by Sir Hardly Anyone
You may have noticed that of late there has been a major shift among the newspapers and websites over Arsenal transfer news. Up to last summer there was some sort of attempt in most journalistic reports to link the headline to the text of the “story” as it is known in the trade. Thus if the headline suggested Arsenal were looking at signing four players we would be told who those four players were or at least their positions. If we were looking to buy, we would be told who.
Now the pressure of the 24 hours a day news means all this has changed and that old approach is considered to be too namby-pamby for today’s get-up-and-already-gone readers. We are still told Arsenal are signing four players but now (and here is the twist!) we are not told who they are!!
Thus it was that in the Toppled Bollard, drinking den of the dented journalist, Excess Fiend of the Express uttered a stricken woof whistle (rather like a bull-dog that has been refused cake) as he waddled towards the bar looking for all the world like a bath sponge recently placed in dehydrated water.
The reason for this change, I am told by the regulars in the lounge bar of the Bollard, is that the papers and blogs are getting just a trifle fed up with being laughed at by Untold Arsenal with its regular list of players these journalists (I use the word lightly) claim the club is buying; 97% of whom never turn up on our books, and 102% of whom actually don’t even exist.
So a crisis meeting was called and the semi-skimmed members of the reporting elite gathered to down a few and solve a crisis.
“They are making us look stupid,” said Basket Weaver of the Inverted Rats.
“How can we stop them laughing at us?” cried Wombat Demontfort in reply, to a general shaking of the heads and downing of the large ones.
“If we don’t tell them the names of the players, they’ll never know who we are talking about!” said Felix Felixstowe of the Suffolk Gazette.
“And we won’t have anything to make up!” shouted Jasper Finch-Farrowmere.
“ffinch-Ffarrowmere,” corrected the visitor, his sensitive ear detecting the capitals in the wrong place when anyone says (or as in this case, writes) his name.
“Which means more drinking time!” (Roars of approval).
“Arsenal urged to complete signing that will solve two Mikel Arteta problems,” pronounced the man from the
“Boateng would be a good fit,” said someone, but by now the regulars were on their third double and no one was listening.
However the man from the Star was not to be put down. “Arsenal chief Edu sets about offloading 12 players in January transfer window,” he shouted at no one in particular.
“Cheap second-hand car hire,” called the man from the Evening Standard who had just picked up the first edition and turned over two pages at once by mistake. Everyone gave him a pointed look, showing the journalists’ remorseless desire to put a fellow scribbler down, given half a chance.
To be fair he deserved it, for he looked rather like a village vicar’s daughter who plays rugga every Wednesday afternoon, and reprimands the local parishioners when they want to marry their deceased wives’ sisters without waiting the customary three weeks after the late wife’s funeral.
“Ah,” said the man from the Star whose name no one can remember. “According to The Athletic, Emile Smith Rowe is set to follow Eddie Nketiah in securing a temporary exit to the Championship.”
“Rubbish,” shouted the man from the Athletic, whose name no one had quite yet caught. But clearly he was anxious to be inducted into the ways of the Toppled Bollard for he stood square on to the man from the Star as the two moved heavily from foot to foot each attempting to outstare the other.
“Who are you?” shouted the man from the Star whose name no one could remember.
“Plank-Zonabab, Major,” said the man from the Athletic before demanding, “Who are you, dash it be damned?” he retorted.
“I’m Major Plank-Zonabab,” said the man from the Star.
Now when two overweight journalists attempt to stand face to face, or at least as close as their extended stomachs will allow, each claiming to be from the esteemed clan Plank-Zonabnab, and each carrying a military rank half way between captain and Lt Colonel, it is inevitable that there will be a sense of strain in the room, resulting in a momentary silence.
But this is the Bollard and silence does not last long – especially when there is a man from FoLo in the room.
“Arteta exclusive,” he screamed into his phone, and the Bollard fell quiet as the inebriated waited.
“Front page full double size headline – ‘Mikel Arteta confirms Arsenal working on a ‘few’ transfer deals this month’.”
There was a hushed silence in the room as we still waited with expectant expectation for Napoleon Rod to tell us what. “Speaking in an interview quoted by Metro, Arteta said: ‘We don’t talk about any transfers and we are working on a few things. When the club has something to say, I will let you know’.”
A stunned silence stunned the crowd as lightweights among the reporting gaggle passed out under the weight of excitement rarely seen since the announcement of the latest PG Wodehouse novel.
It was, as the journalists like to say, the big one.
A silence descended on the inebriated.
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