At this stage of the early spring, columnist and Chelsea fan Giles Smith would normally be concerning himself with how our strikers might find the space they need in the penalty area at West Ham rather than how he might find enough space to be comfortable stuck indoors, but these are unusual times…
Obviously this lockdown situation is new territory for all of us. Actually, that’s not entirely true. In some respects the past couple of weeks have been like every Sunday of my Seventies childhood. You’re not allowed out and everything’s closed anyway.And frankly, now I think of it, back then we didn’t have Netflix, Twitter, Zoom, pesto, Muller Corners… In many ways, I’d say we had it harder in those properly dark times.But, of course, that’s not to diminish the challenges of this extraordinary and unsettling period. It’s possible to feel bewildered by the rapidity with which everything has changed and the speed at which a kind of cage has come down around us. If someone had told me after the Everton match that football was about to be curtailed indefinitely, that I had drunk my last coffee from the tea bar for the foreseeable future, and that within a matter of days I would be hiding upstairs from a lethal virus, I don’t know what I would have said. Probably, ‘Well, at least Billy Gilmour had a good game.’Still, here we all are, at home, passing the time as best we can, playing endless games of ‘Would you rather…?’ A friend came up with a really good one this week. If it were Tottenham who were currently within touching distance of their first Premier League title, and the only options were to complete the season in due course or call off football for the rest of your life, which would you rather?
Difficult one, no? Kind of traps you in every direction. I’m still thinking about it.Something else that’s occupied thoughts in my house this week: what to do about Diego Costa and Jose Mourinho. Lockdown has inevitably brought a few things into focus, and this week we’ve been struck, round here, by the growing realisation that this house simply isn’t big enough for the seven of us.A lot of us are feeling the squeeze right now, of course. You’ve maybe got the full family at home, possibly including full-grown offspring who are reoccupying their childhood bedrooms. And with everybody present in the building 24 hours a day, space is suddenly at a premium.
In this circumstance, I can’t deny that, over the last week or so, Diego Costa and Mourinho have come to seem slightly in the way. For now they’ve been slung together in the spare room. But we’ve felt obliged, albeit reluctantly, to begin to have the conversation about whether their time with us is up.Talk about a moral quandary – and a sentimental minefield. Diego Costa and Mourinho came into the house as Christmas presents in 2014. I felt at the time that these two life-size cardboard cut-outs were the greatest pieces of merchandising that the Megastore had ever put on sale, and I’ve not had any cause to change my mind about that.
The Diego Costa one, in particular, was a sensational piece of furniture. It offered the chance to experience, with an extraordinary degree of realism, what it might have been like, during the 2014-15 season, to find yourself in the penalty area with him at corners – and to enjoy this sensation in one’s own home. Civilisation had clearly peaked. The Diego Costa cut-out was also really frightening, and remains so. Even in two-dimensions, there is something utterly terrifying about it.Actually, both of these cut-outs have form as frighteners. Both can look like an intruder in the house if you catch them at the right moment. The Mourinho one stood on the landing at the top of the stairs for a while and reliably made visitors jump on their way to the bathroom. Indeed, everyone who lives here has been caught out by both these cut-outs at one time or another. For some reason, seen from the wrong angle or while proceeding unawares, these figures retain an uncanny power to startle you, even when you know what they are.In fact, this phenomenon came full circle only two days ago when my daughter walked into a room where I was standing, jumped, and said, ‘God, I thought you were Mourinho for a minute.’In some ways, perhaps it’s surprising that they have survived as long as they have, their golden period as novelty ornamentation having passed some time ago. Clearly the Mourinho one has flirted more closely in the intervening years with the dustbin. Diego moved on, too, but only to Atletico Madrid so somehow it didn’t seem to matter in quite the same way. One was still more or less happy to be terrified by him on a daily basis and remember the good times.By contrast, I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that it has never been an ambition of mine to live in the same house as a cardboard cut-out of a Manchester United manager. Indeed, I would go further and say that I have taken many precautionary steps down the years to guard against such a situation ever arising. It has been my ambition even less to live with a cardboard cut-out of a Tottenham manager.And yet… three titles, two FA Cups, three League Cups, an 86-game unbeaten run at home… I mean, if we’re talking about good times… How does one ever separate oneself entirely from that? Call me sentimental, or call me true to the past, but the idea of folding Mourinho up and putting him out with the recycling… well, something inside me has always rebelled against the notion. It wouldn’t seem right.Maybe what I ought to be considering is repurposing them – finding some way to get them out of the house while treating them with the respect that they merit. Would it be possible to coat them in some sort of laminated material and deploy them as statues in the garden? Possibly not. And, in any case, it would be rather a strong statement, wouldn’t it? Too strong, in the circumstances. I mean, if it was John Terry, maybe.
Or perhaps, more modestly, one could flatten them and turn them into wall hangings – or perhaps slap them on a ceiling, Sistine-style. There are options, clearly. Options which stop well short of dumping them.In the meantime… well, I just don’t know. Maybe we’ll just have to budge up.