23 September 2021, The Tablet

The joy beyond despair

Extra time

The joy beyond despair


THERE'S a chap I travel to away matches with who hides his wisdom well. He speaks a lot of quite fantastical nonsense. On the way to Manchester City, for example, he will insist we are going to win 2-1, while I will be convinced that we are going to lose. To be fair, if we were playing Torquay’s second XI, I’d be just as convinced we were going to lose. Anyway, when Manchester City go 2-0 up in the first 15 minutes, I look at him with a raised eyebrow and he just says that we’ll win 3-2. When it’s 3-0 at half-time, he will concede that we’re unlikely to win, but a draw is still possible. I sometimes find this annoying. On one such occasion, he said something which has had a lasting impact on me. “The thing is, Adrian, that you and I will always have the same journey home on the coach together. If we’ve won, we’ll both be happy. If we lose, we’ll both be miserable. The difference is that my journey to the games is always much happier than yours.”

Nicely put, sir. This chap’s name is Cleverly, by the way. Alan Cleverly. I had another little life lesson from him last season. After (another) ghastly defeat, probably, gallingly, in injury time, he put an arm around my shoulder. “Come on Adrian, head up,” he said. “Remember, without despair there is no joy.”

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