I Want to Believe

June 19th, 2014

Russell Brand on England and World Cup

The world isn’t made of atoms, it’s made of stories. The World Cup is an arena in which narratives are fulfilled. Heroes, villains, scapegoats, underdogs, triumphs, near-misses and tragedies, all are played out on a global stage, a pagan drama in a secular age.

Here I am, another World Cup, staying up late, worrying, hoping, like a heroine in a Motown song or Angie Watts, jumping back into the arms of my three-lion lover, murmuring the split-lipped refrain of the abused, “This time they’ve changed”.

If I could’ve told little eleven-year-old Russell, bereft in the asphalt wasteland of Little Thurrock Primary School as he listened to the bewildering lies of Jamie Dawkins (that England would be allowed to proceed in the tournament and that Diego Maradona’s Quarter Final hand ball had been retroactively banned by FIFA; he was the hardest kid in our school, I had no choice but to believe) that in 2014 I’d be once more, like a wincing white-coal fire walker, striding into the agonising known he’d’ve been dazzled.

It’s also likely that adult, time-traveller me would’ve been arrested because I’d’ve been unable to resist giving Dawkins a bit of a dig for all the bullying and that, along with my very presence in a primary school playground, would’ve been grounds for police intervention.

The excuse “I’m a time traveller from 2014 come back to warn my child self against the perils of forming an emotional attachment to England because it leads to heartache and contradicts my wider philosophy that nationalism is outmoded and conflagratory” would likely be greeted by the Essex constabulary as confirmation that they were indeed dealing with a paedophile and see me slammed in the cells.

As a child, in the spirit of Pulp’s “Disco 2000”, I’d often wonder where I’d be at the arrival of forthcoming World Cups, in ’86 when it first became relevant to me, the idea that in 2014 Gary Lineker, the Golden Boot winner, would be a silver-haired anchor and I at 39 would be older than every player in the tournament, would’ve been as inconceivable as refs using sputum sprays to mark 10 yards or a World Cup held in a desert due to alleged corruption.

When in Italia ’90 I heard that Cameroon’s Roger Milla was 38 I was amazed he could walk, let alone do that sexy pole dance he did at the corner flag to celebrate scoring, 38? It was like Father Christmas was in the team.

It is an indication of how indelible and deep the game’s grammar is seated that a relatively innocuous addition like the foam ejaculate seems so absurd and anomalous. It’s a highly territorial and aggressive piece of bureaucracy.

In the Spain vs Holland match the ref jizzed a blob of foam on Bruno Martins Indi’s bootie and the player looked furious. That moment would’ve been inexplicable to a viewer from the recent past, an aggrieved player berating the ref for spurting grog on his footwear. This addition lends further credence, though, to the beloved chant “The referee’s a wanker”.

The destruction of the invincible Spanish is a result that indicates two things; it could be a classic World Cup and no one knows anything about football. When Spain announced their squad the commentators went into an orgy of praise, fetishising even the omissions. “Negredo doesn’t even make the squad,” they gasped.

Well, Spain have been thrashed. Arjen Robben, a Nobby Styles for our day, a man born bald, who’ll die bald and looked like a gnarled Woodbine-smoking mill worker when he was 16, tore through the world’s best team the way he tears through time, like it doesn’t exist.

Is it me or did he leave Chelsea about ten years ago? I thought he arrived at Chelsea with a reputation. Who is he, Benjamin Button? If Holland get to the final he’ll probably run out wearing a bonnet and a nappy.

It is this certainty that expectation can be subverted that provides an aperture through which our nation can glimpse hope. We, like hapless romantics, can use any co-ordinates we’re given to construct a narrative that aligns with our yearning.

I swear to you, I’d given up on England, like a hardcore fan that cares more about his club side than the wet festival of Jules Rimet. But like Michael Corleone, every time I think I’ve escaped they keep pulling me back in. Here are the threads that are leading me back to dreamland.

