Why I won't be criticising the former royal butler

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The Independent Online

Paul Burrell came up with an astounding confession the other day. A confession which passed totally unnoticed except, possibly, by me, because I suddenly realised that Paul Burrell and I have more in common than I thought.

The rest of the world heard him talking on Radio 4's Today programme on Monday about the Royal Family and Diana and Harry and William, and all the rest of it, and were no doubt riveted, while I was nodding off. Then he said something that galvanised me, though I am sure it bored the rest of the world silly.

It happened like this.

The female interviewer asked Paul Burrell if he had been in love with the princess.

Paul Burrell replied in the manner familiar to me from having heard French people being asked the same sort of question, ie he retreated into airy generalisations.

It got Jean-Paul Sartre through an entire career.

It got Paul Burrell through a sticky moment.

Love is a big word, said the ex-butler. Love embraces many things. There are many different kinds of love. You love different things in different ways. For instance, said Burrell, I myself love lots of different things. I love Wrexham Football Club...

Now, you often meet people who love small football clubs hopelessly. I knew a man who fancied Port Vale, and another man who couldn't bear to admit that Plymouth Argyle wasn't responding to his passion for it, and I know someone who is prepared to love Bristol City till he dies or even till it dies. People talk about small, unfancied football clubs, but there is no such thing as an unfancied football club; they are all fancied by someone.

And the creepy thing is that I, too, love Wrexham Football Club. I grew up near Wrexham, and left home as soon as possible to get away from Wrexham, as we often do to our parents and home towns, but my father used to take my brother and me to home games at Wrexham as often as possible and I soon learnt the meaning of supporting your club through thick and thin, even when there's a lot more thin than thick.

There were glory days, of course. Wrexham usually fights above its weight in cup runs, and I can remember them beating West Ham once or twice, and even, once, Tottenham. Or was it Arsenal? One of those posh north London clubs, anyway.

Wrexham used also to qualify for Europe in the days when the Welsh Cup winners were allowed to enter the Cup Winners' Cup, and one year, a long time ago, we got past FC Porto, and only got knocked out by Anderlecht... I also remember that Wrexham was the first team to play Manchester United in the FA Cup after the Munich air disaster, and although you'd think that you'll never get a better chance to beat Man Utd than when half the team has been wiped out, we still couldn't beat them...

Sorry. Rambling for a moment then. If only to prove that I have all the credentials of a life-long supporter. But Paul Burrell's revelation rings true, because I read once that he lives in Farndon, which I clearly remember as a village out on the back road to Chester from Wrexham. There is rather a picturesque point where the road crosses the river Dee, all red sandstone cliffs round there, and the place on one side of the bridge is Farndon (in Wales) and the place on the other side is Holt (in England) though actually they are both nearly the same place.

I always felt that the Farndon/Holt dichotomy reflected my own state of mind, as I was an Englishman growing up inside Wales, and even when I wanted to feel Welsh was not really allowed to do so by the real Welsh, who sensed I was an impostor, and as English as they come.

The only Welsh attribute I have retained, I suppose, is supporting Wrexham all these years, and turning to their result first. It happens. It happened to Paul Burrell. Maybe it's because he lives on the Welsh side of the river Dee that he supports Wrexham, the Welsh team, and not Chester, the equally near English team. (Of course, there could be another reason and that is that Chester were always a crap side, and Wrexham infinitely superior...)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, you won't now find me criticising Paul Burrell in this space. That man has been through a lot of grief and crushing disappointment in his time. As indeed, have all Wrexham supporters. So I shall remain unquestioningly loyal to him in his hour of need.

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