Canavan’s column - February 21, 2013

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Names that’ll stick with you for a lifetime

NICKNAMES. Everyone has had one.

At school, mine was, hilariously, Static.

Canavan sounds a bit like Caravan you see. At least I think it was to do with that rather than a description of my style on the rugby pitch.

God, I hated rugby. We had a PE teacher, Mr Douch, a posh southerner, who regarded it as his mission to transform 50 council estate lads from Bury into the next Will Carling.

However, aged 12, 4’9” in height and weighing the equivalent of three bags of caster sugar, I found it wasn’t quite my game. I still vividly recall the terrifying moment Nigel Gibbons, not yet a teenager but built like Lennox Lewis, charged towards me at the end of one game on the school playing field.

“Tackle him Canavan”, I heard Douch scream. This wasn’t an appealing option. Running towards me was a lad three times my size, who had won five fist-fights behind the Esso garage round the corner in the previous week alone, and who was ‘cock of the school’ (cock meant toughest, round my way)

I waited till this snorting, rampaging bull was a couple of feet away then very deliberately leapt full length out of the way, the kind of dive Pat Jennings in his pomp would have been proud of. Blaming me entirely for the defeat, Douch, a sadistic bugger, ordered the rest of the team to dump me in a big, muddy puddle at the far side of the field. It’s fair to say that I never took to him as a teacher.

But I digress. Back to nicknames and Static it was.

Even the teachers called me that. Why I never had the nerve to point out my name was Canavan I’ll never know, though I suppose I say that as a wise (ish) 37-year-old and not a frightened 11-year-old taught geography by a slightly bonkers teacher who once poked me violently in the throat because I didn’t know what the capital of Peru was.

But - and I feel I’m slowly winding my way to some kind of point here - nicknames can be great, with some lovely stories behind them.

My Uncle Bob worked for Rolls-Royce in Canada where there was a chap everyone called The Contented Diner. They never used his real name, in fact no one knew his real name.

The moniker came about because this man’s standard response to every question was ‘I can’t do that, I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment’.

Picking up on this habit, some bright spark named him The Contented Diner and that was that.

A lad at my dad’s school acquired the nickname Fish Jenkins because, in one PE lesson, the class was made to sprint round the hall and weren’t allowed to stop until the teacher blew a whistle.

Jenkins, a slightly out of shape lad, was struggling and gasping for breath. The teacher boomed: ‘Close your mouth Jenkins, you look like a fish’.

The fella was known as Fish well into his 40s.

Another one - at Bury FC matches in the 1980s - there was a chap who used to spend the entire match with his back to the pitch talking to his mates. Even when a goal was scored, he didn’t turn around. The entire block of fans near him called him Chatterbox and in the end he used to turn up wearing a badge with that title on it. Bonkers.

Any odd nicknames out there with a story behind them? Let me know at

Seen the new McDonald’s ad with cheese? I’m not loving it....

IF you’ve not been fortunate enough to catch the new McDonald’s advert, I’ll summarise: if you’re traumatised by your parents’ divorce and have to cope with your mum’s new fella moving in, have a Big Mac and all will be fine.

That’s right, all those in broken marriages have no need to fear - just head for half a dozen chicken nuggets and large fries.

In this jaw-droppingly objectionable ad, stepdad Dave, a kindly looking chap with an extremely bad haircut for a man of his age, just can’t get along with his new stepson.

They meet outside the bathroom of a morning. You go first, says Dave. ‘Nah, you’re alright’, responds the lad, who is thinking ‘get stuffed, I want my real dad back’ or possibly ‘blimey mate, what the hell have you done with your hair?’

It’s the same story when the stepson is leafing through Dave’s record collection (borrow them if you like? ‘Nah, you’re alright’) and when stepson is mending his bike (do you want a hand with that? ‘Nah, you’re alright’) and even when lovely old Dave offers to give the lad a lift (‘Nah, you’re alright’ repeats the lad, who by this point is displaying admirable restraint not to shout ‘look you weirdo, stop bothering me or I’m calling Childline’)

But wait. Just when all is lost, Dave announces he’s going to McDonald’s. Well you should see this lad. His face lights up. He’s obviously sick to the back teeth of healthy wholesome food and wants a quarter pounder with cheese instead.

Now, personally, if my mum shacked up with a new fella who, instead of cooking some decent grub, suggested we go to McDonald’s for tea, I’d be concerned my mum had met some kind of layabout loser.

But no, not in this lovely little world created by Mac D’s.

The ad ends with a beautiful, touching scene - the pair sit in their local McDonald’s, suddenly best pals, all because they’ve gone to eat some fast food.

The camera pans away. ‘We all have McDonald’s in common’ reads the caption on the screen. An acoustic guitar is gently plucked in the background to lend extra emphasis to how wonderful this moment is.

Now at this point you might be thinking this advert is hugely offensive and just, well, unbelievably crass. And you’d be exactly right.

Look out for it nonetheless, it really has to be seen to be believed.

Come clean, Arsene

I’M a huge fan of Arsene Wenger and up until about 18 months ago wouldn’t hear a bad word against him.

His team played football the way it was meant: beautiful, cavalier, adventurous, slick mesmerising passing - it was a joy to watch.

Not any longer. Defeat to Bayern Munich must have been extra painful for him to watch because Bayern, who dominated throughout, were exactly what Arsenal used to be.

I think Wenger is magnificent and will be remembered as one of the best ever managers to grace the Premier League (that unbeaten 2003-04 campaign was simply sublime).

But he can’t keep on pretending everything is hunky dory.

Arsenal were knocked out of the League Cup by Bradford City, sent crashing from the FA Cup by Blackburn, they are odds-on to lose to Bayern and are scrabbling like billy-ho to finish fourth in the Premier League.

If Wenger acknowledged it had been a poor season, apologised, and promised to do his damndest to improve things next year, he could solve a lot of his problems.

But he won’t and that’s the problem with some in football - too much ego, too tetchy, and a refusal to admit what to the rest of us is as clear as day.