Tough...you don’t know!

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere
Arsenal's Jack Wilshere
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AT the risk of sounding like a cantankerous old man - which I am of course, but don’t like admitting it - I found myself screaming at the radio the other day.

I had been listening to a journalist interview Jack Wilshere, a young midfield player from Arsenal who has just returned after more than a year out with a bad injury.

Flip Flops

Flip Flops

The interview went... Journo (tone so grave it was as if he were speaking about a death in the family): “Jack, it must have been so tough being out for so long?” Wilshere: “Yes, it’s been really, really difficult, but thankfully I’ve got good people around me and they’ve helped me through.”

What? Is this some kind of joke? An injured footballer goes to a physio for a couple of hours each morning, where he’ll have a massage and do a few stretches before he’s on his way home in time for a spot of lunch and the afternoon edition of Come Dine With Me. Tough? Sounds pretty bleedin’ all right to me.

Tough is being a paramedic and working 12-hour shifts with half an hour break, or being a teacher, or a nurse. Tough is battling a life-threatening illness. Tough is most definitely not lying on a table getting lavender oil gently rubbed into your groin area.

And anyway, I don’t understand what Wilshere is so upset about it. When I broke my leg in a five-a-side game a few years back (I was through on goal and about to pull the trigger when some bloke decided, quite rightly, that the most effective way to stop me was by dismantling my shin-bone), it was the best time of my life.

Blackpool's Comedy Carpet

Blackpool's Comedy Carpet

The doctor shook his head and told me he was terribly sorry but he’d have to sign me off work for three months. Fantastic.

While my colleagues at The Gazette slaved away, I sat at home where my mum would bring food on a tray and the afternoon would be spent watching box-sets of Inspector Morse. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all easy - I did a sudoku puzzle around tea-time. But it was a lovely period that I now look back on with great fondness.

Indeed each time I have stepped on a football pitch since I have tried desperately to break my leg again. Unfortunately though, my limbs have stubbornly remained intact.

Getting injured, of course, is of more concern to a footballer than the rest of us. After all, their livelihood is at stake.

But it isn’t always injury that ends a career. One of more intriguing examples is Peter Knowles, a former Wolves winger compared by many to George Best.

He broke into the Wolves side in 1962 at the age of 17 and was the standout player for the next seven years. Then he walked out to become a Jehovah’s Witness. “I have lost my ambition,” announced Knowles, eight games into the 1969-70 season. “I need more time to learn about the Bible” ... presumably to the sound of dropping jaws from the throng of assembled journalists.

And that was that. Knowles never played again, despite repeated requests by Wolves for him to return. Indeed so keen were the club to have their best player back they kept his contract open for a further 12 years. Not until 1982, with Knowles aged 36, did they finally terminate his terms of employment.

A colleague of mine in the Midlands thought Knowles’ story would make a great book so spent months trying to track him down, eventually discovering he worked in the local M&S store in Wolverhampton.

He recognised Knowles stacking shelves and politely asked for a chat. Knowles replied: “You’re not the first journalist to find me but I’ll tell you what I told the others: the Peter Knowles you knew is no more, this is a different Peter Knowles. Now if you’ll kindly leave me in peace.” And that was that.

Slightly annoying that someone born with that kind of god-given talent doesn’t make full use of it. But at least he’s true to himself - and I bet my bottom dollar he’s not the kind of bloke to describe being injured as tough.

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Holiday rage – an apology

I’D like to apologise to a Spanish couple in Greece about a small dog, my flip-flop and a barrage of expletives.

I can safely say, by the way, that the above is not a sentence I have ever written before, or indeed seen anyone else write.

Let me explain. Mrs Canavan and I went to Greece for a short break last week to get seven days of sunshine before the bleak North West winter set in.

It didn’t exactly go to plan. For starters there was a delay on the plane at Manchester Airport, firstly because 15 passengers didn’t turn up due to a crash on the M6, then, just as we were at the end of the runway and about to take off, the pilot noticed a fault on one of his computers. “Have you ever had one of those days?” he announced wearily as he turned the plane around and headed back to the terminal.

Cue another hour-long wait, though it passed by fairly quickly due to a captain who seemed equally suited to stand up comedian as flying an aircraft.

He strode into the middle of the plane with a microphone and, as it was a Saturday afternoon, started giving out football scores. “United are 2-1 up. Any requests? Huddersfield? One-down. Grimsby? Do they have a football team?” It was almost a pity when, with computer fixed, he had to go to the cockpit and get us to Rhodes.

We arrived with the rain pounding so hard it caused the paving stones to vibrate. It had been sunnier in Manchester, again not a sentence I’ve written before.

It stayed that way too, thunder storms, rain, and then a bit more rain for good measure, but we did have one gloriously hot day... which brings me to the flip-flop.

Taking advantage of the weather, I nipped into the sea for a swim and casually noted a dog playing with something on the beach. “What a lovely dog,” I chuckled. “Wonder what it’s chewing on?”

A moment later I realised it was my flip-flop. The blasted mutt then sprinted off into the distance. Now this flip flop was brand new, £7.99 from Asda, so no way was I having that. Cue a half mile chase, ending with me – panting and red-faced – cornering it at the far end of the beach in between two sun loungers occupied by a young and now slightly startled Spanish couple. I screamed some abuse at the dog, leapt over the woman in the bikini, scattering her with sand, and rugby-tackled the animal, grabbing my flip flop, before marching back off down the beach in triumph.

So to the Spanish couple, I am sorry. To the dog, you picked on the wrong flip-flop owner sunshine.

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Don’t stand on the pay off

GOOD to see Blackpool’s Comedy Carpet has been shortlisted for an Excellence in Public Sculpture award.

It is my favourite of all the resort’s attractions, and I’ve spent many a happy half hour reading through the jokes.

It can be frustrating though. I’ve lost count of the number of times for instance that I’ve started reading a gag only to find an elderly couple from Doncaster standing on the punchline. You can’t ask them to move. You have to wait till they’ve finished reading their own joke.

Once I had to wait fully 35 minutes to discover the end of a Tommy Cooper joke because a chap from Liverpool sat down on it and started eating his tuna mayo butties.

The other downside is that it is impossible to read every joke. It would take hours. I’ve not found it yet but one day I hope to stumble on my favourite line of all time, courtesy of Groucho Marx: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

Follow Steve Canavan on twitter @CanavanGazette