from Liverpool that might help me out with places, names or dates. There's nothing from that period that I can see, but I do find this - no doubt intended to be a lyric but one that reads more like a poem - a brief recollection of that time penned a couple of years later. I'd called it 'Satori [sic] in Liverpool':

A salty misty port at 6 in the morning,
Strong arms release the ferry as the day is dawning.
The smell of fish and chips.
Rings are only made for pawning.

A blue knapsack on my shoulder,
Caspar showing me around.
Sprawled on the floor of the flat
Alert to every sound.

Even the taxi drivers have a sense of humour.
The world is a sweet shop
And I am the consumer.
Toxteth looks like 'Citizen Kane';
Limping, limping, limping along with its tumour.

I've included it here merely because it was written closer to the time I'm writing about now than I am to it today. I certainly don't make any literary claims for it. Indeed, there's a lot that I don't like about it; "the smell of fish and chips" isn't ringing any bells, neither is the bit about Toxteth and Citizen Kane. I would immediately excise that bullshitty and only-in-there-for-the-rhyme tumour too, were this not a purely documentary exercise. In fact, the whole thing has the feel of all of the poetry I write - most of it in jest whenever things get too pretentious on the Guardian Unlimited and I send in something in blank verse and knocked up on the spot that usually ends with the in-joke line "as if culled from Utopia" that Caspar and I always laugh about. It come from a poem I wrote about seal culling in much the same jocular spirit during a third year English class.

But it's not all hateful. The blue knapsack I quite like - if only as an aide memoir that means I can see the very one that I was carrying when it would otherwise have stayed forgotten. It could even be the Tory's touristy blue one, perhaps? And I trust the "salty misty port" better than I do the paragraph that starts this section at Pier Head. Maybe in a poet's hands, that sweet shop/consumer thing might have had some proper legs rather than 'limping, limping, limping' Toxteth-like as it does. Who knows? That same poet might even have been able to make the taxi driver joke work too.

As I'm rooting through the pile that washed this fragment up, I come across an airmail letter sent from Israel. It's from Paul; the owner of that string-strapped acoustic guitar we heard the distant strum of back at Pier Head as the dawn broke way back when. It dates back to his stint on a Kibbutz in the late 1980s. Deep, wise and unusually unguarded, it's another of those unexpected intrusions from the past that leave you feeling rather strange:

Fiction is a release for the imagination. A release for the imagination is probably as crucial to human beings as food and sex. No, really. Kurt Vonnegut has a nice theory about fiction - here it is. Novels organise the world into leading and minor parts, plots and storys [sic], important parts and unimportant parts, a beginning a middle and an end. Ponder for a minute how close this is to the way people see themselves and wether [sic] they consider themselves leading or minor characters ...

... I couldn't agree more, Paul. Why else do you think I'm giving fiction such a wide berth? He goes on:

War, starvation and sex are meaningless until you have experienced them. Absolutely meaningless.

The desert looks like a bald man. It is the world without any face paint or hairstyle...

Music has been floating about in the air for all time. Some bright spark organised it into tones and intervals and what not. But a guitar is only to music what a clock is to time.

A musician puts something in the air that makes you feel good.

Hope you liked it.

I did Paul, very much. We always did share that view of music; perhaps even now we still do? That is was more about the magic it conveyed; the stuff of wizards yes, but all those twiddly bits, we felt, were not always necessary. For a while there was music in the air that made us both feel good.

I peer back across another desert, bleaker, vaster even than the Middle Eastern one you gave a bald man's pate, and that touched something deep in your nomad's heart. We've long since let it be and, like that other Paul and John, are now probably also "worlds apart". Perhaps that's why I can't help reading that airmailed letter from the desert as some kind of goodbye.


Another bald man, another desert. The Tottenham board tell Martin Jol he's sacked then send him out to watch his team struggle for the final time. No wizard, he never quite got the hang of all those twiddly football bits. A wounded animal finally exhasted by the inhospitable terrain, he comes to rest and barely twitches as those ninety vulture minutes pick him right down to the carcass.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

The Heavens Must be Running Out of Flowers...

Tuesday 23rd October, 2007: Arsenal 7 (Fabregas 2, Hubacek [o.g.], Walcott 2, Hleb, Bendtner), Slavia Prague 0

Your evening starts out fractured and disjointed. You have a heavy heart and there's been a fire on a train at Hounslow Central so the Piccadilly line's suspended. Re-routed via Isleworth, you finally connect with the comforting azure of the Victoria line at Vauxhall.

Pools of sorrow...

Newsprint is flickering; like sunlight bouncing off ripples on a river it strobes across your work-numbed consciousness. It's as if you have been written into some modernist novella or updated 'Revolution #9'. Amy drinks because she's insecure ... Nike buys out Umbro for £285 million ... record levels of bare breasts on the box ... it's thanks to Graham Greene I am an addict ... Wenger sticks to his all-conquering guns...

And then you remember; you're going to see the Arsenal at the Emirates.

You buy your programme and stop for a very swift pint at the Auld Triangle, then join the murmuring throng of voices heading off towards the ground. How's the enemy? ... No, John went up there last week ... get your scarves, five pound your scarves ... No, I quite liked it because it was kind of brown ... We're on our way, we're on our way ...

There's no such fragmentation on the pitch though. Within minutes, Alex Hleb is teasing the Slavia defence by the corner flag below where you are sat in the upper tier, 'Clock end' Emirates. The football at his feet is like a ball of wool caught on a cat's claw. Once, twice, three times he drags it back, delaying the easy pass back to the waiting Clichy in the hope that something more exciting might come up. It does; an almost square ball out of nowhere to Fabregas just inside the opposition box. The pass is so good it would be downright disrespectful not to score. He's a well-mannered young man is Cesc so, politely and with due appreciation of the quality of this assist, he curls a sumptuous dipping shot inside the far post.

It's one of those goals that doesn't finish when the ball is sat there gently spinning in the net. A buzz of satisfaction hums around the Emirates for at least a minute in its wake. You sense that something special may unfold tonight when red and white petals start to float down from the heavens. There is sartori in the air.

The young lad next to you gnaws at something battered and wrapped up in newspaper facsimile. Someone who looks very much like Lawrie Sanchez strides along the crimson cinder track behind the opposition goal. The Slavia Ultras continue to cavort like Czech Ronald MacDonalds in their luminous red and white wigs. They shout Sla-vee-yay Pra-hah and some chant that sounds like Ah-lee Boom-bye-yay from the Rumble in the Jungle. Matthieu Flamini is booked.

Theo Walcott starts the game tonight. He's playing as a central striker not out on the wing. He looks sharp and is doing OK, but the ball isn't quite running for him and it's beginning to frustrate. At one point he gesticulates like a Frenchman at a moodily grimacing Adebayor. Around the 20 minute mark, the ball comes to Hleb from a defensive clearance and he slams it home by way of a heavy deflection off a Prague defender. Alex's face melts into a soppy smile. Fabregas finds Theo in space on the right. He floats a lovely ball in for Adebayor whose powerful downward header hits the boot of the Slavia 'keeper, Vaniak, on the line. Eboue conjures a shooting opportunity from an outrageous position on the right flank, blasting just wide of the upright after a glorious flick and shuffle past his man.