Firstly, Roy Hodgson. I like him, I mean I think he’s lovely, decent, proper, one of yer own. A Bobby Robson, granddad of the game. He exhibits I think the type of human values we subconsciously long for in a national patriarch. We know the score with England managers, we look for ways to dislike them; turnips, wallies with brollies, saucy Swedes, austere Italians; “do we not like them”.

I think Roy Hodgson’s polite and gentle defence of Wayne Rooney who provided an assist but looked out of position and frustrated on the left was deft and sweet. He weren’t having none of it. Gabby Logan asked if Rooney looked stymied and Roy said “he didn’t agree” and that Wayne had “set up our goal, with a fine piece of play”.

He also has soft r’s, which make language flow from him in a mellifluous stream, bubbling across flat rocks.

Rooney did look well wound up though and seems like he needs taking care of. I liken his frustration to erectile dysfunction. He knows what he’s got to do but the pressure, the knowledge of the open goal, hugs his mind to facile, vascular minutia and screws his rhythm.

Contrast him with the unencumbered youths that form the most obvious hooks upon which we can hang our optimism; Sterling and Barkley look invincible and priapic, like no one’s ever explained performance anxiety to them. Firing off shots and roaring across the painted turf, lead by purple, throbbing certainty.

Leighton Baines looked exposed, perhaps due to the lack of a tracking back midfield presence in front of him. I watched the game with my girlfriend and while there was a fair amount of clichéd enquiry and a demand to know X Factor type backstory of players to give her a way to care, she also did that thing that people who know little about a subject sometimes do and pointed out obvious flaws and features that were surprisingly astute. She announced midway through the second half that Baines was her “scapegoat” which was prescient as well as in keeping with the conduct of far more experienced fans.

The world isn’t made of atoms, it’s made of stories, the World Cup too is an arena in which narratives are fulfilled. Heroes, villains, scapegoats, underdogs, triumphs, near-misses and tragedies, all are played out on a global stage, a pagan drama in a secular age.

That is why I, a self-proclaimed clever person, will feel, not think, feel a visceral connection to the men in white shirts and antipathy to those in blue. I said some borderline racist stuff watching the game on Saturday. Well xenophobic, I mentioned the war, criticised Mussolini and tortellini. I truly believed that I had a connection to the carbon-composed, sentient life forms dressed in white that I didn’t share with those in blue. I believed that my life would be improved by a favourable result for the manufactured concept of “England” over the manufactured concept of “Italy”.

I hope the world has changed by 2018 and 2022 and 2026 and 2030. I hope we have found a way of uniting in spite of our differences, of extrapolating our connection to one another beyond prescribed sporting festivals. I hope we can create an identity that brings the world together under one banner of brotherhood, love and justice that we can all believe in. Those dreams are for future World Cups though and future worlds. For now, in 2014, I just want to believe in Raheem Sterling.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman is another victim of extremely stupid drug laws.

February 6th, 2014

In Hoffman’s domestic or sex life there is no undiscovered riddle – the man was a drug addict and, thanks to our drug laws, his death inevitable

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was not on the bill.

If it’d been the sacrifice of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber, that we are invited to anticipate daily, we could delight in the Faustian justice of the righteous dispatch of a fast-living, sequin-spattered denizen of eMpTyV. We are tacitly instructed to await their demise with necrophilic sanctimony. When the end comes, they screech on Fox and TMZ, it will be deserved. The Mail provokes indignation, luridly baiting us with the sidebar that scrolls from the headline down to hell.

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Russell Brand: we deserve more from our democratic system

November 6th, 2013

I’ve had an incredible week since I spoke from the heart, some would say via my arse, on Paxman. I’ve had slaps on the back, fist bumps, cheers and hugs while out and about, cock-eyed offers of political power from well intentioned chancers and some good ol’ fashioned character assassinations in the papers.

