Ok, so we all know who I’m talking about here. ‘Oh, but this is the first line. How the hell are we supposed to know?’, comes a voice, shouting out from the crowd. Well then, my good sir, I beseech you to follow those ground rules your English Prose teacher tried, albeit in vain, to penetrate that thick skull of yours with, that is, ‘Read the Title BEFORE the damned prose, and not vice versa.’ Even after reading this one, if you do not recognize the inimitable personalities I speak of, then you, my friend, have less exposure to the footballing world, than Mario Balotelli has to the discipline of Personality Development. I allude to Joe Morrison, John Burridge, and Carlton Palmer.
As I hope you know, these illustrious men ply their trade (that of ‘football pundits’) for Ten Sports, and now cover the UEFA Champions League and La Liga on Ten Action Plus. Now, for a little background info on these guys. Budgie used to be a footballer. Well, a goalkeeper, actually, and you know how it is. They have a tougher time trying to include themselves into the list of ‘footballers’, than dentists do, trying to fit in with ‘real doctors’. And what’s more, he has a record. Nope, not for most clean sheets, most awards, most goals conceded, and other such rot. He has a record, – and I kid you not- for having played for the most number of English Football League teams (15) in his 30 year long career. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. He’s also played for 14 other teams, including Scottish and Non-league teams, making his grand total, 29. Yes, 29 teams in 30 years. Doesn’t get better than this.
Mr Palmer has been a midfielder for various clubs, most notably, Sheffield Wednesday. No, not Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday. Don’t ask me if there are Sheffield Thursdays, Fridays, etc as well, because I simply do not know, and don’t care.
Joe, on the other hand, is a nobody. Or rather, used to be a nobody, before his amazing career in Football Punditry kicked off.
So what do these ‘pundits’ do, you ask me. Well, to put it in a nutshell, they sit around a table, and with the pretence of discussing a football game, rag each other. Or rather, Joe rags them both. Doesn’t always have to be that way though. Sometimes, Budgie and Carlton end up ragging themselves.
For example, after Arsenal lost their second pre-quarter leg to Barcelona last season, Budgie was indicating how Arsenal keeper Szczesny hurt his middle finger while saving a shot. Oblivious to the hilarity of the situation, he was waving his middle finger in front of the camera. Joe was enjoying it, and was laughing on live television. I bet you’ve never seen football pundits do THAT before. Then , Budgie bent his finger, and continued talking. Joe, always a man with a resourceful brain, promptly picked up a sketch pen, and putting it near Budgie’s closed fist, started waving it, whilst grinning into the camera. Poor Budgie had no clue as to what was going on, and was under the impression that he was giving an intellectually stimulating Physiotherapy 101 lecture on live TV.
On the same night, he asked Palmer a question, and Palmer was staring into space, quite obviously not among those consciously present in the room. What he was thinking about, I haven’t the slightest clue. Maybe what the missus was gonna make for dinner. Maybe if he would get any dinner at all, after he had rather foolishly been caught staring into space while she was speaking to him, the previous night. But he was definitely surprised at being disturbed in that moment of deliberation, and looked at Joe with astonishment, as if Ten Sports were paying him for staring into space for the general amusement of the public, not for football discussion.
During another match, Carlton said,”I don’t think Fernando Torres deserves to be in the starting 11 for Chelsea. I think the manager plays him just because of his price tag.” To which Joe replied, ” Don’t worry, Carlton, even you are here because of your price tag.” Carlton just looked blankly at him, and I could see that that great head of his (I use that particular adjective in reference to the size, mind you) was trying to come to a conclusion. His blank look has become quite a rage in the footballing world. In fact, when someone has a stunned/stupid look after hitting a lamp-post, consuming heavy liquor, falling face-first after tripping over one’s shoelace, or taking botox injections, he/she is said to have ‘pulled off a Palmer’. It has become something of a colloquial phrase.
Of Budgie, no matter how much is said, it can’t ever be enough. Where Palmer goes blank, Budgie has this silly grin on his face, which is unmatched in terms of entertainment value. Joe’s comically creative mind thrives on this, and indeed, sometimes one could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that the very incentive that makes Joe get out of bed each morning, is the thought of seeing that delightfully funny face. You can imagine, therefore, that that odd hour of TV coverage must be doing nothing for Joe’s insatiable hunger for comedy. Therefore, he has come up with a twitter handle with the apparent motive of making football news updates. However, its verisimilitude is seriously challenged by the fact that he uses it for blatantly ragging Budgie. An example : Joe tweeted one day, ‘Yes, we are getting Budgie fitted for a Hannibal Lecter style mask ahead of the UEFA Champions League final’ . Now, those of you who have watched ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ will know who Hannibal Lecter is, and how much of a resemblance his face bears to our very own Budgie. On another occassion, he tweeted,’ Budgie is contemplating suicide which i’m encouraging cos i wil then put the signd book he gave me on ebay!’
Well, the John Dykes and the Martin Tylers of this world may frown upon these three masterstrokes of God’s paintbrush, and the Purists may well be offended at the mockery made of the sport they worship, but what they have to realize, is that in a world where such a pure sport has been corrupted by money, fame, egos and disloyalty, Joe and Co. provide much needed comic relief. They serve as those punching bags, which Nature inevitably provides us with, in all walks of life, who ‘take one for the team’. Kudos to these great men of all seasons, these kings among men, and may they continue to amuse and entertain the football fan who is frustrated by his team’s first half performance, and would like nothing better than to see Palmer staring blankly into the screen for 15 minutes!