Here’s the diary of a typical week in the hectic life of Tommy McDonald, host of the late-night radio phone-in football karaoke show Sing When You’re Winning. He is currently working on his next book, The Cat, a biography of Peter Bonetti, which he is co-writing with Damon Albarn of Blur. A former reviewer for the NME and an obsessive QPR, fan Tommy lives in Islington with his dog Loftus and his girlfriend Marie-Clare, an Orient fan
Monday A bit tired this morning as we had a massive booze-up at the studios of Mantalk! Cable where we were doing a pilot for a new show – Kicked Into Touch. I think they will go for it. It is an off-the-wall, irreverent look at players who were rejected by clubs after their apprenticeships, a sort-of This is Your Life for failed players… except with bollocks. Tony Wilson, Richard Jobson and Elton Welsby are in for the presenter’s job as well. But I think this could be the one to get me into Tellyland – they’re so old school and the fellas at Mantalk! are looking for something a little more New Football.
Tuesday Damon called this morning and a mate of his reckons that Peter Bonetti may have had some Italian blood in him. Called the publishers and they loved it – gives it a whole new angle, bearing in mind the current interest in Zola and Vialli at the Bridge. Bonetti was there 30 years before them and no-one knew it! Went down to Loftus Road for the reserves match tonight. Somehow I just enjoy the reserve games more – you find the real fans down there, but ordinarily my life is just too full and rewarding. However, must go to a reserve away game soon, could be a piece in that for someone.
Marie-Clare went into a rant. She says I’m just jumping on to the Chelsea bandwagon with the Bonetti book and that people will accuse me of being a fairweather fan. That’s bollocks of course, I think what is really pissing her off is my obsessive research into Bonetti’s life. Since I started on the project it is almost as if Peter has moved into the flat with us. His photos litter the front room and he just seems to crop up in conversation all the time. I think I have even absorbed much of Peter’s personality. She threatened to leave me if I don’t change my ways. But I can’t help wondering: is Marie-Clare splitting up with me or Peter Bonetti?
Thursday Got a call from an old mate of mine who used to work for Smash Hits. He is editing a new magazine – Footie Nuttie. He says it will combine the “spirit of the fanzines” while being “relevant to the Sky generation” but will avoid “the pitfalls of Hornbyism”. Sounds spot on. I suggested a piece on travelling to a QPR reserve away game and he went for it. Four page spread with lots of photos. He wanted the whole hog: “Tell it like you’re talking to your mate down the pub. I want to smell those pies and taste that Bovril, in big inverted commas. Try to find some nutter who follows the reserves everywhere and then chat to one of the players’ birds, get a tasty one for the pics.”
In the evening went down the pub to watch the footie with my mates and there in the corner was Peter Bloody Bonetti! He came over for a word. “I hear you are doing a book on me,” he said. “Well don’t expect to get any help, I’ve got my autobiography coming out soon.” Bastard. Who told him? Do I tell the publishers? I called Damon and he said we should forget Bonetti and do Imre Varadi instead. He’s so on the ball.
He reckons that Man City could be the next big thing. “People are sick of all the big clubs and the big stars, crap is cool. Varadi has everything – late Seventies, Man City, Italian-sounding name, ended his career at Rotherham, rumours of beer-induced rampages, probably owns a chippie now.” I’m not sure if Varadi did play for Man City but I let Damon’s gaffe pass without comment.
Friday I suspect that Marie-Clare is secretly pleased that the Bonetti book is off. She was dead sound today and bought me a new shirt, an old Romania top from the 1978 World Cup, one of those nostalgia things – will look cool on the telly. It’s almost as though Bonetti has packed his bags and left the flat. Things are back to normal.
The publishers were a bit lukewarm on Varadi, I even suspect that they had never even fucking heard of him! Can you believe that? So I spoke to the agent. Where does Varadi live now, she asked. I had no idea and I couldn’t be arsed to bluff it. “No idea,” I says. “Perfect,” she says. “Let’s make it a kind of rites of passage thing as you track down Imre Varadi and travel the grimy lower-division and non-League grounds of the North of England tracing his past. Kind of Garry Nelson meets Michael Palin meets The Full Monty.”
Saturday Damon’s not into it. His mate says Varadi wasn’t Italian after all and reckons we should do Ron Harris instead. Chopper – what a title, he says, Loaded will love it. I’m not so sure and all kinds of names are rushing into my head. Sammy Nelson – that moon he pulled in front of the North Bank was class but Arsenal are little passé. Damon says he’s still going to put Bonetti on the cover of his next single. Mantalk! have gone for it… yes! And even better, the agent has got me a gig writing a short story about the whole Bonetti experience for an anthology of new football writing. Don’t know what Marie-Clare is going make of that though.
From WSC 134 April 1998. What was happening this month