Continue reading here

New Statesman: Russell Replies to Contributors. From Russell with love

October 25th, 2013

From: Russell Brand
To: Daniel Pinchbeck

Never have you written more succinctly and irrefutably on this most nebulous and complex of topics. Excellent! Other than your dismissal of the term “Revolution”, which is the magazine’s theme and, I think, a necessary galvanising signifier for the previous generation and the more truculent members of the working class. How like you to be insurgent in a magazine about insurgence.

To: Gary Lineker

Gary! This is f***ing brilliant. Great vocab, cool swearing, great structure. Keeping possession in an unflustered, enveloping rhythm before scoring – a lovely gag nicked in the six-yard box, right at the death. If only the national side could do that.

The stuff about your personal experience as a young player and your dad’s disappointment at a discipline issue is cool and surprising but makes sense of the “Lineker myth” – I mean story, not myth as in untrue – of you as disciplined and gentlemanly.

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We No Longer Have the Luxury of Tradition: Russell Brand

October 24th, 2013

When I was asked to edit an issue of the New Statesman I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me. I chose the subject of revolution because the New Statesman is a political magazine and imagining the overthrow of the current political system is the only way I can be enthused about politics.

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Russell Brand and the GQ awards: ‘It’s amazing how absurd it seems’

September 13th, 2013

I have had the privilege of scuba diving. I did it once on holiday, and I’m aware that it’s one of those subjects that people can get pretty boring and sincere about, and sincerity, for we British, is no state in which to dwell, so I’ll be brief. The scuba dive itself was nuministic enough, a drenched heaven; coastal shelves and their staggering, sub-aquatic architecture, like spilt cathedrals, gormless, ghostly fish gliding by like Jackson Pollock’s pets. Silent miracles. What got me, though, was when I came up for air, at the end. As my head came above water after even a paltry 15 minutes in Davy Jones’s Locker, there was something absurd about the surface. How we, the creatures of the land, live our lives, obliviously trundling, flat feet slapping against the dust.

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Russell Brand: what I made of Morning Joe and Question Time

June 28th, 2013

More from acute awareness of Instant Karma’s immediate sting than morality, I have learned to treat people apparently lacking power with cordiality. This means that when I arrived at the New York studios of Morning Joe, the gleaming, informal mid-morning MSNBC news analysis show, I was polite to everyone there.

I was surprised by the soundman’s impatient intrusiveness and yet more surprised as I stood just off set, beside the faux-newsroom near the pseudo-researchers who appear on camera as pulsating set dressing, when the soundman yapped me to heel with the curt entitlement of Idi Amin’s PA. In response I wandered calmly from the studio and into the corridor, where a passing group of holidaymakers were enjoying the NBC tour. Often when you encounter rudeness from the crew, it is an indication that the show is not running smoothly, perhaps that day, or maybe in general. When I landed in my chair, on camera, and was introduced to the show’s hosts – a typical trident of blonde, brunette and affable chump – it became clear that, in spite of the show’s stated left-leaning inclination, the frequency they were actually broadcasting was the shrill, white noise of dumb current affairs.

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May 25th, 2013

The news cycle moves so quickly now that often we learn of an event through other people’s reaction to it. So it was when I arrived in Los Angeles to find my twitter feed contorted with posts of fear and confusion.

I caught up with the sad malice in Woolwich and felt compelled to tweet in casual defense of the Muslim community who were being haphazardly condemned by a few people on my time line. Perhaps a bit glibly (but what isn’t glib in 140 characters) I put “That bloke is a nut. A nut who happens to be Muslim. Blaming Muslims for this is like blaming Hitler’s moustache for the Holocaust”.