There's a lot of space for Theo and Adebayor to run into whenever Slavia press forward, so it's understandable that the Chechs' defencus is becoming less and less non shittus. The panic spreads to Vaniak in the Slavia goal. He miskicks a looping back pass horribly to hand a scoring chance to Walcott on a plate. It's just the stroke of fortune the young striker needs and he finishes emphatically.

More petals, more bliss.

At one point Arsenal pass the ball around amongst themselves in their own half and you get the feeling that Slavia might be more than happy if they were to continue to do just that for the remainder of the game. The half time whistle comes, to Czech relief.

The jumbotron behind us shows Hleb leaving the field. He looks like a Heroes-era Bowie and his play tonight has matched that album all the way; icy cool and pertinent, radical and brave. Someone should write a book about him, you know...

There's no letting up when the game resumes. Arsenal work the ball from left to right from their defence then right to left in their opponents' half. Hleb runs on to Cesc's diagonal ball, cuts inside and scores with a low drive. The heavens must be running out of flowers.

Waves of joy...

Hleb, Flamini and Fabregas play an oddly squashed triangle of one-touch passes between themselves. The ball comes back to Alex and his perfectly weighted pass is taken in his stride by the now vibrant and electric Walcott. There's something uncharacteristically dismissive, almost arrogant, in the cool flick of the boot with which Theo scores his second goal tonight. The despairing blast of the defender's boot at a ball that's already crossed the line merely emphasises the precision of the finish and you're reminded of the poise of Robert Pires and that other ghost of Arsenal past, Henry.

Before you can catch your breath, Hleb is off again, motoring down the left flank. He slots the ball into the feet of Adebayor who manages to wriggle it into space on his right. He finds Walcott just inside the box and his cute first time pass into the path of Fabregas is clinically despatched. Cesc lies down on the Emirates turf, arms outsretched and laughing. He looks for all the world like a kid who's starring in his favourite dream.

Hleb finally reacts to the latest in the series of provocations - digs, pokes, prods, nudges and clatterings - he's been subjected to all night and he is shown the yellow card. Wisely, Arsene takes this opportunity to rest some legs ahead of Sunday's trip to Liverpool. Flamini and Hleb, both already booked, and Adebayor are replaced by Gilberto, Rosicky and Bendtner. We wait almost half an hour for the young Danish striker to complete the scoring with a goal that combines power, persistence and fleet-footedness. But it's in the nature of us fans to be greedy; the Emirates is singing "we want eight".

The Slavia ultras and the Red Action wedge twirl red and white scarves at one another from their opposing corners of the ground. Their team has been well beaten tonight but still the Ultras from Praha can bring themselves to stomp and bob and sing. The PA plays the Jam - 'A Town Called Malice' - but there's not been all that much rancour tonight. Just those frequent showers of petals in this footballing nirvana.

Outside the ground, the evening has an air of bonfire night about it. There's a chill without but you've been warmed inside and the embers of tonight will see you through to Anfield. The red lights on the cranes around the site of the old stadium could be the glowing tips of burnt out sparklers as you approach them on your way home from this awesome firework display. We're on our way. we're on our way...

There are no disruptions on the journey home. Everything is easier now; even the writing.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Monday 7th May, 1984: Wimbledon 1, Gillingham 3

Telling stories is telling lies. I submit the piece about the Red Action march that took place before the Bolton game to The Gooner. Much to my surprise and delight, they seem to like it and might even put it up on the Online version. In his emailed reply, Kevin Whitcher, the man who is so recklessly about to place the good reputation of his excellent publication on the line, points out a minor flaw in the article, one that he says he'll correct with an editorial aside. I've only misheard the chant that's given my article its title. My fellow gooners were not singing 'roll away', but 'we're on the way'. "It's from Paint your Wagons", Kevin adds, almost apologetically. You know: "I talk to the trees, but they don't listen to me..." He must feel as if he's just been communicating with a tree himself.

This is the most glaring of the several errors I have made and far outsrips the other gaffes and goofs that have been committed to paper or sent spinning through the ether. I've attributed to Chelsea an FA Cup they didn't win and to Andorra a draw they did not earn. As if that weren't enough, I somehow manage to confuse a player we didn't even buy (Willy Sagnol) with one we did (Bacary Sagna). Oh, that last one's been amended in the text; now there's only the recording of my voice saying Sagnol when I'm talking about Sagna echoing tinnily in a couple of pairs of ears around the globe to bear witness to that inadvertent lie. Like some chiselling soviet apparatchik, I've personally overseen the erasure of that particular affront to the Ministry of Truth. The face of the "unperson" Sagnol has been chipped from the manhole cover of history; there is no longer any conflict with the official version of events.

They used to do that - chip people's names and faces and so on off the manhole covers or lamposts or whatever it was that they had previously adorned - in the former soviet bloc. A friend of mine saw them doing it in Albania. If you went to that country in the 1960s, they'd trim your hair at the border if it fell below the line of your collar. Even your hair could not be trusted if you came there from the west. All true, all part of a history that is itself no more; only the witnesses to it as it happened remain, the ones who watched as the faces and the names were one by one removed. That's one game the soviets did lose; and history, as we know, belongs only to the victors.

You can trace it all back to Heroditus, I suppose. To some he was the "father of history", to others "the father of lies"; you may even wonder if there is really any distinction to be made at all. But there needs to be, doesn't there? Otherwise, it all goes a bit 1984.

1984. I need to test a memory of that year as I experienced it, not as Orwell imagined it in his book. I've not long left Wimbledon School of Art having failed to complete the foundation course I'd enrolled for in autumn 1983. I'm now working at Space Studios, a rehearsal and recording space (although that makes it sound considerably grander than it really was) under the railway arches at the tip of Twickenham Green. If my memory can be trusted, I'm sat there one weekday evening with Eddie Taylor, a friend from art school who has stayed on to finish the course I dropped out of to work here. We're listening to a game on the radio. Wimbledon are playing for a place in the first division. They've made their way up through the leagues from the Conference in successive season, so this, for them, is quite a big game.

Eddie is actually a gooner - and not a lapsed one as I still am back then. He goes to Plough Lane when he's not at Highbury watching the Arsenal with his surreal and madcap Dad. He may even be sat there unbeknownst to me, somewhere in the Emirates tonight for the Slavia Prague game; sat somewhere among the sixty thousand or so, older, wiser but wearing that same red and white scarf.

So, that's the memory; the two of us sitting in a sack cloth walled bunker, a spaghetti soup of microphone and guitar leads at our feet, listening to the radio as the Dons strain to reach the top flight accompanied by the muted throb and plod of an aspiring bass guitar. But did it really happen? Can I trust that prole memory of mine?

