Weekly football conversation since 2009, with Graham Sibley, Jan Bilton and Terry Duffelen. Listen on 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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