As an analogy it is imperfect but I was frightened by how negative and incendiary the mood felt and I rushed. I’m not proposing we sit around trying to summons up cute analogies when Lee Rigby has lost his life in horrific circumstances I simply feel that it is important that our reaction is measured. Something about the arbitrary brutality, the humdrum high-street setting, the cool rhetoric of the blood stained murderer evoke a powerful and inherently irrational response. When I first heard the word “beheading” I felt the atavistic grumble that we all feel. This is inhumane, taboo, not a result of passion but of malice, ritualistic. “If this is happening to guiltless men on our streets it could happen to me” I thought.

Then I watched the mobile phone clip. In spite of his dispassionate intoning the subject is not rational, of course he’s not rational, he’s just murdered a stranger in the street, he says, because of a book.

In my view that man is severely mentally ill and has found a convenient conduit for his insanity, in this case the Quran. In the case of another mentally ill and desperate man, Mark Chapman, it was A Catcher In The Rye. This was the nominated text for his rationalisation of the murder of John Lennon. I’ve read that book and I’ve read some of the Quran and nothing in either of them has compelled me to do violence. Perhaps this is because I lack the other necessary ingredients for extreme anti social behaviour; mental illness and isolation; either economic, social or both.

After my Hitler tweet I got involved in a bit of back and forth with a few people who said stuff like “the murderer said himself he did it for Islam”. Although I wouldn’t dismiss what he’s saying entirely I think he forfeited the right to have his views received unthinkingly when he murdered a stranger in the street. Someone else regarding my tweet said “Hitler’s moustache didn’t invent an ideology that sanctions murder”. That is thankfully true but Islam when practiced by normal people is not an advocacy for violence. “People all over the world are killing in the name of Islam” someone added. This is the most tricky bit to understand. What I think is that all over our country, all over our planet there are huge numbers of people who feel alienated and sometimes victimised by the privileged and the powerful, whether that’s rich people, powerful corporations or occupying nations. They feel that their interests are not being represented and, in many cases, know that their friends and families are being murdered by foreign soldiers. I suppose people like that may look to their indigenous theology for validation and to sanctify their, to some degree understandable, feelings of rage.

Comparable, I suppose to the way that homophobes feel a prejudicial pang in their tummies then look to the bible to see if there’s anything in there to justify it. There is, a piddling little bit in Leviticus. The main narrative thrust of The Bible though, like most spiritual texts, including the Quran is; be nice to each other because we’re all the same.

When some football fans smash up shops and beat each other up that isn’t because of football or football clubs. It’s because loads of white, working class men have been culturally neglected and their powerful tribal instincts end up getting sloshed about in riotous lager carnivals. I love football, I love West Ham, I’ve never been involved in football violence because I don’t feel that it’s my only access to social power. Also I’m not that hard and I’m worried I’d get my head kicked in down the New Den.

What the English Defence League and other angry, confused people are doing and advocating now, violence against mosques, Muslims, proliferation of hateful rhetoric is exactly what that poor, sick, murderous man, blood soaked on a peaceful street, was hoping for in his desperate, muddled mind.

The extremists on both sides have a shared agenda; cause division, distrust, anger and violence. Both sides have the same intention. We cannot allow them to distort our perception.

The establishment too is relatively happy when different groups of desperate people point the finger at each other because it prevents blame being correctly directed at them. Whenever we are looking for the solution to a problem we must identify who has power. By power I mean influence and money. The answer is not for us to move further from one another, crouched in opposing fortresses constructed from vindictive words. We need now to move closer to one another, to understand one another. If we can take anything heartening from this dreadful attack it is of course the actions of the three women, it’s always women, that boldly guarded Lee Rigby’s body as he lay needlessly murdered. These women looked beyond the fear and chaos and desperation and attuned instead to a higher code. One of virtue, integrity and strength.

To truly demonstrate defiance in the face of this sad violence, we must be loving and compassionate to one another. Let’s look beyond our superficial and fleeting differences. The murderers want angry patriots to desecrate mosques and perpetuate violence. How futile their actions seem if we instead leave flowers at each other’s places of worship. Let’s reach out in the spirit of love and humanity and connect to one another, perhaps we will then see what is really behind this conflict, this division, this hatred and make that our focus.

