Subject To Availability

26 Dec

From school reports to letters, diary entries to folk tales, Dispatches always likes to keep you on your toes.

What began on the eve of the World Cup as a midnight rambling has turned into Dispatches From A Football Sofa and I’d like to quickly take the chance to thank everybody who has read and supported this little blog of mine.

What would the festive season be without a Christmas Special? So this week, I give you a magical Christmas film in words.

My usual brand of  ‘Pessimistic Optimism’ will return with a vengeance in 2011. See you on the other side…


Scene 1:

A hand writing on an exercise book. Waffling in the background. Rows of desks are made out in the periphery of vision. This is school.


The hand is writing out a succession of numbers. Could this be a maths class? As the angle widens it is evident that what is being written does not correspond with what is being said. The writer is detailing the entire honours history of Tottenham Hotspur: Champions: 1951, 1961; FA Cup Winners: 1901, 1921, 1961, 1962, etc.


Close up of the writer’s face. He is a boy of about 7 or 8 years of age, scampish and clearly a million miles away.


The bell goes. There is much shifting and fidgeting. Hometime.

Teacher’s Voice:

OK. Books away. What have we been doing this afternoon? There’ll be a test on Monday. Jonathan! (Allowing the possibility that Jonathan might be in trouble) Doing anything nice over the weekend?


Jonathan pipes up. A ratty looking child, with an air of smugness about him.


My dad’s taking me to see Chelsea.


Teacher’s Voice:

(he nods approvingly, evidently a Chelsea fan himself) Sandy?



(coyly) My dad’s taking me to the Spurs match…


(Sniggers from the other kids)


(snidely) Liar. You haven’t got a dad… and Spurs are rubbish too.



(backtracking) I meant my mum. My mum’s taking me. And Spurs aren’t rubbish. They’re the pride of North London. The Kings of White Hart Lane.


The sniggers now mutate into jeers as the other kids unveil a collage of assorted Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool clothing merchandise obscuring Sandy’s path to the door. The so-called “Big 4” have this particular classroom in their overstuffed pockets.


Teachers Voice:

(fading into the background) Well, whatever you’re doing don’t forget those winning sequences…


Scene 2:

Saturday morning. Sandy’s bedroom. A shrine to Spurs. Posters of current and bygone stars on the walls – (Gascoigne, Klinsmann, Defoe), scarves, pendants and the obligatory Spurs duvet cover. The Spurs alarm clock goes off. Sandy jumps out of bed. In his Spurs pyjamas.

He is on the stairs whispering into the phone.


D, A, G.

(Legs hurriedly come down the stairs)


Sandy Brown, what are you doing?



Nothing mum.



Well stop doing nothing and go and change your sister’s nappy. I’m late enough for work as it is and I really haven’t got the time for any playing up by either of you.


Note: Sandy’s mum’s face, like the teacher’s, is never seen. All that is seen is mum’s waist downwards, reminiscent of the Mammy in the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. This is Sandy’s world.

As Sandy changes his sister, the boy is comparable to the eye of the storm.

The mise-en-scene of the living room becomes visible while his mother rushes around. This is not a dirty house but it is a mess. Toys everywhere. Final demands. Cat hairs. There is no paternal presence evident. This is obviously a one-parent family.

Nappy done, Sandy goes and fixes himself some breakfast. Cold pizza. He takes it to his seat and watches TV. Football sounds emanating from the set.

Sandy’s mum walks in ready for work.


Ok sweetheart, I’m going to drop Bonny off at the crèche and then I’m off to work. (Spies the pizza). Please buy yourself some fruit today. Here’s some money. Go out and do something with your friends. What’s Jonathan up to?

She ruffles his hair placing some money on the coffee table.



Thanks mum.



Now be good. Have a nice day and don’t forget to give this room a quick tidy by the time I get back. I love you.




(Sandy’s mum is evidently not taking him to see Spurs)


Scene 3:

Sandy in the bathroom. He is wearing an oversized Spurs shirt. One dating back to the early 1990s. The ’91 Cup Final shirt. Probably his dad’s. The back says Lineker.

He is doing his hair. Wraps a Spurs scarf around his neck. Puts on his coat and a blue and white bobble hat and raids his piggy bank.

He leaves the house.


