The Third Leader: True romance

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The Independent Online

Far too occasionally, the repetitive passage of events is gloriously relieved by a happening that brings those famous words to any number of lips near bars, on sofas, or in queues: yes, indeed: "You couldn't make it up".

Often the delight has an ignoble element, best summed up in five words: John Major and Edwina Currie. But, even more rarely, there is real romance. And thus the Carling Cup: Southend United 1, Manchester United 0.

The winning goal, a peach and purler of a free kick, was remarkable enough. But it was also scored by the wrong side, by a player who is a Manchester United fan, and, oh, yes, who is a Romany gypsy living in a caravan by the side of the A127 just outside Basildon.

As with all the best stories, there are also excellent sub-plots. Freddy Eastwood's performance rather pooped Sir Alex Ferguson's twentieth anniversary; Sir Alex behaved like a true knight in defeat; and, oh, yes, the local council reportedly wants to evict Freddy from the site, where he lives in the Romany way with his wife and two children, Freddy Jnr and Chardonnay.

Splendid. But, actually, you could make it up. Do you remember that other champion of alternative lifestyles, Alf Tupper of The Victor, aka "The Tough of the Track"? Alf slept on a mattress at the welding shop where he worked, and neither that nor a diet of fish and chips did his performances any harm at all.

And if Sir Alex were to write the next chapter by buying Freddy and a large plot just outside Wilmslow, I, for one, would be made up.

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