Weekly football conversation since 2009, with Graham Sibley, Jan Bilton and Terry Duffelen. Listen on Acast, Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or your podcatcher of choice.

We're All Wasting Away

Johnny P mourns the passing of the 'bigger player'

Johnny Pundit: broad scope
Johnny Pundit: broad scope
West Ham team talk, circa 1954
West Ham team talk, circa 1954
Pre-match preparation.
Pre-match preparation.
Funny old thing, Football. For instance, the diminishing presence of the fat player. Thing of the past, the twinkle-toed tubster. Long gone, the salad-dodging, twisty-turny winger.
Our children are getting fatter while their role models are getting thinner: Mr Neil Ruddock was the last of a long line. Whilst they lost out on the odd offside decision — just one inch in the wrong place can go a long way, as I frequently remind Missus Pundit — well, at least they had the advantage of surprise. Tubby Timpkins was the best player 'of stature' that I played against. A centre forward usually described as 'bustling' — in the same way a Number 52 bus bustles through West End traffic — Tubby was decent, determined and dead at thirty. A heart attack took his legs away and he dropped face down like a pavement stone onto the Maine Road pitch while chasing a long ball. Many of us would argue you simply can't have too many doughnuts; Tubby proved otherwise. But he still bagged twenty goals a season.
Of course, nowadays footballers are glamorous, and fitness is vital. In my day, footballers were about as glamorous as irritable bowel syndrome. And fitness was a luxury most of us could ill afford: to keep up team spirit and so win matches, we were required to eat steak and chips together before every match, and go drinking till late until afterwards. It was a difficult routine, but it proved effective — at least until we played foreigners. They cheated by going on diets, and training. Funny old things, foreigners.
So farewell then, the wobble-bottomed wizard. Farewell, the genius with jowls that wobble like jelly. Who ate all the pies? Nobody at all.

Till next time,
Johnny Pundit

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