John Nicholson finds he’s flicking his elbows up and down and making that funny oi-oi noise that Londoners of a certain breed make, whilst watching Tony Gale on the telly.
Sets off the Greenwoods bloke-wear alarm. The Dubai winter tan and dark polo shirt is one of Tony’s default looks, along with undemonstrative suits, plain or striped ties and black anoraks with a Sky logo (blagging free waterproofs might be seen as an important perk of the job). When the grey hair is cropped short, he has a touch of leary, east end gangster about him. Not smart, not scruffy and with absolutely no interest in clothes at all, looks a likely candidate to merely drape a tarpaulin over himself, if he could get away with it. Elasticated sportswear is greeted with a grin of middle-aged relief.
A native of Westminster, he comes over as an old school cockney with something of the voice of a pie ‘n’ mash purveyor who calls gravy, liquor. Easy to imagine him as a low-rent villainous character in the 1970s Sweeney with some knock-off white Alan Ball football boots in a lock-up by the railways. The sort who would have taken a pasting off Carter and been thrown onto a heap of empty cardboard boxes. One of the pundits most likely to say “the boy needs a bit of a slap, Jeff” and refer to political correctness with a look on his face that suggests he’s just put his foot on an especially odiferous stool. Likes a cheeky bit of banter in the manner of an old lag in a crime caper movie who is now holed up on the Costa Brava after one last big blag.
Hits and misses
Been at the Sky Sports blue coalface for what seems like years now, so he must be doing something the bosses like. That being said, he’s always been one of the foot soldiers, in the second rank, dragged into the studio to watch the telly on a quiet Tuesday night, or asked in to comment on something on Sky Sports News in the middle of the morning, that absolutely no-one cares about, and even less will ever see. More often seen reporting live from games with the look in his eyes of a man who needs a stiff drink.
Is the chairman, manager and general figurehead for Walton Casuals FC, in the Ryman League. Sounds like a firm of 1980s hooligans.
Has done well to cut himself a place in a crowded market considering relatively low profile as a player and that it’s now getting on for 20 years since he played.
Big club bias
To his credit, although he’s very London, he’s not a glamour merchant. Seems too down-to-earth and working class to be in thrall to the glittering prizes. Has been sent out to report on too many games in football’s hinterlands to have any BCB and running an amateur club must require you to have a bit of passion for the groundlings.
Loved or loathed
He’s a funny one is Tony. An absolute fixture in our football lives and a very familiar face and voice, nevertheless he seems to slide through without generating a lot of column inches or impinging heavily on our consciousness. Not required to be a deep thinker, nor astute tactician. Gets by on passion, occasional ranting and looking a bit cheeky. As with many of his generation, does well to steer clear of inappropriate language and saying anything which will cause a tsunami of outrage on social media.
Proper Football Man
Has got his badges and qualified for his PFM pro-licence many years ago, and already has his feet well under their black wrought iron pub table. Not surprising really as he’s a six foot one, working class, old school defender, who really only played for 2 clubs across 17 years but got a league winner’s medal in return for 15 games at Blackburn. That’s top quality trophy blagging. A pity he didn’t play longer in the north, obviously, as the south is soft; even southern PFMs know that. But he knows that football is all about getting in the first challenge, leaving your mark and letting him know you’re there. The PFM loves that. Seems likely to be in favour of ‘a strong English spine’ and that any side you care to name has ‘signed too many foreigners who don’t know the English game.’ That makes the PFMs tingle. Also, Tony looks unlikely to smell of Joop and has no resemblance at all to Olivier Giroud. These are both welcome alpha male qualities. Lacks a good nickname, though and that’s held him back. Galey or Gale-o sounds too backs against the wall, don’t bend over in the showers lads, no offence, there’s ladies present, Jeff…so will eventually need to have an almost random one invented, in the same way Paul Jewell is “Jagger” because Jewelly would suggest he was called Julie and no PFM can have that said about him, apart from when he’s having a bit of banter by dressing as a woman at the Xmas party, though there was no need to wear the thong, Sam.
Has a could-start-a-fight-in-a-hall-of-mirrors aspect to him which, as every PFM knows, is always good to have on your team at chucking out time, or when the hotel manager gets a bit uppity after Reidy has set the curtains alight by injudiciously using a military flame-thrower to light his yard of foaming sambuca.
Has been a little weak on the public blaming of foreigns for everything up to and including the ever-shrinking size of Curly Wurlys. Not enough snide comments about them not liking the winter weather, diving too much or generally constipating English talent, but the PFM’s feel all of that is just below the surface, my son, because you can’t say anything these days, Keysy, we all know that. You can’t call a bin bag black in some parts of the capital, you know. Ridiculous.
Extensive West Ham connections means he must like hand-in-glove with the Green Street guvnors, ‘Arry and Frank Sr. Carousing photos of him taken with arms around Andy Gray and Richard Keys confirm his top top-ness. Seems to have no cultural hinterland outside of football and sport, and that’s exactly how it should be.
Pleasingly solid frame suggests a man who can hold his drink and will not be embarrassed on a night out with the boys drinking Reidy’s new nail polish and creosote schnapps, sprayed out of a can of deodorant and inhaled through a bra, and won’t need to take a rest on any of Reidy’s network of abandoned mattresses to be found in lay-bys, the length and breadth of the country.
Doesn’t seem impossible that he’d be papped looking quite pleased with himself coming out of a Canning Town club called Cut and Shunt at 3.49am with Miss Turkey Baster (and associated dripping dispensers) 1975.
Has a great future in the hallowed halls of PFMing, with a gig bemoaning The State Of Things Today, surely on offer from a middle-east TV station, at some point.
Beyond the lighted stage
Running the Walton Casuals must involve wearing a lot of polo shirts, elasticated tracksuit bottoms and other comfortable clothing, and much-needed fundraising for the club must certainly involve dining at the PFM’s favourite smorgasbord of cultural activities – golf, gee-gees, auctions, raffles, the obtaining of signed footballs, and, obligatory for a ex-West Ham player, the sale of something that once belonged to Bobby Moore. Also involves sitting in a stark breeze block managerial office with only a calendar from the local Vauxhall garage on the wall for decoration, drinking cheap red wine out of a mug. Only interests in life appear to be sports which you can put the word ‘the’ in front of.