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Laurence Inman’s Blog



Never mind England's 2-0 stroll against the USA last night, Laurence Inman is still reflecting on the European Cup final, and the philosophical differences between John Terry and Alex Ferguson.

I think I’ve been to about half-a-dozen matches between Chelsea and Manchester United over the years. Most were in Manchester and I can’t remember a thing about them. Why should I? They were just football matches.

When I lived in London I once sat with my A-to-Z and a ruler and worked out that the flat I shared with three dope-heads pretending to be students was at the exact mid-point of a triangle formed by Stamford Bridge, Loftus Road and Craven Cottage.

Fulham was undoubtedly the most pleasant of the three grounds, then QPR and finally Chelsea. In those days (1969-ish) their crowd was uniformly made up of skinheads. They occupied The Shed, and it was.

When Man U turned up that season the only thing I can now recall is a mass fight as they tried to take over this shed.

I’m sure I’ll remember only two things about last week’s match in Moscow.

One was the sight of John Terry, a grown adult and the captain, crying because he missed the penalty which would have won Chelsea that bulky, tasteless trophy. Even the thought that he earns five times the average annual salary EACH WEEK didn’t seem to console him.

If there were such things as tears of schadenfreude, I would have shed them copiously. (‘Shed’....get it? Eh ?)

The other thing I might not forget in a hurry is hearing Alex Ferguson tell the world: ‘I don’t get carried away. Tomorrow morning I’ll be thinking about next season. It drains away very quickly – that drug, that final moment. I will be thinking about the future and looking into the players’ eyes to make sure their hunger is still there.’

This is Roman stoicism for all to see. To paraphrase Kevin Keegan: my estimation of him has gone right up.

He knows that the euphoria you feel at achieving some long-desired goal is ephemeral, and probably, in the end, illusory. Such an attitude denotes an approach to life which is, in a sense, ‘professional.’

Terry’s attitude was, in direct contrast, puerile; anyone can score or miss a penalty. I haven’t kicked a ball in anger for years, but if I push the ball one way and the best goalie in the world steps the other way, I will score, every time.

Today wasn’t your turn, John. Get over it. Take a leaf out of David Batty’s book. The press chased him the day after he missed one for England, trying to get him to cry or something, but he wasn’t playing. ‘I missed. That’s the way it goes. But I’m a pro. I’ll just carry on.’

Fergie’s attitude was a healthy riposte to the usual toss we hear on the telly – that winning a bit of money, or becoming Sir Alan’s apprentice, or getting through to the final of X-Factor will be ‘life-changing.’ You’d be lucky if it changed the next half hour. The rest is self-deception, over-investment and just plain dumbness.

A life spent half in hope and half in disappointment is not a real life. Real life involves acceptance and detachment.

The Fergusonian view is unassailable: in the end, winning isn’t that much better than losing. Nothing is as good or bad as we would like it to be. Most of us spend our time acting to an audience of one. Try as you might, a joke’s effect will never last longer than the joke itself, and anyway, nothing’s that funny.

Yeats had it bang-on:

          Considering that, all hatred driven hence,

          The soul recovers radical innocence

          And learns at last that it is self-delighting,

          Self-appeasing, self-affrighting.....


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