The whole joint is a deeply encoded temple of hegemonic power’

May 23rd, 2013

What does the slung about, bounced around adage that “Politics is show-business for ugly people” actually mean? I suppose that the narcissism and self-interest that motivates many entertainers is what lurks behind the ashen, jowly facades of most politicians. That politics is bereft of altruists, philanthropists and idealists but instead throbs and bristles with stunted show offs, who granted flatter abs and cuter noses would be jiving and caterwauling on Britain’s Got Talent or staring with glum vacuity down the barrel of a camera in a mock corridor in Holby City.

This pith squirt stings because we want our politicians to be motivated by high ideals and compassion and not to secretly seethe every time Harry Styles impeccably saunters through the public mind with hair that gently binds his scalp to the heavens and mankind to the angels.

When I met Caroline Lucas MP, the member for Brighton Pavilion, in an electromagnetic instant I was assured that I was in the company of a high caliber individual. For a start, and I suppose this shouldn’t matter, she’s attractive and could probably, if she so chose feature in Downton Abbey as a highly prized and conscientious scullery maid. Or she could’ve been in Pan’s People in the 80′s.

However when Pan’s People were sashaying around on Top of The Pops, no doubt with one nervous eye on the curiously gurning host, Caroline was at Greenham Common campaigning for nuclear disarmament. Caroline has a legitimate background in activism and on meeting her it is clear, the way it’s always clear, that she is a good person. We know, don’t we, instantly when under the tutelage of a good teacher, we feel it in the timbre of their voice, we can feel the subtle, invisible flow of their good intention. Similarly when held in some schoolroom Beirut, the captive of a gin blossomed pedagogue who barrages his hostages with a spit-flecked, halitosis tempest we recognise a system gone awry. Sat in a plastic chair, chained to the radiator knowing, beyond intelligence, beneath experience that the howling goon at the front of the room spluttering chalk dust and dogma did not care what we learned, only yearned, as we yearned for the bell and The Bells.

With all authority figures we can intuit intent. You can always tell when pulled over by the old bill if you’re in the vindictive grip of an impotent tit, working through his own playground trauma by waving his truncheon in your direction. What a joy it is when you come across a copper who’s just a person like you muddling through life, doing their job trying to do what’s right. You take a nicking on the chin when dispensed by a decent fella.

The greater the power the greater the obligation to be decent. Or as Stan Lee put it – in the mouth of Spider-Man’s uncle “with great power comes great responsibility” a maxim so irrefutably neat that I’d prefer it were Socrates. But there it is, I’m quoting Spider-Man’s uncle. Spider-Man’s uncle’s equation though is frequently subverted; often with great power comes a right arsehole and on entering the Houses Of Parliament one begins to understand why.

The whole joint is a deeply encoded temple of hegemonic power. John Lydon, erstwhile of The Sex Pistols once said of his state education that it seemed to primarily be the installation of a belief system that placed his generation and class at the bottom of an immovable hierarchal structure “look at all these amazing people” his teacher said of Shakespeare, Churchill, Brunel and Keats “they’re great and you’re not.” Luckily it turned out he was, but this format of designating power beyond the reach of ordinary people is shockingly visible in the Houses Of Parliament, a place which nominally represents our power actually demonstrates it’s absence.

I was being shown around first by Melissa Gurumurthy who works for Caroline Lucas, then by a bloke called Derek who does security there. His knowledge of the building, its numerous incredible artworks and history, far outweighed the dilettantish witterings I endured from Melissa (who obviously I fancy). My favourite bits of Derek’s Parliamentary wander were; a clock that’s literally priceless “that means no insurance company will take on the burden of insuring it” said Derek, my mate Gee, on the tour with me retorts “could say the same thing about my old Capri.” In the House Of Lords there are two thrones one for the monarch and another for their plus one. The Queen’s is (an all important) quarter of an inch taller. Philip must sit there fuming; in the context of marriage a quarter of an inch is a big deal. Also in The Lords amongst the phalanx of red leather benches is a solitary seat curbed by an armrest provided for a perpetually drunken Lord (hence the saying?) who required it to prevent him tumbling soused onto the hallowed ground.