Well, almost. I look to see what the official record says. Wimbledon are indeed promoted; only not to the first division but from old Divisions 3 to 2, having come up from Division 4 the season before that. On Saturday May 5th, a crowd of 22,580 turns up at Brammal Lane to see Wimbledon beat promotion rivals Sheffield United 2-0. A win at home to Gillingham two days later is all they need to clinch the second spot and win promotion to Division 2. That's the game I listen to with Eddie as the timeless tom-toms roll. Wimbledon lose 3-1 but they go up anyway as the Blades lose at Bolton that same evening; once again, 2-0. Nigel Winterburn, who'll go on to be serve with distinction at Arsenal and score a glory goal at Chelsea on the way to the double in 1998, is in this Wimbledon side. The team score 97 goals in the campaign that sees them to the second flight and the club receives a cheque from Capital Radio for £25,000, their reward for being the highest scoring of all the London sides. So perhaps not all hope is lost on the memory front.

* * *

I'm chatting with another Eddie; the chap who drives the minibus that takes me to my work (you have to credit Tesco; there's absolutely *no* expense spared when it comes to getting their criminally underpaid staff to the picking fields first thing in the morning...) Poor old Eddie's a Tottenham Hotspurs fan - has been since just after the second World War. He fell in love with them when he saw them play Brentford at Griffin Park and has been lumbered with them ever since. We share a wince at last night's calamity; a 3-1 defeat up at Newcastle that leaves them in the bottom three. Eddie knew they'd lose. He's what my Dad would have called "Old School", is Eddie. That's not "Old Skool" in the modern, R & B sense, but in the sense of being - well, there is other way to put it really - old school. There must be a lot of games swimming around in that head of his. I wonder if he can still trust his memory?

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Red Action...

The popular masses are like water, and the army is like a fish. How then can it be said that when there is water, a fish will have difficulty in preserving its existence? An army which fails to maintain good discipline gets into opposition with the popular masses, and thus by its own action dries up the water.

Mao Tse-Tung

There's something simultaneously seedy and respectable about a walk along the Holloway Road. The gentility and decency provided by the presence of the North London Buddhist Centre, the Richmond Fellowship and Islington's Central Library is somewhat undermined by sauce-mongering emporia like 'Showgirls' and the upmarket fetishists' paradise, 'Fettered Pleasures'.

So it's appropriate that I should take that route from Highbury and Islington tube for today's special assignment. I'm on my way to infiltrate a small, subversive group within our own august establishment, you see. This fifth column in the Gunners' ranks meets in dingy, smoke filled rooms (well, they would be filled with smoke if it wasn't for the smoking ban, obviously...) There in the seditious gloom, they plot and scheme and organise their rank and file. They sing their songs of war poking fun at some pitiable rival faction up the road who just can't seem to get their act together. The trusty stalwarts of previous campaigns teach these broadsides to the recent convert and the young alike; handed down like the details of a family feud, these rebel songs of ours will never die!

Leaflets are handed out, speeches are made, motions are carried and today this ragged band of the committed is going to march with pride, our arms and our defiant banners held aloft. We will punch the air and chant our slogans, urge the uncommitted loafers on the corners of our streets to join the passionate and purposeful throng as we march upon the Emirates itself. Our objectives, our demands? Simple; we'd ...erm...quite like things to stay pretty much as they are, thanks very much...if that's all the same with you.

Red Action has planned a march ahead of the game with Bolton Wanderers to show support for the current board and as a demonstration for our antipathy towards any prospective buyers of the club, in particular, Alisher Usmanov. Well, I say 'we'. Even if I'm not a member of any of the supporters groups, they seem to speak for the majority of fans who are concerned by the thought of Usmanov laundering his dirty money by buying up our club and making a mint out of the team that is our passion. So 'we' it is, and we meet up in the Rocket on Holloway Road ahead of the deputation.

It's not actually a pub as I'd expected, but the Union bar of London Metropolitan University which becomes the home of the Red Action group on matchdays. There's an old Grammar School look to the building itself, made to look all the more down-at-heel by the shiny, Daniel Libeskind extension at its side; a sort of 3-D attempt at the 2012 Olympics logo that's got a bit out of hand, collapsed and fallen on its side. It feels a bit like going back to junior school when you pass through the Assembly hall panelling of the entrance. Once inside the dark, boxy bar itself there are a couple of long banners draped on the floor that take me back to all those student demos of my college days. Then there's the velcro stickiness of the carpet of spilt beer you negotiate as you head towards the bar, familiar to anyone who's been inside a university that has ever been silly enough put together a rugby XV and allow them anywhere near the bar after a game. Once at the taps, you wait for what seems like an eternity to be served because it seems that it is being staffed by primary school children who have yet to be introduced to the concepts of addition and subtraction. But then they do serve Staropramen, so it's just about worth the wait.

It's a pleasant enough atmosphere though. There's an open mic spot where chants and songs old and new are put before the entertainments committee. The overriding atmosphere may be that of a Student Union bar, but there are also elements of the fringe meeting, the working man's club and even a bit of music hall thrown in. Someone from the Supporters' Trust gives us a de-briefing on the Arsenal AGM. There's a raffle, the winning ticket of which is picked out by the oh-so accurately monickered Fat Ashley Cole. Then someone sings one of the lovely old Irish songs that was probably sung at Highbury from the first season the club played there, if not before that, way back in the days of the Woolwich and Royal Arsenals. If the leaflets and the proselytising about keeping the fat ugly capitalist's hands off our club don't bring the Islington of George Orwell to mind, then this song wouldn't have been out of place being crooned by some prole washer-woman in 1984:

Jesus, said Paddy,
I'll sing it again,
Again and again and again and again...

It's good news that our learned comrade brings back from the Annual General Meeting though. The board has announced an extension of the previously agreed 'lockdown' that binds the majority shareholders to a commitment not to sell their shares to undesirable buyers for another five years. That is good news, and as we watch the second half of the Everton v. Liverpool game on what must surely be the Film Society's big screen, the assembled Gooners are consequently in good voice. The best of the many Ashley Cole songs that do the rounds reaches its triumphant detumescence to the tune of 'One Man Went to Mow':

Ten men,
Nine men,
Eight men,
Seven men,
Six men,
Five men,
Four men,
Three men,
Two men,
One man and his mobile phone -
Went to bed with Ashley!

There's an announcement that the march will start when the final whistle blows in the Merseyside derby but, as it goes, we don't even have to wait that long. Phil Neville's goal-line handball and the resulting penalty from which Kuyt secures the game for Liverpool is the only cue we need to take to the street.

