The Matt Holland Column: Beware the old wives' tale – it leads you up the garden path

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The Independent Football

Goodness me, my life must be dull. Ever since the television show Footballers' Wives started a few weeks ago people have been joking, or at least I hope they have been joking, that they at last know what I do with my life.

Paula and I keep receiving knowing winks and innuendoes about our supposedly glamorous lives. Out shopping, at the nursery with our youngest son or at school waiting for our eldest, it makes no difference. People think they know our lives because of the television show. Admittedly it does not help when my supposed friends insist on informing everyone that the show is an honest portrayal of life chez Holland. As I squirm with embarrassment they stand off to one side, sniggering.

So let me take you through the highlights of the past week. Flushed with success after our emphatic win away at Derby, I rested on Sunday, knowing that the week ahead would be dominated by training for today's FA Cup fourth-round tie against Manchester City.

I have a few issues with the FA Cup and am determined to settle them this year. To be honest, they have been on my mind all week. The first is that I have never gone past the fourth round, and considering many of my most vivid childhood memories are of FA Cup final day, this hurts. It is the world's premier domestic cup competition and I want to do well in it. The other issue is that I have not scored a goal in the tournament.

All week I have been preparing myself mentally for today's match. It is not something dramatic, but rather a gradual process, a kind of focusing of my will and concentration that gathers in strength as the moment of the match approaches.

But I digress, and so back to the glamour. After training each day I try to get home to pick the children up from school, but on Monday there were two extra tasks, one good fun and the other less so. The former was being a pundit for Radio Five Live at the Charlton v Aston Villa match, but before that there were some home improvements to be done.

We moved house in the summer and now have quite a long gravel driveway. For some time, Paula, the mistress of all things domestic, has informed me that we need some kind of kerb to stop the gravel spreading on to the lawns. So for three hours I traipsed around builders' merchants trying to choose kerbs. Not Ferraris, swimming pools or helicopters; kerbs. Long brick ones, short brick ones, old railway sleepers, new timber, old timber, patterned, plain, with lighting or without, I saw them all and was every bit as excited as you can imagine. Shopping for clothes I quite enjoy because I like looking smart, but my role on Monday was to nod my head approvingly or disapprovingly depending on the look on Paula's face. A shopping situation I am sure many men would recognise. Not exactly Hollywood, is it?

Thursday after training I had a meeting with a company who are launching my own personal website. It looked very impressive and I learned a little about dynamic pages, cgi scripts and the hard work that goes into building a web page. From there I did the school run and got thrashed at PlayStation.

Ah, but what about all those spare hours? Well, when I can release the television's remote control from the clutches of child or wife, I sit contentedly watching the one-day international cricket highlights from around the world.

I love cricket; I can spend hours watching the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne and have even managed to turn my hallway into an impromptu cricket strip or penalty area for Sam and Jacob. In fact, I probably spend more hours on my knees playing football or cricket with these two than anything else.

It's a pretty normal life really, as anyone who phones and suffers 30 seconds of Sam shouting "Let me speak to them!" can testify. Even George Burley has to swap pleasantries with a two-year-old before speaking to me.

My apologies if I sound dull, but the truth is I am a normal person who happens to play football for a living. I even have heroes, and was fortunate enough to spend 45 minutes with one on Monday at training. No, not Marcus Bent, although if he keeps scoring at his present rate he might force himself into consideration, but Graham Gooch. He wanted to experience our training and learn some of the ideas of our back-room staff to see if any would help him in his new role as the head coach of Essex. I don't know that he learnt much of value from me, because I kept changing the conversation back to cricket.

At least he enjoyed a buoyant session, as confidence throughout the club surged after our fifth League win in six games, and if he heard all the jokes about "keep your hair on" he took them in good humour.

A quick comment about the actors in a play called The Tractor Girls. I have read a little about it and understand it is about a group of Ipswich Town fans, and I know it is mentioned elsewhere here (see page 8). I can only hope that both they and us enjoy long runs, on stage and in the cup.

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