There too on the table where orators stand, including Churchill who made his near mythical speeches here, not in the Commons which was being repaired after bombing (apparently there was a war on). There are fist shaped divets ground into the wood. Legend has it that it was the signet ring that Winston wore that carved the table in urgent pumps as he pounded out great gob-fulls of history. All this elegant data was gleaned from Derek who is present in Parliament solely to prevent argy-bargy. This next was my favourite morsel.

Around the modest gallery where the ladies would sit there is a knee-high velvet curtain to shield the eyes of the Lords from the inadvertently revealed ankles of the watching women. In this we see the way institution must bow to nature, how chauvinism is manifest. A curtain has to be installed to prevent men at work from ogling women’s foot bones. Were all the pomp and grandeur indicative of any actual substance it would be enough to say to these divine, governing beings “don’t stare at the bird’s legs, you’re meant to be running the country” presumably they tried that and it didn’t work – the Lords just continued to salivate and stare, the running of blighty relegated to a distraction form their blue-blooded erections, till one day the maintenance people, the Dereks of the day thought “fuck it, we’ll put a curtain up”. This demonstrates what we actually all know; the people that run our country are no different from us, flawed and flailing they flummox and flounder their way through the day. Melissa momentarily interrupted her deference to Derek with one astute observation as we sat in the gallery of The House Of Commons. Behind the thick, glass paneling installed in response to “The Father’s For Justice” purple paint ejaculation into the power paddock below some years ago, we sat and watched the harrumphing. I literally heard one bloke, a Tory stood at the front near that mace, where Betty Boothroyd used to be, it’s a bloke now, this Tory went “They should be sent home to prisons in their own countries” I thought “yep, that’s the sort of stuff I expect to hear”. Validating in its adherence to stereotyping; like hearing an Aussie holler “throw another shrimp on the barbie mate”. Cliché saves us from thinking. Melissa now observed that our beautiful surroundings, you’ve all seen them on the telly, (you could go and have a look, a security man downstairs said anyone can come “it’s surprising people don’t bother”) the green, leather benches, the relentless oak paneling, the Hogwarts fugue all look the same as the halls and chambers of Oxford University. Or Cambridge. Or Eton. These great monuments to privilege and power all deploy a consistent design and symbology. A symbology which is alien to the majority but comfortably familiar to the privileged few. When most of us are in these rooms we feel daunted and belittled, remember, “they’re great and you’re not” but the bloke up the front near the mace has spent his whole life in rooms like that, schools like that. The fact is though that it is an illusion. The power has to be so articulately asserted because it isn’t there. The power is within us, the people. We can at any time elect to ignore that power, or overthrow it. The reason I was in Parliament to meet Caroline Lucas, a person who is there, oddly, for the stated function of the place – to represent us, is because she is proposing that the government investigate the efficacy of their current drug policy. The prohibition of narcotics, the criminalisation of addicts, the prescription of methadone and the demonisation of people in the grips of an illness. Of this I can speak first hand. In all my years as a junkie I never encountered an addict who was persuaded to stop using by their drug’s legal status. “What?! This is illegal? Oh no! I’ve been taking it EVERYDAY!!!” Drug addicts don’t care that drugs are illegal, it’s irrelevant. If you’re addicted to drugs, you are going to get drugs at any cost. This is not a moral quandary but a physical necessity. My belief is that the only way to help drug addicts is to get them off drugs and to help them stay clean one day at a time. It is a lot harder to do this if they are regarded as degenerate from the get go. It skews our perspective. But what do I know? Perhaps what the government is doing is working, a thorough study will reveal how effective current drug policy is. That is what Caroline Lucas is proposing, I’m advocating and I am asking you to support. Let’s look at the evidence and then see what we should do. If we get 100,000 signatures on this online survey then Caroline can push it in the House Of Commons. I’ve signed it, it is a bit boring, it took about 90 seconds but I’m a bit of a techno-div. also it’s against my nature to fill in a survey like a little square, I’d prefer to smash a window or throw some paint but I don’t think it’s the answer. In Caroline Lucas, on this issue and I suspect many others, we have someone in a position of some power who actually cares about things that affect us. She’s not there so that she can get hold of a Cheeky Girl or meet Louis Theroux or get her toes sucked by an equine brass, she is endevouring to enact the needs of the people. So please sign this it’s hardly a fait accompli, perhaps the survey will reveal that all is well, that nothing could be improved, in which case we can all relax, watch Britain’s Got Talent, or Parliament on telly and await further instruction from our representatives.