I emerge blinking out on to the pavement to find that the banners have already started to make their way up Holloway Road. I edge a bit closer to the front of the procession as we pause to have a snap taken by one of the key conspirators on his mobile phone. We run through our repertoire of agit. prop: "Hello, hello - we are the Arsenal boys"..."Arsene Wenger's red and white army (who hate Tottenham)"..."We love you Arsenal, we do" and I'm becoming giddy with the thrill of it all. It feels more like we are away fans showing off our colours and proving the spirit of our support on someone else's patch than a group of supporters going to a home game. Maybe, in a weird way, that's sort of what we are...

A young chap ahead of me picks up a yellow traffic cone and uses it as a megaphone. It barely amplifies his voice, merely giving it a hollow smarty tube ring as he sings our own defiant Internationale, but it's a real hoot all the same:

The Wanky Tottenham Hotspurs went to Rome to see the Pope,
The Wanky Tottenham Hotspurs went to Rome to see the Pope'
The Wanky Tottenham Hotspurs went to Rome to see the Pope -
And this is what he said ("FUCK OFF!")

Who's that team they call the Arsenal?
Who's that team we all adore?
We're the ones in red and white,
And we're fucking dynamite,
And Martin Jol's mother is a whooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooore...

"She's a bloody whore", someone Lydons over the dissonace of our gloriously protracted roar of that final Om-like 'whore'. We're picking up stragglers now, people really are coming off street corners to join our passionate and purposeful throng. "Red Army, Red Army, Red Army, Red Army" we chorus, call and response style and there must be some strange gestalt thing going on here, because I'm starting to think about a different Red Army and another band of bandits in another century who stormed a palace and seized control when someone starts to sing a Moscow song:

Roll away,
Roll away.
Roll away to Moscow,
Roll away.
I don't know how I'll get there,
But I'll get there all the same,
So roll away to Moscow,
Roll away...

I may have misremembered some of the words, and not be perfect with the tune but it doesn't matter because it's now become my song; my secret, something that cannot mean the same to anyone but me. I'll sing it when my book seems to be going nowhere, or the team has hit a rut. A song to keep me going through the cold winter ahead and all bad times; again and again and again and again:

Roll away,
Roll away.
Roll away to Moscow,
Roll away.

We reach the steps of the Emirates and the crowd are cheering and clapping us and the banners that we march behind. In all of the excitement, I couldn't even tell you what was on them as I can only see their blank backs. There's a faded mirror image Usmanov, and that's about all I can make out. But sometimes unity itself is more important than the causes that unite. As the crowd around us cheers and claps, we quietly disperse. Banners down, our gallant regiment disbands and we move off into an ocean of people, like fish darting through water.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Roll Away...

....Click here to listen to this podcast...

Saturday 20th October, 2007: Arsenal 2 (Toure, Rosicky), Bolton Wanderers 0

You can now read the first part of this article here...

"We love you Bobby, because you've got red hair..."

After all that excitement, the game itself is a bit of a disappointment. Bolton have come to strangle the life out of the game and Arsenal seem sluggish after the international break. We have an awful record in games that come after our players have returned from their respective national teams, so I'm bracing myself for the worst. It's certainly not the best day to be seen wearing your replica shirt bearing the legend "Kings of Sexy Football" as the the young chap down a row to my left is. He has brought with him a black cone of rolled up paper, but the team give him no good reason to blow upon his horn. By the time I take my seat, the huge banner I've just paraded behind has begun to be folded up, so I can still only make out the word 'board'. I'm sure it says 'support the' and not one of the less pleasant alternatives on the rest of it, though.

Sagna appears to have regrown his ivory dreadlocks in the fortnight we've been away. He's certainly looking more his old self. It's Eboue who has a 'mare on our right flank today. I notice another Red Action banner, just to the side of the North End goal we defend in the first half. Love Arsenal, hate Usmanov, it reads; but there's not much to love about them in this half. Fortunately, the two men to my right are a bit more entertaining. The chap in front of them is still stood up, even though the game's kicked off. He's waving and aiming his mobile at another section of the crowd where, presumably, some friends or family are sat. The guy next to me is getting a bit hacked off with his view being disturbed by this fellow waving his hand. "He's over here, love" he eventually shouts out in the general direction in which the mobile is pointing, "he's the one in the red shirt..."

But there's a lot of hate and spite around. A guy a few rows below us does that thing you often see frustated football fans do when they disagree with the ref. Hands outsretched at their sides like drunks stood in the entrance of a supermarket, they yell at no one in particular, "You cunt!" There's some hateful tackling too. Hleb is clattered, Adebayor poleaxed and Eboue cythed down a few yards outside the box. The ball is hoofed into touch and one of the home supporters throws it with some gusto not back onto the pitch but straight into the away supporters' section. There are boos at some point for almost every single Bolton player, but most of them are aimed in the direction of the Spaniard, Ivan Campo (Nigel from Eastenders, gone completely and utterly to seed.) Half time comes and, for the first time this season, that is actually a relief.

The interval announcer is evidently hip to the lack of love being generated by the team's display. Ever hopeful, he plays a snippet of (I'm pretty sure it's) Frank Sinatra singing 'Let there be love' beneath the scores from around the grounds. Still sensing some ambivalence, he follows it up with 'Should I stay or should I go?' They seem to like the Clash here. The other week we had 'London Calling'. 'White Riot' might have suited today a little better, perhaps.

The second half starts with Alex Hleb moving into a more central position and Eduardo taking his place on the left flank. It seems to work instantly as a golden opportunity opens up for Eboue only for the elegant Ivorian to snatch at his shot and blast wide when he has plenty of time and space to be more composed. Clichy goes on an astonishing forty yard dribbling run that would have been the best goal ever scored by a left back in the history of the game if he hadn't been stopped in his tracks in the box before having had a chance even to shoot. Adebayor shanks another very good chance well wide.

The guys to my left are having a ball though, mimicing the panicky arm movements of the supporters around them every time Arsenal miss a chance, and making spoooky ghost noises to poke fun at such alarm. Walcott and Rosicky come on for Eduardo and Eboue and once again the substitutions seem to work. On 68 minutes, Toure is lining up behind a free kick, about 25 yards out from goal. I turn to the guy to my right and tell him Toure almost broke the same goalposts he's aiming at right now in the game against Sunderland. He's due a goal from one of these free kicks, I say; and sure enough, he scores planting a snooker pot of a shot low into the corner to the right of Jussi Jaaskelainen's diving hand.

The chap in front of the guys next to me is up and has his shirt off, whirling it above his head. But everyone's smiling now; everybody's filled with love. His back is covered by tattoos, but you can tell he's really just a great big softy; one of them says 'Turtle power', after all. The love returns. The fellow in the "Kings of Sexy Football" shirt finally has something to blow his trumpet for. "Tally-ho!", I chuckle with the chaps to my right as he "dut, dut, dut-dut-duts" to his heart's content. Then some more wonderful work on the right side of the box from Theo Walcott takes him to the byline from where he pulls a ball back into the box. Rosicky is on hand to clip the ball delicately past the Bolton goalkeeper again. Two nil, and love is everywhere.

