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  • Writer's pictureMike Di Placido

Alpha at the Euros – Part IV – 'Theatre of Dreams'

Oh, dear ... was it Nietzsche or Wittgenstein that uttered the immortal words: “I don’t sodding believe it – it’s only happened again!” No, that’s right – it was Arthur at the shop when I picked up my paper……

Never mind, England, you did us all proud over a wonderful month of competition but just failed at the last. No one’s perfect – not even Georgie Best. And I once saw Maradona miss a penalty. However, after a dream start, it has to be said that Italy had us on the back foot for the rest of the match – and, eventually, when that happens, something’s got to give. My feeling is that an over-cautious team selection – or more specifically, the omission of Saka; the re-positioning of Sterling (i.e. on the right); and the continued use of Grealish as a ‘go to’ option (and always a very late ‘go to’ option); – allowed Italy to gradually take control and take us, with an increasing and sickening sense of inevitability, to the dreaded penalties…

But congratulations to Italy! They entered the lion’s den, vastly outnumbered in support, weathered the trauma of conceding a ridiculously early goal, and then played their way to dominance and ultimately, victory.

So: to finish this blog/series of poems, ‘At The Euro’s’, I am going to post another sequence of four short poems – but this time taken from my debut pamphlet, Theatre of Dreams (Smith/Doorstep, 2009). Recounting a trial period with Manchester United, when I was sixteen, they capture, for me, all that was, and is, good about the game – the Beautiful Game.

Bitter sweet in that I didn’t eventually sign for them – although there’s a story to tell there –

the moral could be, perhaps, to never be defined by disappointment, but to get straight back in there. And win! (I think Arthur at the shop said that as well….?)

So heads up and well done England. You were great. (And I believe that there’s a World Cup taking place next year, isn’t there..?)




Old Trafford, Manchester, 1970

A voice like gravel soaked in honey:

Hello, there son.

So this is what God’s like.

Outside the office window,

the grey wash of Stretford skyline

was suddenly Technicolor;

like that scene from Mary Poppins

where Dick Van Dyke

dances with the penguins

and it’s as if you’ve had

a tab of acid

dropped in your tea.


The Cliff, Manchester, 1970

Keep it to yourself, son!

His laughing response

to my surname.

As wick as he was on the pitch,

everything around him

seemed slow, dull.

And those lifts into Manchester

when he’d catch a green light,

I half expected his salute through the sunroof!

He drove a cherry red jag

like Inspector Morse’s – only untidier:

kid’s toys and health foods in the back.

He could have done stand-up:

wise-cracking with passing fans

when the lights were on red

the only thing it seemed to me

that had any chance of stopping him.


The Cliff, Manchester, 1970

Nipping smartly past you

I was soon flat on my arse:

Can’t get away with that ’ere son!

Then after you’d been struck on the head

by a Charlton thunderbolt – a worried Bobby

helping you up – your brilliant simile:

like a fucking bread pudding that bastard!

And later still, when playing out your career

with Middlesbrough Reserves, I zipped past you again

one freezing, flood-lit night and scored: honours even.

Not that it mattered.

I mean, three years earlier,

you’d left your mark on me forever.

4 – BEST

The Cliff, Manchester, 1970

Too overawed to speak

so I brushed shoulders

as we trooped off from training.

You signed autographs

for young girls who’d slipped through the gates,

as I bent down to fiddle with a lace.

Then, amazingly, we were alone.

You in front – my fourth person of The Trinity:

that gunslinger waddle; head slightly to one side;

as though carrying some brilliantly jewelled cross,

the price you had to pay

for re-defining how a game could be played.

Me? Third division only, I’m afraid

(and not long there, either),

with a cross of my own to bear

and a grave lesson to learn – namely this:

that I could never, ever, be me

as long as I was trying to be you.

Mike Di Placido

Theatre of Dreams (Smith/Doorstop, 2009)

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