Fergie time

May 21st, 2013

It was not without significant tribal turbulence that I attended Manchester United’s 2nd leg quarterfinal Champion’s League match against Real Madrid. Like a twerp I’d requested the tickets from former Hammer Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) via twitter, a lamentable exploitation of fame that elicited a red tide of justifiable online indignation. I suppose to the digital witnesses I was a bellowing, southern cyber-Stanley Kowalski binarily screeching for further privilege in a public square inhabited by millions. In this analogy, Rio Ferdinand is Stella, at a window, in a nightie. That’s the only reason I’m using it. Nevertheless I went to Old Trafford, in some way heartened by the purity of the truculence, football now having been largely rinsed of it’s scintillating aggression. My mate Nik, who was the reason for my attendance at the crimson Mecca, is a United fan. He’s from Manchester and everything. That’s the only reason I was going.

I’ve only been to a few matches that didn’t involve West Ham so I thought I might enjoy the spectacle of football without the accompaniment of tear inducing burst bubbles. But neutrality is not in my nature so before too long I was sort of pretending to be a United fan. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t cheer or gesticulate; I, Russell, did not and would not support Manchester United under any circumstances, I just pretended to be someone else who did. Like in a sexual role-play where you might (for example) indulge some incestuous fantasy and invite your partner to call you “Daddy”. During that fantasy responsibility is temporarily absolved, as you become a fictional third party, free from consequence. You don’t actually want to be their Daddy, that would be weird. And a lot of responsibility. So hopefully that makes it clear, I would never support Manchester United but I would pretend to be a pervert Dad having sex with an imaginary adult daughter. Imaginary. In the imagination all is permitted. Except the betrayal of club allegiance, that’s disgusting.

I was enjoying my macabre version of fantasy football, United, behind from the first leg and with some surprising first team omissions, most notably Wayne Rooney, were containing Real nicely. Xabi Alonso was occupied by Rooney’s replacement, Danny Wellbeck and unable to feed Cristiano Ronaldo. Imaginary United supporting me silently approved Sir Alex’s ingenuity.

Football fans always query and second-guess the decisions of managers but I always return to the baseline certainty that they must know more than us. They must. The alternative is too terrifying; that mad, flawed, myopic boors are running our clubs. So if Theo Walcott isn’t being played through the middle at Arsenal that can’t be because it’s never occurred to Arsene Wenger.  Or if Matt Jarvis seems too deep to make an impact that can’t be because Sam Allardyce has never considered the alternatives at West Ham.

