Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


I suppose I'm not alone among domesticated males in yearning now and then to get in touch with my inner lad

IT WAS the cake. Lying in bed, bug-eyed and clammy-skinned, at 3 am, I suddenly understand why I'm feeling unusually wakeful. Earlier in the evening, the goalkeeper had produced his own contribution to the evening, homemade to his own special recipe and, politely, I had taken a large slice. Homemade? Special? Ganja cake, of course. Here I am, in my own bed, in my own house, stoned out of my box. No wonder I can't sleep

Not that the reggae party going on downstairs helps too much. Nor the loud voices and occasional bursts of guitar, nor the occasional bewildering thud that, to my poor befuddled brain, seems to shake the house to its foundations.

What an excellent idea this was. A Saturday night away from London for the football team. Tomorrow morning, we'll be playing a local Norfolk village side but, before then, it's a night out for the lads. Beer, barbecue, laughs, music and - dashing the hopes of the midfielder who, with tragic innocence of the night life of Diss, has brought two packets of three - not a woman in sight

Someone's hit the volume. The juddering thuds are becoming more frequent. It occurs to me that, as manager, I might now be obliged to invoke the Teddy Sheringham ruling and suggest, that, in view of the big match tomorrow, a few hours' sleep might not be a bad idea. But they're having such a good time and this was what a lad's night out was always meant to be - an escape from families and babies and guilt.

Sod it. Half an hour later, I'm downstairs. In a casual, non-authoritarian way, I ask them to pack it in for the night. The thudding continues. I pad about the house, eventually discovering that a defender is perfecting his penalty-taking skills against the back of the house. "You're kicking against my wall," I shout feebly into the darkness

Back in bed. A sort of silence descends upon the house. Then, from under my window, the ominous "tock' of wood against wood. Some of the team are winding down with a 4am game of croquet. I really think they've had enough now. Have they any idea what time it is?

I suppose I'm not alone among domesticated males in yearning now and then to get in touch with my inner lad, to return to a bawdy, innocent, prelapsarian past of bad behaviour, before responsibility began to exert its iron grasp. We dream of being able to sit around, smoking, lagered up, getting it down us, telling inappropriate jokes, occasionally breaking wind in a comradely fashion.

The fact that some of us never were authentic, fully-fledged lads, even when we were lads, doesn't shake our belief that, at the right time, in the right place, our healthy, innate boorish maleness will burst into glorious bloom. Within every Gary Lineker among us, a Gazza is waiting to stagger forth. All we need is our own private Five Bellies to lead us astray

By morning, I've discovered that my inner lad doesn't exist; instead I have an inner Mummy. As I rouse the team with some difficulty, set up breakfast, clear away some of the debris of the night before, I find that the real me is emerging, good-humoured but tight-lipped and slightly put upon, wiping down surfaces with a martyred air.

I love my team very much. Once a week from October to April, we meet, chat briefly while changing, go out and play the silky-skilled yet committed football for which we're famous, have a quick drink and then go our separate ways. But now, honestly, talk about irresponsible. They're husbands, fathers, citizens, some of them have even got jobs, and yet they're as sublimely self-contained and oblivious to others as teenagers. How do they manage that? I'm jealous

We get stuffed. Of course we get stuffed. What did we expect when half the team can hardly see the goal, let alone put the ball into it? 1-0. As we leave the pitch, there are a few heated and acrimonious discussions as to who was to blame for the defeat but, in the bar with the opposition, we're all just Sunday footballers together

Afternoon. The team's hard core lingers on consuming the brandy and beer that one of them has bought with the money he was meant to pay me for last night's barbecue. I've gone a bit silent now, as I collect the beer cans from under the bushes around the garden. Eventually, even they get the hint

After they've gone, I grant myself a bit of quality time in a deckchair, rerunning this morning's 90-minute hangover of a game and the long, arduous night before. Then I get out the hoover, a duster, even - yes, I'm not afraid to admit it - the Pledge, and set to work.