Walcott shows a few more dazzling turns of speed, once eliciting a cry of "run Theo, run!" from one supporter, in such a way as to suggest that he's one of the Scooby Doo gang and is being chased by some poorly animated mine owner who has been reduced to pretending to be a ghost by wearing a white sheet over his head and shouting "wooo-wooo" in order to claim off his insurance because his business has been haunted so he can ditch the unprofitable business as a bad job. Just when you thought he'd somehow made it through unscathed, Campo gets his obligatory caution. The whistle blows, and he and fellow Spaniard Fabregas join in a no-hard-feelings, eh? embrace. Arsenal do their huddle thing and the clattering congas of 'Move on up' by Curtis Mayfield echo around the empty arena as we roll away in waves.

I head off to get the Silverlink back to Richmond. Waiting for the train at Highbury and Islington station, I read about Denton Connell, otherwise known as "The Bear". Denton was a well-loved Arsenal fan who died in a car crash in - of all places - Moscow. I don't think I ever met him, but his picture in the latest issue of the Gooner is starting to look familiar. These lovely lines from Bins' obituary on the same page give some idea of how much he'll be missed:

The tribute was attended by over 1,000 friends and family. Outside the old Highbury stadium the march stopped for a minute's silence to remember the Bear. The words "Our Friend, Our Family" were shouted out and the silence fell. For one minute big men, hard men a lot of them, stood with heads bowed to hide the tears as they remembered their friend. At the end of the silence...a visceral "Whoaahh!" - his trademark roar. The roar shook the trees, vibrated up and down surrounding streets, bunked in over the old turnstiles and ran around Highbury stadium for the last time. These men were venting their grief as only they know how, in the age-old way warriors say goodbye.

One more warrior who'll swim with our army no more. Rest in Peace, Denton.

I do recognise someone though, waiting for the Silverlink to take me home. Simon Day, the comedian from The Fast Show, whom I first saw doing his Tommy Cockles routine, is chatting to a couple of gooners on the platform just along from me. He's in the same compartment as the train heads into the bakelite pallor of the west. It's alright though, I don't think he recognised me.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Friday, 19 October 2007

The 'L'-word...

I get a rather touching email from a really nice person at NewsNow. I've submitted the website to them in the hope of getting the match reports some exposure on their Arsenal thread. They don't want to syndicate my writing but it doesn't feel so much like a rejection when it is put like this:

Dear Robert,

Thank you for submitting The Robert Swipe Show for inclusion on NewsNow.

Unfortunately, your application has been declined because we only aggregate news. We consider that your content constitutes, dare I say it, literature, rather than news.

We wish you every success in the future...

Yes, please dare.

And thank you.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Parts 7 & 8... available to listen to on your i-pod or whatever...

Part 7...

Part 8...

Or subscribe by clicking here.... and get them delivered into your lap[top] by the fairies in the cyber web...

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

When in Rome...

There's a lovely moment while I'm watching the Russia v. England game in the Prisoner of War ("Tenko theme nights on alternate Wednesdays"). Martin, a veteran of Chess on Grass-era football on Twickenham Green, is a disillusioned Chelsea season ticket holder. We reminisce through most of the game, breaking from our gentle trip down Memory Lane only to register Wayne Rooney's powerful strike that puts England within an ace of next year's finals and to marvel at the Russians' nerve at watering their artificial pitch as they have in temperatures well below zero. Then, just as it seems they are running out of steam in their efforts to retrieve the game, Russia are awarded a dubious penalty, which they calmly convert. Then they score again.

One of Sky's cameras pulls away from the celebrating Russian players to show a happy, smiling figure in the murky half light of one of the stadium's corporate hospitality boxes. Roman Abramovich is smiling and doing that I-may-appear-to-be-almost-as-slow-as-a-simpleton-but-I-could-have-you-shot-at-dawn-with-a-nod sort of clapping thing that he does. His compatriots are about to put England, his current country of residence and the home of his beloved team, out of Euro 2008. "What are you clapping for, you smug fucking Russian cunt?" demands the previously nostalgia-mellowed but by now even more disillusioned than he was before Chelsea season ticket holder at my side. "You can't earn your livelihood over here and then wear a different fucking shirt...."

Oh, but Roman can do what he wants, Martin. When in Rome, when in Russia, when in London; wherever he is, Roman will do as Roman does.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Prole Memory...

Orwell didn't watch the Arsenal play the Dynamo at the Lane that foggy day in 1945. He gets his Tribune gen from a friend or reads the papers, maybe listens on the wireless. He's told about the altercation between players by 'someone who was there'. The fog is fairly well reported and there is even a book about the Moscow Dynamos' contentious British tour if anyone would like to find out more. But otherwise, that piece was fiction, a story, or if we're being scrupulous, a lie. A pleasing confluence of the imagined and the experienced, perhaps, but nonetheless a lie.

It's conjecture, and of the spurious kind at that, but I have a feeling Orwell would have felt uncomfortable stood there puffing Victories on the terraces, surrounded by cloth caps. Crowds are funny things for writers, who are ever aiming, don't forget, for some detachment; trying not to get caught up in all the fuss. But Orwell, with appropriate contrariness, would have loved them too.

In his book, On Living in an Old Country, Patrick Wright assesses Orwell's attitude to the masses; 'the proles' as they become in 1984. They come to represent for Orwell, through his protagonist Winston Smith, 'the last of surviving humanity'. That may sound rather grand, but with their washing lines and nick-nack shops and softly sung lullabies belonging to another age, the proles have something that even the monolithic stomping jackboot of the Ingsoc party machine can't control, debase or manipulate. Somehow persisting on the periphery of the mediated and proscribed world of the party elite, 'these people for whom daily life still has a shred of cultural integrity' go about their business; hanging their washing out and singing their plaintive songs. Not much of a life, perhaps, but they do at least have access to something comforting and dangerous that is otherwise denied; the past.

Prole memory may well fall short of consciously adopted and publicly shared values, but it has recognisable character none the less. It works in the experiential terms of everyday life and this gives it a richness which is superior to anything offered by either the rigged Party histories or the abstracted historical 'truths' sought by Winston Smith.

The proles are 'not loyal to a party, or a country, or an idea, they [are] loyal to one another'. 'Prole memory'. I like the sound of that.

It's that world of the particular, the personal preference that Orwell celebrates. These unofficial activities represent a 'culture that is truly native' to Britain:

the pub, the football match, the back garden, the fireside and the 'nice cup of tea'.

Picture postcards, penny dreadfuls, clubs, societies and everyone, it seems, who has a garden tends it carefully and lovingly. Then there's our perpetual backward lookingness, our 'obstinate clinging to everything that is out of date and a nuisance'. These precious things may be 'mixed up with barbarities and anachronisms' but that can't disguise the essential 'gentleness of English civilization'. It may only be 'half a loaf', Orwell concludes in his essay The Lion and the Unicorn, but that's better than 'no bread at all'.

