The Friday Spitter
At ease, Valencia: Mike Holden is keeping his birthday celebrations reserved this year, but the local bar's loss is the bookies’ gain. That is, unless the Spitter comes in…
Birthdays aren't what they used to be. There was a time when mine falling on a Friday would be the cue for total carnage. But not today. Today I'm 37 and I've got no inclination to pretend otherwise. The shot glasses can stay in the cupboard and the Desperados can stay in the fridge.
Instead, I'm going to spend my evening at a nice little Italian restaurant, eating too much pasta and washing it down with nothing stronger than water. Then I'm going to get a taxi home at a respectable hour and set the alarm to get myself up bright and early tomorrow. I'm not sure why yet, but I might nip out to the market and get myself a nice piece of steak or fish.
I should point out this isn't purely the itinerary of a man who's looking forward to breaking out the pipe and slippers too soon, it's the itinerary of a man who went to watch his team play Real Madrid earlier this week and is still feeling the effects three days on.
My days of debauchery now resemble the latter stages of Ledley King's career. I feel as though there's only so many piss-ups left in this body and I'm already planning how best to space them out. Forget the idea of playing twice a week, I'll be lucky to carry on much longer if I'm playing twice a month.
So after much deliberation, I've come up with what seems like a reasonable solution. I have to treat them like holidays. By which I mean proper holidays. The days of spontaneous all-dayers are long gone, now the habitual Friday night blow-out might have to follow. Even birthdays aren't immune from the latest cull.
It's time to play the trading game. Music festivals fall at a convenient time of year and they go on for three or four days, which counts as one piss-up. More bang for your buck. Likewise Christmas. In fact, I'd say Christmas is compulsory. Staying on the wagon then would be torture. So that's about eight days, which also equates to one piss-up.
No doubt some of you will be laughing at such hopelessness, but then you're probably younger than 37. You might even think I'm being soft but, mark my words, this is your future staring right at you in this very column. Trust me, you'll be laughing on the other side of your face when it happens. And if you're not, then you're clearly the soft-arse because you haven't been hitting it hard enough for the first 20 years of adulthood.
More than once, I've wished I could get those 20 years back. With a bit more discipline and better planning sooner, I reckon I could have smashed it up for another 20 years. Instead, my body now mirrors my bank account - presuming it's one of those mirrors at the fairground that takes something fat and makes it look thin. I'll leave you to work out which one's which.
But there is a happy moral to all of this because there's one vice in this world where our ability to find lasting happiness isn't time-dependent. The bright lights might fade on the casual drinker, but they never fade on the casual punter. No matter how old we are, no matter what's gone before, we rightly live in the perpetual belief that our greatest hour still lies ahead.
And it's a beautiful thing that stretches beyond alcohol abuse. Take today's date, September 21, as a reference point, for example. You see, I happen to share my birthday with two other Mancunian legends, namely Liam Gallagher and Richard Dunne. Liam is 40 today and Dunney is 33, but what does the future hold for those guys? (If you've seen Beady Eye, you can take that as a rhetorical question).
Like me, Liam was ballooning in Madrid this week and, like me, he probably woke up the next day hoping he wouldn't end up on YouTube being a dick. But ultimately, in his case, it matters little. His rock and roll days are numbered. There will come a time soon enough when his antics barely merit a mention.
As for Dunney, his relationship with alcohol took a more honest turn about ten years ago and, subsequently, his long-standing career is one he should be immensely proud of. But what next for him? One assumes there's not too many days left in the Premier League spotlight.
But it's never too late to start a new life - a better life. If only to emphasise the point, I might give them a call and tell them to get on the following Spitter...
- Southampton to beat Aston Villa at 31/20
- Liverpool to beat Man Utd at 17/10
- Man City to beat Arsenal at 4/5
- Peterborough to beat Wolves at 23/10
- Bolton to beat Sheff Wed at 15/8
- Bristol City to beat Watford at 23/10
- Crewe to beat Leyton Orient at 6/5
- Hartlepool to beat Shrewsbury at 9/5
- Plymouth to beat Morecambe at 12/5
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