Scene 4:

On a train. On the seat next to Sandy, eating a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, sits a similarly attired boy. And next to the boy sits his father also similarly attired. By the looks of things, they are going to the match and it looks as though Sandy is going too.


Scene 5:

The sign reads White Hart Lane station. Sandy is squashed in amongst a throng of bodies now. Everybody disembarks including the father and son and Sandy. As he enters the matchday environment, the camera angle expands from the personal perspective to a wider view. Sandy is now part of the crowd; gearing up for the match.

Brief montage detailing the sea of faces, smells, sounds and general hubbub of matchday. Patrolling policemen on horses. The magnitude of the stadium. Players arriving in flash cars. Cheers. Burger vans and programme sellers.


Scene 6:

The chip shop. Sandy queues. From behind the counter, a voice is heard.


Portion of chips please.



Salt n vinegar with that?


Yes, please.


A little hand extends to place the change on the counter.

All seems well as Sandy strolls down Tottenham High Road savouring the atmosphere. He proceeds to sing one of the numerous Chas n’ Dave forever associated with the club. “Hot Shot Tottenham”, detailing the ’87 Cup Final squad. A squad which Sandy could not possibly remember seeing. Another memory of his dad?


(singing) “Ray Clemence, Mitchell Thomas, Gary Stevens, Steve Hodge/ They’re all gonna put on a show for you/ And don’t forget Ossie/ Especially cos he/ Back in ’81 he had his dream come true/ Nico Cleason, Hughton and Galvin/ Don’t forget Clive and Paul Allen too/ Richard Gough and Chrissy Waddle/ Gary Mabbutt and Glen Hoddle/ And Danny all the goals are gonna be for you.”

It is clear Sandy knows his history.

This interlude brings him to the entrance of the Park Lane ticket office. There is queue for tickets. There are still some on sale. As the line gets shorter it seems Sandy’s luck will be in. He is at the front of the queue. There is an immeasurable grin on his face. But as he readies himself to enter the ticket office, an official strides out with a placard and places it on the ground. It reads:


The line behind Sandy dissolves. He is now alone again.


Scene 7:

Back on the High Road. Sandy walks dejected. Within earshot, he hears the familiar hushed tones that are heard around grounds on matchdays:

“Tickets. Any tickets. Buy or sell”. The touts. Of course. Maybe Sandy can buy a ticket off one of them and get into the game?  He approaches three gruff, suspicious looking individuals who tower over the young boy.


Got any tickets left?


Tout 1 (a stocky man with a Geordie accent):

How many you after little man?



Just the one.


Tout 2 (a blonde man with a big nose and a faint German twang):

Ooo. It’ll cost ya.



How much?

Tout 1:

60 quid. You got that kinda cash on ya.



(sheepishly) No.


Tout 2:

What ya got then?

Sandy reaches into his pockets and pulls out a five pound note and some shrapnel. He has spent the money his mum gave him. The three hyenas collapse with laughter.


You’re aving a larf ain’t cha?



No. Go on….give us a ticket…

Tout 1:

Tell ya what. Business is a bit slow today. So here’s the deal. I’m gonna set you a little quiz. Three questions. Get three right and the ticket’s yours.


He winks at his mates. Tout 3 sniggers like a schoolboy.





Tout 1:

Alright. Let’s see. Right. Who scored the winning goal in the ’91 Cup Final?



(emphatically) Des Walker. Own goal.


Tout 2:

Yeah, that was easy. I’ll ‘av a go. Right, what was Glen Hoddle’s last match for Spurs?



(smiling) ’87 Cup Final against Coventry.


Tout 2:

Gawd. Everyone’s a smartarse in’t they.


Tout 3:

Ok. This’ll sort you out Einstein. Who scored the winning goal for Spurs in the 1901 Cup Final? He shoots, he scores.


He has. Sandy clearly doesn’t know and has to admit defeat.


Tout 3:

Don’t know? Ahh, what a shame? Sandy Brown was the fella’s name. Oh well…


The cruel irony is not lost on Sandy.


But that’s my name…


Tout 3:

Yeah and I’m Diego Maradona. (He does bear an uncanny resemblance to the diminutive Argentine legend.) Tough luck kid.