It's a quaint view, perhaps. There's also a rather dated tendency in a lot of the writing of that time to confuse Britain and England; something you'd find a lot harder to do now. But regardless of precisely which part of the British Isles he was referring to, there's something ever less recognisable about the place Orwell wrote about. Strange then, that he can still induce a shudder when he says something like; 'the English are in the process of being numbered, labelled, conscripted, co-ordinated'. We were. Perhaps we still are. Then he'll say something timeless in a voice older and steadier than Watt Tyler's or John Lydon's that makes the perversity contained in the description of him as a Tory anarchist sound truly radical and challenging:

the common people must live to some extent against the existing order.

And you wish that they did, you wish that they would. He's criticised by modern Marxists for not having been a proper socialist, someone who never quite escaped the ideological entrapments of his privileged upbringing. But how much better than this can the fundamental realities of inequality be expressed?:

England is a country in which property and financial power are concentrated in very few hands. Few people in England own anything at all, except clothes, furniture and possibly a house.

Add to that a handful of mobile phones and a widescreen TV and ask yourself, has that underlying situation really changed all that much? Indeed, it's been the dubious achievement of English socialism - the Ingsoc that we actually arrived at here - to have increased rather than reduced the gulf between those 'very few hands' in whom financial power rests and the rest of us. Things have changed alright, but has it really been for the better?

But then, unless you had something to contrast your own experience with, you wouldn't really know, would you? 'The past is subversive', says Anthony Burgess, 'in the sense that it opposes pragmatic values to doctrinaire ones. The human and not the abstract'. So 1979 was better than 2007, perhaps, because you had the Boomtown Rats instead of Westlife; or because you could go to see a game of football and stand on terracing if you wanted to; or you could glide into a public space without the need for somebody to rummage through your hand baggage. With time, the personal does indeed become political, just as surely as youth is wasted on the young.

I had my yo-yo
That glowed in the dark
What made it special
Made it dangerous

What made it special, made it dangerous. One of the tropes of the mechanized age is that repetition reduces meaning; just look at the effect of Warhol's franking machine technique on the grinning masks of all those Jackies and Marilyns and you soon get the idea. Specialness begins to reside less in the artifact - the prized 78 or 45, the vintage programme, all of which were churned out in their tens of thousands - and more, as David Bowie has described it, in the space between the viewer and the viewed. This process metastasizes when we reach the digital realm. Where you once had shelves of books, stacks of LPs to tell you who you are or those you'll leave behind who you were, now all you need is your little black box. Your own personal flight recorder, its blue lights flicker as it quietly hums and chomps away at bits and gigabytes; this whirring, ventilating life support machine the only proof that you're alive or that you ever lived. We are fast becoming proles, if there was ever a time we weren't. Technocratic prole, the boot that comes to smash your face will need only stomp the memories of your hard disc, not those cushioned in the casing of your skull.

Episodes 5 and 6 of The Road to Moscow now available to listen to...

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


December [?], 1945: Arsenal 3 (Rooke, Mortenson 2), Dynamo Moscow 4 (Bobrov...[other scorers unknown])

You draw deeply from your Victory, feel the smoke expand your lungs as it goes about its lethal but invigorating work. Now you rub your mittened hands against the wintry chill, exhale and watch your breathe dissolve into the general fug, see it thicken and expand to fill the ground. You're here, at the Lane, to write about the Dynamo and the Arsenal for the Tribune. Or, at least, that was the idea. You were going to write about the game, but instead you're stood here shivering and sniffling and staring at low cloud. You take another puff of Victory. It draws a rattle from you as stirring as that of any whirled above their head by a young enthusiast. You peer out and vaguely sense there's still a pitch behind the secretive curtain of fog. You're here, at the Lane, to watch the Arsenal play at home and somewhere a clock must be striking thirteen.

You're here to watch the Dynamo play the Arsenal at the Lane, but this isn't really the Arsenal. How could a team containing Matthews, Mortenson and Rooke be called an Arsenal team? That is what the Soviets will claim. And you know, if no one else does, that this is not a Dynamo team but a Soviet team. You don't want to admit it, don't want to be their stooge or help do Pravda's work for them, but deep down you acknowledge that the men from Moscow are correct. How could it be otherwise? This is Dzerzhinsky's team. So this will not be Dynamo v. Arsenal. This is England v The USSR. This is not football, this is propaganda; this will not be sport, it will be war minus the shooting.

And you are here, at the Lane, recording the particulars, tugging on a Victory smoke and grimacing a little with every waft of the whiff of the flat-capped crowd around you. They are mainly here to see these sporting heroes from the realm of Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe. There's nothing avuncular about the reign of the Soviet Tsar. You've tried to tell them, but they will not listen. But you'll keep going, trying to find the words to nail this slippery, wriggling and inconvenient truth to the cathedral door. After the match you'll peel away from the dispersing crowd, head back to Islington and tap away at those sturdy iron keys, alone once more with that interrogating consciousness; the last man in Europe.

You peer through the fog at where the teams should be. You can see the ghostly frames of the two Soviet linesmen, their boots hugging the chalk of the same righthand touchline in a Soviet perversion of the norm. The game kicks off and straight away the Russians score. "Bobrov", suggests a flat-capped cockney in the crowd. Then Rooke scores; then another two for Mortenson before the Russians pull one back. There's a scuffle between the players, a white shirt arm strikes out through fug. Half time arrives, a break in the hostilities; this war without the weapons pauses for a brisk cup of of tea.

The fog grows ever thicker; the restart is delayed. Low heavy cloud obscures the machinations in the tunnel. A rumour starts to work its way around the ground; the Soviet officials will call off the game if their team has not drawn level before the end. Finally, into the murky gloom the 22 emerge. Red and white shirts flash out of the fog like plane tails plunging through low cloud. The Russians score. They score again. The final whistle blows; the air is foul.

You'll trudge back down the Seven Sisters, past beastly charred facades. Ill and filled with ill-will, you'll shuffle up the stairs. Another whooping, rattling cough as you unwind your tight pulled, 'tache tickling scarf. You'll roll and shift and clunk and jab until gradually the black words seep and thaw the sheet of snow before you. Your spirit slowly warms. Another Victory. You let it dangle, downward pointing, held steady by a tight-lipped smile. Tap tap tap. Clunk. Tap tap tap tap tap tap as you type your weekly Tribune piece: As I Please, by George Orwell; "The Sporting Spirit"...

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Monday, 15 October 2007

A Shadow and a Ball...

Authors are bastards, aren't they? I could never be a novelist; killing people off every five minutes like that;making the healthy poorly and the wealthy poor. I've seen enough of death and illness already, thank you very much. In any case, it's always there, you never have to look too far to find it. Even here, in a book nominally about the beautiful game, the Reaper's not had to wait too long to get up off the bench and join the fray; Rhys Jones, Puerta, there'll probably be more. Like those black socks that Manchester United used to wear to to commemorate the Busby Babes they lost in the Munich air disaster, the game has a shadow as well as a ball at its feet. So you have to talk about it, sure you do; it's just that you have no need to make it up.

