I was down the park with my boy, having a kick about, when it came round the corner. Even from that distance, there was no mistaking the Versace smile of the star striker, the fairytale jaw of the captain. And was that the manager, cheeks red as the last inch of wine in the bottle, drunk at sunset in a hillside town in the south of France, from where you could look down on the world like you owned it?
Within minutes, the village was gathered: fathers and sons chanting grown men’s names, sisters and mothers touching up make-up and cleavage. The players looked scared. The driver scratched his head, fiddled with the satnav. Then Paul, a legend in the village since losing his job, giving all his time to the Under 10s, forced his way onboard, holding his son’s autograph book like a begging bowl. We watched with amazement, then with anger, as the Chilean winger—the one you’d recognise from the Nike billboard—raised his fist to Paul and floored him. That started it. Suddenly, everyone was holding something: a rake, a mop, a Stanley knife, a car bumper. We went for the tyres, then the windows.
As the judge said later, in the absence of CCTV, and given the unreliable nature of witness statements, it was impossible to decide on responsibility. But let’s just say this: it’s easy to imagine, isn’t it, what it would feel like to hold the FA Cup over your head, then bring it down—crack!—on twenty million quid’s worth of right ankle, as the man you’ve been in love with for five years shakes and begs for mercy?