Tout 1:

Spurs are rubbish anyway. Next time get your old man to get you tickets for Chelsea. Stop ya wasting ya time…


The three men slip away into the crowd, cackling and chanting “My old man said be a Tottenham fan”.

It is now obvious to Sandy that he will not be seeing Spurs play today.


Scene 8:

Three o’ clock is approaching. Sandy is now even trying to get into a pub to watch the game. The huge black bouncer on the door turns him away and from within the pub, Sandy’s head can be seen bobbing up and down at the window trying to grab a view of the screen. The commentary is announcing the line-ups and the pub’s clientele are anticipating the game’s kick-off.

Scene 9:

Note: This scene/sequence has three major influences in order for empathy be achieve:

(I) The imaginary World Series match in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Despite the television being off, the viewer is swept away by the believability of the inmates as they follow a game which isn’t really there.

(II) The innocence and hilarity of the football match which takes place in Ken Loach’s Kes. A school kickabout turns into an old First Division encounter between Spurs and Manchester United with Brian Glover’s overzealous P.E teacher taking things a little too far, thinking himself to be Bobby Charlton.

(III) The anxiety of the football obsessive as s/he is transfixed by the scrolling screens of Sky Sports, Ceefax and Grandstand’s ubiquitous Vidiprinter on a Saturday afternoon in anticipation of further developments in his/her team’s fortunes.

Three o’ clock arrives. The streets are virtually empty, as everybody has entered the stadium. Sandy sits dejected outside the arena, dwarfed by its enormity. As the crowd greets the players, Sandy’s mood gradually alters. He becomes swamped by the sound emanating from within.

What follows is a montage telling the story of the match through the crowd’s chants, moans and groans and Sandy’s reactions to them as the major incidents are flashed up at the bottom of the screen.

E.g: 16 mins: Spurs 1 – Man Utd 0

29 mins:  Man Utd Penalty

30 mins:  Man Utd miss penalty

And so on. Until by the end, the little boy is celebrating in the street as people begin to filter out and flash bemused looks in his direction. Spurs win. Sandy is ecstatic.


Scene 10:

The earlier scene at White Hart Lane Station is repeated in reverse. Sandy is squashed within the throng of the crowd singing victory songs. Nobody knows that he didn’t actually get to see the match. Nobody cares. He’s one of them.


Scene 11:

On the train. The same father and son are sitting across from Sandy again. They are eating pre-prepared sandwiches and drinking tea from a flask. As the crowd begins to disperse the point of view retracts again to centre just on Sunday.


Scene 12:

Sandy enters his house and quickly clears up the front room. As his mum enters with the baby he is sat on the armchair where she left him.


Hi sweetheart.



Hi mum.



The room looks nice and clean. So what have you been up to today?



Nothing much. Just homework and stuff.



(in a rush, not really listening) Good good. Look sweetheart, I’ve got to rush. I’ve got a date tonight. You’re going to look after your sister tonight. Is that ok? I’ll order you a pizza.





Mum rushes upstairs. From upstairs:


How did Spurs get on today?



They won.


Mum comes back down.


Right. Be good. I won’t be back too late. Have fun. I love you.





She ruffles his hair again.


Scene 14:

Sandy is settled in front of the TV. Match of the Day is about to begin. At last he’ll get to see Spurs. The familiar theme tune over, Gary Lineker’s voice can be heard introducing the first match. It’s not Spurs. Sandy huffs.


A little further down into the armchair. Gary introduces another match. Again, it’s not Spurs. Sandy’s eyes are beginning to get heavy.


Gary Lineker now introduces action from today’s match at White Hart Lane but as the camera cuts to Sandy’s face it is clear the boy is too tired and is now asleep.



Gary Lineker:

And just before we go, we’ve got just enough time to give you the result of this December’s Goal of the Month competition. The person who guessed the winning sequence is Sandy Brown of Hertford. Congratulations Sandy. You get to go the Premiership game of your choice. Enjoy your day.


Gary winks at the camera. The consummate fairy godfather.

Sandy is still asleep, unaware of the prize he has just won.


Follow Dispatches From A Football Sofa on Twitter: @gregtheoharis

One Response to “Subject To Availability”

  1. SpursSimon December 27, 2010 at 11:13 #

    Excellent mate.
    That actually gave me goosebumps

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