Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Utility Man

As he skips through his range of warm-up tricks
on the much-maligned artificial pitch –
the best one an over-the-shoulder flip
condescendingly ensnared by his nape –
you wouldn’t suppose that fifteen minutes
before, Sheffield-sharp in a three-piece suit
at Huckleberry’s counter, he ordered
a cheeseburger deal to go, and nodded
towards some fans, with a toss of his wedge,
a wordless greeting-of-sorts as he went.

He’s fed up of not being pigeon-holed;
of being called Mr Versatile:
no position he can claim as his own,
except the bench, from where he’s often thrown      
to be a makeshift forward or outside right;
even called upon between the uprights
one Boxing Day. As the Senior Pro,
he gets his UEFA badges; in due
course becomes the new Gaffer’s right-hand man;
‘completely respected’ by everyone;

the butt of pranks by YTS trainees.
He can’t sustain his pace for long, so he’s
only used in cameos, when his bold,
old-fashioned wing-play – arms out, head down – would
salvage a point. On hanging up his boots,
he fills various roles: lower-league scout;
leftfield purveyor of droll punditry
for local radio; brusque licensee
of a pub known for being welcoming
to all, including old folk, kids and dogs.

Note: a previous version of this appeared at Football Poets a few years ago, but I've recently revised it and as there's no World Cup games today I thought I'd fill the interlude...

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