By Tony Stafford
Only 53 weeks to the start of the 2015-6 football season and I’ve already got myself into a corner. I found a new hero last Sunday, and almost by accident I’ve happened on another. So move over Peter Charalambous after your 15 minutes of Sunday supplemental fame so that my metaphorical spotlight can fall on Leanne Wassell.
Leanne who? You might ask and unless you read the Sunderland Echo or perish the thought that chronicle of all things Louis van Gaal – the Daily Mail – you’ll be scratching your collective heads. But before I elucidate, I suggest that 53 new heroes in a year may be stretching things, so take this as a two-off.
Maybe by tonight, it’ll be Rory, or Sir Bradley if his cycle ride evades Hurricane Bertha – got up early and the house is still here so far – or please, please, please Alexis Sanchez, as he makes a mug of Frank “City all my life” Lampard over at Wembley this afternoon.
But no I’m quite serious about Leanne, not least because she’s retained her own surname despite inhabiting that absurd world of professional footballer’s WAGs.
True her WAGSTER is on the way out, to a degree, but Wes Brown, for ‘tis he to whom she wags, still gets a game alongside that other former Man U centre-back John O’Shea for the Black Cats and the Mail suggests he earns more than £1 million a year.
Now there will be people in that mad game who say “I wouldn’t get out of bed for 20 grand a week” but looking at Leanne’s picture –suitable for a trip to the shops or a stint behind the bar at the Rovers in Coronation Street – I bet Wes doesn’t push it too far.
So here’s the story. For some reason the Browns – Wes, Leanne and their trio of saucepan lids Halle, Lilia and Lola, fantastic names all – were off to Legoland, better known by those who have been there as Haveyouoverland.
Presumably having heard that the prices and above all the queues for the 50-odd rides and features are both steep and lengthy, Leanne was happy to learn that for the price of a cereal packet, she could defray those costs by way of a 2-for-1 voucher in Tesco.
So she stopped off, bought three packets of cereal and made a saving of around £140 on the “normal” £280 – can’t see anything normal about that, I bet it’s not that much to watch Sunderland - for their group admission. Now I remember going there at least nine years ago with the two eldest grandchildren and even then it was expensive. Apart from that, I couldn’t see the point in all that Lego.
The best part, though, is she remained unimpressed and even her half-price stunt didn’t make her think it in any way VFM. She even paid extra for the fast-track ticket that enables you to gate-crash queues. At this point Leanne’s heroism slips a bit to my mind.
But where I think she is heroic is in being a normal person with normal attitudes to life. Wes isn’t going to keep playing at Premier League level for ever, and then the readies will be going from a flood, if not of RVP/Rooney proportions, to a trickle. He’s a good-looking lad who’ll get a stint on Sky Sports when he finishes, but the Mail seem to think the Browns/Wassells are behaving outrageously when all they/she’s doing is being plain sensible.
Every year I get subsidised travel in London, and so do all those of pensionable age. I bet Sir Alan Sugar doesn’t give his back. In fact I wouldn’t mind betting that Lady Sugar sometimes takes her grandchildren out for a day riding the buses. Free, and for the kids, more of a treat than you can imagine after spending days in the back seat of plush cars getting from A to B.
I liked the Shergar Cup yesterday, from the sofa rather than the track, and as usual on Racing UK rather than Channel Four. It’s a shame Emma-Jane Wilson didn’t win the Silver Saddle, as her ride to beat off the Japanese rider and Tom Queally – allowing him the benefit of the rail without conceding ground – with a masterful display of whip-hand changing on Don’t Call Me was the over-riding (no pun intended) highlight for me.
Ascot have made the Shergar Cup a distinctive event in its own right and they have the knack of pitching their fixtures correctly. This is one crowd, King George Day another, while Royal Ascot is five days of all things to all people.
After my comments about Newmarket last week, I wonder how they viewed last Friday night and Dizzee Rascal. The night was a sell-out, but in actual fact more like a wash-out. As the rains cascaded down on James Willoughby during the meeting I couldn’t help wondering how many of those ticket-holders would bother to attend.
I did a quick canvass in one stable the following morning as the sun coursed down and the grass -so well-drained that a walk across Racecourse Side’s grass gallop didn’t even moisten the shoes – gleamed as if in mockery of the course’s bean-counters.
None of the canvassees “bovvered” to take up their tickets, so I reckon there was a fair chunk of the refreshments that went unconsumed. The telly, however, showed plenty of people there yesterday afternoon, so they probably got some of it shifted. It would have been nice if there had been fewer non-runners, though.
I’ll be back on the road tomorrow for the re-launch of Wolverhampton and its new Tapeta surface with the great Michael Dickinson in situ. Still think his 12 winners in a single Boxing Day’s racing transcend the Famous Five Gold Cup, but I’ve always been obtuse. We think Cousin Khee might finally be ready and will love the surface. If not, they can dig it up again!
Now it’s time for a stroll round the corner to get the Racing Post and possibly a sausage sarnie, or should I go for an egg on toast? I bet the Brown-Wassells know what they’re having and Wes especially, if he knows what’s good for him.