Impotent punditry though remains irresistible. Except perhaps at Old Trafford under the benevolent regime of Sir Alex. Now that his reign is over we are granted an almost posthumous perspective. I can just about remember his appointment in the 80’s; I would likely have enacted it through my voodoo Subbuteo rituals, which always had more peripheral theatricality than other boys. Managers were not provided by the manufacturers so I’d outsource the role to Star Wars figures. They were as disposable and interchangeable as their human counter parts and often more discerning in the transfer market. I can easily recall Ferguson’s early purchases; Gary Pallister from Middlesborough, Steve Bruce from Norwich and of course Paul Ince from West Ham. Me and video man, the man who rented videos out of his van (and sold weed I discovered a few years down the line when videos were no longer enough) discussed this last. He too was West Ham and he profanely schooled me in the breached etiquettes of Ince’s departure –“You don’t say you’ll sign a new contract then show up on the back pages in a Man U shirt”.

Ince remains irredeemable at The Boleyn Ground, this antipathy outlasting even Ferguson. John Lyall was manager of West Ham when the era of Sir Alex commenced, he’d been in charge for seventeen years when he was eventually fired, the league’s longest serving boss. Ferguson had only been in charge for three years and hadn’t won a thing, it was inconceivable then that we were observing a legend in genesis. Bill Shankley, perhaps the only comparable figure in the firmament’s famous refrain, that “football is not a matter of life and death, it is more serious than that” is true, football is a metaphor. It is a metaphor for war, adversity, unity and triumph. It is an amorphous, transcendent template through which we can understand our diffuse, convoluted reality. West Ham United represent consistency, inconsistency power, powerlessness, joy and disappointment in my own silly little life. My erratic ever-shifting perspective, my continually altering circumstance can be managed and understood through my relationship with the club. Alex Ferguson is a unique figure in the football faith because he has defied many accepted regulations. For a start he’s been manager for ages in a profession in which men are mercilessly culled. He is a powerful, working class man who has remained true to his roots whilst adapting to the economic circumstances of his own life and that of his culture. Labour supporting son of a shipbuilder becomes New Labour donor and racehorse owner. Importantly I believe that Ferguson resonates at frequency that we rarely encounter in our anodyne culture of the perpetual present; he is a recognisable and identifiable tribal chief at a time when our political leaders look like equine prefects (Milliband) or painted eggs (Cameron). These are not men that we are biologically predisposed to follow; they are men that we will tolerate. Malcolm X first became a concern to the CIA when at a volatile Harlem protest, as the energy of the horde threatened to ignite, he from his makeshift pulpit, with a single gesture bid them to disperse. The observing officer said it was the efficiency of Malcolm X’s motion that evoked such terror. “If he just raises a hand and they all head home what if he tells them to fight?”

When, against Real Madrid, Nani was sent off, Ferguson, jaws agape, interrupting his incessant mastication, roared from the bench, uprooting his assistant and marched to the touchline. Then, with none of Brother Malcolm’s efficiency, he pumped his hands like Prospero summonsing the tempest, and at once the stadium stirred from somnolence and obeyed their leader and thundered with one, terrifying voice. Imaginary Manchester United supporting me was inspired. He recognised that this was no ordinary manager but a Chieftain Priest. This is why the emphasis at Old Trafford is on continuity rather than revolution, with Moyes as Bob Paisley and Scotand as some giant, rugged Anfield boot-room. Ferguson’s potency must be bestowed, a hereditary successor appointed. If there could be a son selected from those available it would not be Darren Ferguson schooled at The Posh but David Moyes, stern and stoic, hewn if not from the same DNA, then the same rock, the same nation, the same mythic paradigm. Sir Alex has urged his followers not to call him Boss, to reserve that moniker for Moyes. He has appointed and anointed, given unto them his son, if not his flesh, his likeness. Fergie has subverted much in his two and a half decades of omnipotence, desecrating the face of Adonis with a projectile boot, alchemically balancing the Lords of capitalism that took over the club from his friend Martin Edwards. He even made time itself his servant stretching games to a duration that meant his tribe could prevail. But Fergie time, unlike cosmic time is ultimately finite which is perhaps why we need icons, figureheads, Gods. They are our coordinates in the limitless morass. Our map back home, to a place where we have peace, free from injustice, a place where we are all United.