I love James Constable. I’m reassured by his presence, I want him to be happy and I want him to know that despite the signings of McLean and Craddock, he’s still our special one. James, we’ll always have Wembley.
But there is one thing I don’t like about Constable; he does things that footballers do. Apparently professional sportsmen can process information in such a way that they see movement more slowly than you or I. It allows them to make precise calculations in fast moving situations and means they are supremely in control and aware of their actions.
It is this that meant at Wembley, Constable had the foresight to do the ‘point up in the air in memory of some dead dude’ celebration a la Frank Lampard. On Tuesday, following his first goal in the win against Shrewsbury, he appeared to enact the ‘not celebrating out of respec’ for my former club’ celebration. This is the one that says ‘I am the Dr Spock of football – I take no pleasure in destroying you, but I am an automaton built to score goals‘. It’s all so terribly footballery and I’d much prefer it if more people did a Matt Green at Wembley and just ran around like a goon after scoring.
These self-conscious goal celebrations are all part of the learnt behaviours of professional football. The worst thing about the Andy Gray and Richard Keys affair was not the comments they made about female officials which are so evidently wrong – it was how it revealed what an ugly beast football is on the inside. The behaviours that result are simply a product of their environment.
OK, so there’s more to this than the comments. Andy Gray is fired despite Richard Keys’ comments being altogether more venal. It would appear that Sky have just been looking for an opportunity.
From the original footage, Keys is absolute in his view; something will happen as a result of Sian Massey’s appointment. Kenny Dalglish will ‘go potty’ as a result. Karren Brady is wrong in her comments about sexism. For Keys those outside his football bubble are wrong, those inside are right. In other footage, Andy Baker is seen trying to impress Andy Gray with a series of lame laddish jokes about Massey. Gray grunts away as Baker fawns away.
Keys and Gray were part of an insular world that they sold to the public as a workingman’s grass roots game. In fact, it has its own ugly and distasteful routines and behaviours. Those who don’t play along are held in utter contempt. It is no wonder that footballers develop portentous and patronising routines – it keeps them in the profession’s loop. If they didn’t play along, they’d be ostracised.
Thankfully Constable’s crimes are mild and not at all like Richard Keys or Andy Gray. To be frank when he’s scoring goals in a yellow shirt, I can forgive him almost anything.