154: Playing Away

Jim Shelley keeps his eyes on the prizes

Tapehead no 154 

I’m a different prospect to some dizzy player’s wife,” insists Lucy, one of Dream Team’s first-team squad of super-foxed. 

“Having to talk about blonde hair dye all day.”

A noble sentiment, of course, but one that suggests Dream Team might not be quite be as realistic as it thinks. Actual proof comes in Cutting Edge, back to its cruel, cutting best with Football Wives.

By Lucy’s criteria, Dean Holdsworth’s wife, Sam, and Ian Walker’s missus, Suzi, are the definitive footballer’s wives/dolly birds: Hello ! Magazine houses, Euro-pop singles, pampered pets; Ibiza jeans and blonde manes.

Suzi steals the show, if only because Sam has to come back to reality when Deano’s fling with a rival blonde hits the tabloids. She still manages to recall the night she and Dean first met, explaining, “Dean had played away all that weekend,” without any irony.

Fortunately (for all of us), “ex-glamour model” Suzi has nothing more taxing than her own cable TV show to deal with the superlatively titled Hi Ya With Suzi Walker! Is surely worth the cable fee alone. No one can say the words “Hi Ya !” like Suzi.

Like her, her agent David Hahn is a spectacular specimen of vacuous blandness, talking up Suzi’s talent with such earnest conviction you’d think he was representing a cross between Des Lynam and Jeremy Paxman, only for his choice of words to give the game away.

“She’s looks good, she looks the part, she’s got a lovely figure.”

Only his comment that “blue-eyed blondes always do down well on television” hints at something more sinister (not to say libellous).

Besides Hi Ya With Suzi Walker!, Suzi’s main concern is their “£300,000 love nest in Ongar.”

“This is the kit-chin,” she coos. “A bit messy ‘coz I’ve been away.” (Pan to a kitchen that makes the average show home look like a dosser’s cardboard box.)

Moving swiftly on, she leads us out to the pool, with its “summer house”, which has a bar, jukebox and snooker table. (“S’nice, innit?”)

But do not think there isn’t a down side to Suzi’s life. Christmas football means she can’t go out on New Year’s Eve or go away to the Caribbean. Worries about having to put her dogs in quarantine also plague her every waking moment, as poor Suzi seems to be labouring under the illusion that Ian Walker might be moving abroad. (Iceland ? Luxembourg ?)

By contrast, the life of Ann, Jason Lee’s non-blonde wife, couldn’t be more miserable, even though he’s only failed for playing “In the prem” to second-division Watford.

“Not a nice life,” she says, as if she was living the life of your average council-estate prison widow.

“Come and spend a day with me,” she threatens, “and you’d soon to be frightened” (something of a self-fulfilling prophecy). “We don’t have no Sky.” (Terrifying.)

The tour of her house confirms poor Ann really is in a bad mood, as she shows us her boys’ room: 

“This ain’t no fun when you come in ‘ere in the morning.”

Maybe she should dye her hair blonde.

Or maybe Jason should watch Equinox, which looks at sports psychology (what they call “brain research”), namely “the zone” – the all-conquering trance made famous by the likes of Linford Christie – through which perfect performance can be achieved with utter self-mastery and absolutely no effort. (A bit like Tapehead,)

Sally Gunnell’s zone when she won the 1993 World Championship gold was so total that even though she only passed the race leader (who was right next to her) in the final strides of the race, she had no knowledge whatsoever of what had happened.

Derek Redmond’s zone meant he believed he could limp round had win his race even when he’d pulled up with a hamstring injury.

The selection of sportsmen (Steve Backley, Greg Rusedski, Mike Atherton) illustrates why dullards like Steve Davis dominate their sport rather than erratic characters like Alex Higgins.

The alpha waves recorded for people who are “zoning” are the same as those for people doing nothing at all, proving that being boring, bland or incapable of volatility or introspection actually does help.

Leslie Ash’s husband Lee Chapman is bizarrely wheeled out to demonstrate the problem of trying too hard or thinking too much.

Playing as badly as Lee did for Arsenal, was he says a “very public kind of humiliation” – good preparation for his recent exploits. Yet when he was scoring regularly at Leeds (as it were) he says the goal “just seemed an enormous area to hit”.

Something Lee should know a lot about.

Dream Team: 8pm, Sat, Sky 1

Cutting Edge: 9pm, Tue, C4

Equinox: 9pm, Mon, C4