A game of two halves with football's first agony aunt

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The Independent Online
I am glad to welcome today the very first football agony aunt in any national newspaper, Aunt Ron Bagshaw. Ron played football for most of the teams in today's Football League, and was variously know as the Hard Man of Hull, the Pele of Peterborough and the Nancy Boy of Notts County.

He has seen football in all its varying moods, known the agony and the ecstasy, had it all to do, faced an uphill struggle in the second half, been sent off, been sent on, and now, as he hangs his boots up, he is knackered. But his heart is still in the game he loves, and he has decided to become an apologist for the vagaries of this wonderful game.

Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: Just a moment - just a moment! What's this about apologising? I have nothing to apologise for in my days as a footballer. Well, the occasional tackle when I went in a bit hard, yes, and broke a few limbs and put a stop to a few careers, yes, but nothing else - I mean, football can hold its head up high among the sports of the world without saying sorry for anything! It made a man out of me and ...

No, I wasn't asking you to apologise for anything. An apologist is not someone who apologises - it's someone who defends.

Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: Oh, yeah? Look, I was in the game all of 30 years and I never heard any of the back four being referred to as apologists. "The strikers were on target but the apologists gave it all away" - did you ever hear anyone say that?

No I didn't mean that an apologist was a defender in the footballing sense ...

Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: Is there another sense?

Well, yes, there is. I mean, someone who stands up for an idea is an apologist for that idea. For instance, Cardinal Newman, when he wrote his life story, called it `Apologia Pro Vita Sua', which was a Latin phrase meaning, `Apologia for His Life', but he wasn't apologising for anything. Far from it.

Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: Who did he play for?

Well, he started with Oxford but went over to Rome later on.

Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: Shrewd move. I played for Oxford for a little while at the time it was owned by Robert Maxwell, and I didn't enjoy it much. If I had had an offer from Rome I'd have snapped it up like a shot.

That's interesting - what was it like playing for Robert Maxwell?

Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: Much the same as playing for any big fat bloated uncouth dodgy businessman with bad breath, an overhanging ego like a beer belly and no taste in dress.

Good heavens. Are there many such people in the Football League?

Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: Yes, quite a lot. In fact, by a coincidence it's exactly the same number as the number of clubs in the League. Each club has got one like that. He's called the chairman. But Robert Maxwell was a little bit different.


Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: Well, he was mad.

I meant, apart from that.

Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: Well, he was the only club chairman I ever met who came to home matches with two libel lawyers. He would wander up and down the touchline listening to the players, and the fans, shouting their usual obscenities, and as soon as he heard somebody shout something actionable he would slap a libel writ on them, there and then.

Good heavens. Did he ever win any of these actions?

Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: Well, no, not really. The thing was, you see, that something actionable shouted at a football match is not libel, it's slander. It's very difficult to prove that something has been shouted at a football match unless it is written down or video-recorded, so almost all these cases were dropped. I can remember once when an opposition player shouted at me, "You can't play any better than the fat fraud who pays you!" and Maxwell rushed on the pitch holding pen and paper and shouting, "Write that down, write that down, I dare you!"

And what happened?

Aunt Ron Bagshaw writes: He was sent off.

Well, I am afraid that Aunt Ron Bagshaw didn't get the chance to answer any of your emotional problems in his opening stint as football's one and only agony aunt, but I think you'll agree that it was an enthralling no-score draw! He'll be back again soon, so keep those agonising dilemmas rolling in!