I meant this to be about the act of writing and remembering, not a grim treatise on the inevitability of death. But

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

The Waiting Room...

When it comes, the moment you've been dreading all your life, it's curiously light and airy; not dark and heavy as you'd supposed it would be. As with most other tragedies, there's something of the absurd about it. In much the same way as the sight of that normal, everyday aircraft poised to connect with the tall tower of glass is so surreal it almost gouges out an involuntary laugh, so you now feel more inclined to laughter than tears. The effect is not dissimilar to looking at one of those Dada portraits; huge eyes and lips ballooning out of an otherwise well-proportioned face. In some ways, everything is pretty much the same as it was before. Only now, one detail looms and makes the rest of the components look so silly. Little has really changed, but somehow, suddenly everything is ugly.

So there you are, back in the waiting room. The results have been analysed and they have called you back. You thought that you were well but you are not well. You are no longer full of life. Or rather, you are full of too much life; you are being consumed by the very force that generates the flame within you. And so begins another inquest, this one your own into the root cause of this imminent extinction. Was it the fags? Or the booze? Or has nature just run its course with you? Perhaps some youthful indiscretion has caught up with you at last, is busy tearing down your barriers to disease. Whatever it is, your body is now a parody of itself just as that cut and pasted German collage makes mockery of a face.

They call you in, but this is one result you feel deep down you know already. No need for replays, and there will be no late night highlights show. This is it now; sudden death. Then you remember something Philip Larkin said and shudder. An interviwer had asked him what his problem was with death and he'd replied along the lines of "well, it's just the idea of my consciousness being completely extinguished for ever that I have a problem with, if you must know" and then you see it stark and clear. That is your problem too. Soon all that you knew will become black, as black as the charred remains of the match wood once its flame has been blown out. You, gone; your Universe gone and nothing left of you but a week or two of tears and so many darkened inky markings on a sheet.

So now they call your name, you hear it booming through the surgery. It's time for you to leave the waiting room and go into another room, this one tidy, sparse and panelled, and there you'll wait some more. But not for too long; the news is coming soon. They don't like to keep you waiting any longer than they need these days. They have so many more to see. Not long enough, at any rate, as far as you're concerned. Because you'd want to wait forever for this news.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Friday, 12 October 2007


Sunday 22nd June, 1986: Argentina 2 (Maradona 2), England 1 (Lineker)

Of course, the long-awaited sexual encounter is anything but warm and romantic. As Georgette fellates him, Vinnie remains standing and is fully clothed, with his pants down around his knees. At one point, he snarls, “Watch the balls, fer chrissake.” Meanwhile, his goombas stand around making lewd remarks. The icing on the cake is when Georgette tries to convince herself that she did not taste excrement on Vinnie’s penis as that would mean he had done it with one of her fellow transsexuals. And that would be more than Georgette could bear.

Internet synopsis of 'The Queen is Dead' section from Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. [direct quotation to follow, once I track down the book...]

As I write, this game bisects my life. I was 21 years old when it was played and that was 21 years ago.

I watch it with Ziggy Woodblume. We've sat through all the other England games at this World Cup and seen the team progress this far, so why stop now? Upon payment of a small fee, I'm ushered through the hall and into the living room. Mrs. Woodblume (no relation) has laid on a lavish kosher spread from which I am encouraged to borrow as much as I like. Ziggy has really entered into the spirit of things, having daubed three lions in eminently delible ink onto the breast of his homemade Israeli national team replica shirt. Ever fearful of wasting good ink, his attempts to embellish the design prove unsuccessful as he is unable to persuade either a hastily scrawled lamb or calf to lie down with their leonine cousins. Ethnic and religious groupings are so easy to poke fun at, aren't they? You wouldn't think that belonging to them could prove to be so hard.

I took England's exit from the Mexico World Cup in 1986 surprisingly badly considering I'd enjoyed watching the national team squirm for much of the tournament leading up to their quarter final defeat. I can't imagine how awful any true patriot must have felt to see the team eliminated as controversially as they were. That said, you'd have to be a fan of the lunatic, zany Union Jack top hat and tails wearing sort not to have enjoyed a good laugh watching the team's woeful group stage games.

Perhaps it was just me. After all, my footballing life had been forged in that crucible of mediocrity the 1970s. The first World Cup to have been hosted by the Mexicans at the outset of that decade was, to me, little more than a solitary colour holiday snap from some brief sojourn in a warm and sunny clime in the otherwise dank and monochrome photo album that was domestic football. The highlights shows would occasionally be illuminated by footage of a Revelino free kick or Pele dummying both keeper and ball in order to vindicate the progressive views of pundits like Brian Clough and Malcolm Alison.

That was the extent of the colour and happiness, apart from Charlie George, another gold-clad, sun-drenched pied piper stretched out, Christ-like on the Wembley turf. After Charlie though, there was nothing but ignominy; West Germany and Leeds United in 1972, Poland in 1973. Then Scotland, their three group stage games at the 1974 World Cup a 270 minute-long tartan rebuke for English failure to qualify in 1974. I'd been well hardened in what it meant to be English, you see, by 1978, let alone 1986.

You might forgive me such at this second Mexican-hosted World Cup. I'm patriotic in my own way, but I don't need a zany Union Jack top hat and tails outfit or replica shirt to demonstrate my allegience. Being English is a bizarre enough affliction without the need to draw attention to it. You bore it then, just as you bear it now; with the minimum of fuss. Being English means that you hate bands as soon as any reasonable number of other people start to like them. It means that you'll go on to love all of the things that you used to hate when the Conservative Party stood for them (old maids cycling through the mist to play cricket on the village green etc.) - when it wasn't trying to discard or destroy the very same things, that is - once the Labour Party finally gets in.

Back then being English meant that the Queen was Dead and it was lonely on a limb; in Liverpool, Leeds or Birmingham; Dublin, Dundee, Humberside, it made no odds. Whatever it was they said that you were, that was what you were not; as it would go on to be twenty years hence for the Arctic Monkeys, just as it had been twenty years earlier for Albert Finney and Arthur Seaton.

Them was rotten days when things were rotten...

And being English meant being Ray Wilkins; throwing the ball away, getting a second yellow card in the first game of the 1986 World Cup and getting yourself sent off only for the ten men left on the field to hang on grimly for a draw. Shame and bravery, as is so often the case with England, were inextricably intertwined.

I think Englishness is very different from most other national identities. Maybe that's because we're surrounded by those other distinct nationalisms, ones that we English have spent so much of our history trying to mould or subdue, rule or form some mutually disadvantageous union with. We've expended so much effort on imposing our will on this extended British family of ours that the very notion of an English nation has withered precisely as Wales, Ireland and Scotland have regained their autonomy and strength of purpose. A formerly overbearing parent-in-law, we're now invalided and at the whim of our delicately usurping carers and their scheming partners.

To a far greater extent than our neighbours in the British Isles, we English can take or leave our being English in a way they cannot relinquish their being Scottish, Welsh or Irish. Even our English flag, shorn of the rich triangulations of the British union, seems perfunctory and an act of making do. Anyone can stick it out of the window of any car or any dwelling and become a subject of its drab sovereignty, made bland by its stark indifference. Those white quarters, childishly apportioned by some bloodied finger are as much a curse as ever they are a comfort. Be honest; you'd burn it yourself as willingly as its enemies would, at times.

Perhaps that's because we've been made aware so often of the fundamental contradictions at the heart of our patriotism; the feeling that those for whom being English means the most are, by and large, those the rest of England most despises. You'll see it tomorrow, when the two teams stand in line at Wembley and in the Stade de France. You'll want to sing along with the French anthem, envy the global call to arms and the spirit of their 'Marseilleise'. Then you'll realise that all our anthem gives us is the chance to boo the other; the opportunity to jeer the French and barrack the Estonians. I can just as easily revel in England's misery as I can rail at the infamy of those who would dare abuse or scorn her. I hate her; but that is my perogative and woe betide those who take her name in vain. I am Georgette and England my undeserving Vinny. It's hardly the most satisfactory of arrangements...

And now, four days after I buy The Queen is Dead, comes this game. Perhaps more than any other I have watched, it helps define me - or rather, it helps confuse me. Or it defines the nature of my confusion. We often talk about days that shake or transform the world. I think life and history are less dramatic than that. No matter how extravagant the upheaval, things don't really change that much; the fear of nuclear extinction becomes the threat of AIDS which, with time, shifts shape to become BSE or CJD. What was the Communist Call is now jihad, and so on. My generation was instilled, as others have been before, with a belief in the notion of progress; we will arrive at something that is better than what went before. Like all myths, it's seductive and so nearly true. Things will be better; of course they will. But they will also, in many ways, be worse and many alleged improvements in our lives will be hard, if not impossible, to call as such. So when you're looking at your own life, making your unique, personal ready reckoning, conjunctions like this can seem significant; the nation itself seems to be sketched out, its contours mapped, in those four days; 'hemmed in, like a boar between arches'.

Is there such a thing as fair play? The English do (or, perhaps more honestly, used to) pride themselves upon preserving the essence of that ideal without necessarily feeling the need to be constrained by its strictures. It becomes the moot point, the kernel of this June Sunday when Maradona punches the ball beyond Shilton in the England goal. After the event, when we're all returned to the tyranny of the replay, acts of war will be task forced over by either side to justify or denounce what is either an opportunist's or a scoundrel's goal. But somewhere in the vast and sweltering crowd that day there is fairness, if not fair play. A fellow Londoner is looking down from the gods. Like me, he's not wearing a replica shirt, he is no saint, no St. George; just appraises with an honest pair of eyes.

He's seen the 'hand of God'; spotted it a mile off for the weasly scam it was. He too feels revulsed and cheated. But then the passions cool. The game resumes and something mystical and borderless occurs. One man - a sinner and a saint combined - blesses this game with his skill and with his will. "You have to say that's magnificent", cries Barry Davies from the commentary box at the end of Diego Maradona's Roadrunner run. He's just meep-meeped his way around, beyond and through a statue park of Englishmen and is now leaping up and fisting the air with that hand of his - or God's. You have to say that is magnificent. And it was, and is. And so is that voice; The voice you wish could speak for all of England. Because a part of you is glad that you've been beaten, but you still feel cut in two.

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!

Thursday, 11 October 2007


Wednesday 16th June, 1982: England 3 (Robson 2, Mariner), France 1 (Soler)

For some reason, I watch England's first game of the World Cup in Spain. I'm at Tertiary College by now and more interested in music and girls and trying to look like David Bowie or Keith Richards (according to the prevailing mood) than football. But as I write this, I recollect more and more of the tournament so I must have watched at least a few games. Anyway, Engand get off to a dream start. Bryan Robson scores with only a few seconds on the clock and, although the French equalise, England go on to win comfortably. They'll eventually depart from the tournament unbeaten after a goalless draw with the hosts. France go a stage further, losing the semi-final against West Germany; a result that shames the tournament. German goalkeeper Harold Schumacker fells Battiston with a brutal body charge but somehow stays on the pitch to play his part in the penalty shoot out that decides the game in their favour.

Italy will go on to provide karmically fuelled justice of a sort when they beat the West Germans 3-1 in the final. Marco Tardelli's celebration of Italy's second goal remains one of the sport's most exhilarating. Tearful, arms outstreched like a Marathon runner crossing the line in relief and joy. Italy take part in perhaps the best World Cup game I've seen, somehow living with, then beating a Brazil side who have been scoring goals for fun and who must be among the best sides not to have gone on to pick up the trophy. In fact, of the tournaments that England have taken part in, it's probably my favourite. I don't get bent out of shape either way by England's success or failure and have enjoyed my neutral status in the games they're not involved with.

What else? So much that I realise the inadequacy of the form of chosen, so much has happened since 1979 and that dramatic FA Cup Final I didn't even watch. I've fallen out and been reconciled with Caspar (don't ask - I've been trying to get my head around it, and it would take another book...), fallen in with Malcolm Glass and formed Attrition. It's a good name, isn't it? Attrition, that is; although Glass would have made a good name for some post-punk keyboardist or sythesizer wizard. And Attrition looks great too, with a circle around the A to form an anarchist symbol, ideal for inking onto your army surplus shoulder bag or spraying on a wall; which no one does.

We go to Sunday evening concerts at the Lyceum Ballroom on the Strand. We see Killing Joke, Discharge, Wah Heat and countless other bands on the lengthy bills, that used to read like rolls of honour, those litany's of the ephemeral in the N.M.E. advertisements. Scary Monsters comes out and I buy it in Boots in Richmond; buying an LP from a chemist - how quaint is that? We start bunking off school. I have a clever ruse worked out; you bunk off then acquire a stomach bug for the next couple of days, that way you're always covered by a letter from your Mum. It back fires though when one day we get a call from the school saying that I haven't been there for a week. Rumbled. I slope in with my punky hair, drainpipe jeans, flasher's mac and cowboy boots to get a grilling from Mr. Simmonds. He's seen descent from promising lock forward in the school rugby team to this degerate waistrel.

But much as I'm ashamed that I've in some way let him down, I won't be taking his advice to smarten myself up. I just don't care, it's as simple as that. There's a whole raft of us, reasonably intelligen

L.U.V. on y'all,


Hear Bob read extracts from his diary of the 2007-08 season, "The Road to Moscow"!!

Bobcasts now available at iTunes!!

Bobcasts now available at Jellycast!!