Friday, 13 June 2008

Being David Batty

Among many other sporting icons we celebrated, my dad and I used to bond over David Batty, the ex-Leeds United player. In the early 90s, I was a fresher at Leeds University during the local team's briefest-possible tenure of the league championship. When funds permitted, which was rarely – I was a girl from the barren Norfolk flatlands dropped into a city with an awful lot of shops – I would go to Elland Road and watch Leeds make heavy weather of drawing with lesser teams. I came home for the holidays to find my dad had fixed a penant saying 'Wilko's Champs: Pride Of Yorkshire' – rapidly becoming an ironic slogan – in my bedroom window. David Batty was a particularly fond kind of talisman for us. Who knows why, but we felt limitless affection for the dour, spade-a-spade midfield scrapper.

He was a stick of footballing rock with Yorkshire written right through him. Until he moved to Blackburn Rovers, as it turned out. He was tough. He was bloody-minded. He did not score many goals.

After his retirement, David Batty slipped off my radar, although I caught him a couple of times on Sky One's pro-celebrity The Match. But I never saw him donning his slacks and pale blue shirt (evidently the strictly enforced dress code for the BBC's Euro 2008 panel) as  a pundit-for-hire, and he never seemed the type for a career in motivational speaking. Perhaps, I pondered, he had opened an ironmongers in Guiseley with Mel Sterland, or taken over a bar on the Costa del Sol with John Lukic.

So yesterday, imagine my delight when I was reading The Guardian's report on the Rooney/McLoughlin nuptials, in an attempt to receive a dispassionate, purely factual report on this most sociologically important of  festivals, to see that one of the co-authors was none other than David Batty. Well, who else better qualified to reflect on the extra-curricular pressures of a young footballer at the epicentre of the modern game? When I clicked on the link to his Guardian profile, I was impressed to see that my David Batty had adopted a disguise, albeit of the primitive moustache-and-false-nose-attached-to-glasses model, in a bid to reinvent himself and shake off any stigma associated with the intelligence of footballers, thus ensuring his work is judged fairly when the Pulitzer Prize committee come a-knocking.

In addition, it has now come to my attention that David Batty regularly 'ages up', and glues on a moustache and eyebrows  – or maybe it is actually three moustaches, I'm no expert – from his disguise kit in order to disseminate to the general public his considerable expertise in the field of possibly valuable old stuff on the BBC's popular Antiques Roadshow programme.

That is not all.

He is also a TV director, producer (you will, no doubt, remember his work on Hitler In Colour), lawyer, freelance IT professional and part-time accordionist. I could go on.

He is, I am telling you, a modern day Leonardo. How long will it be before his image and accomplishments adorn the animated credits of The South Bank Show? Melvyn – and I know you're reading this – you surely know what you must do.


Anonymous said...

Ah, happy days...I too remember those days out at Leeds United. Do you remember the time we nearly got killed by several thousand Man Utd fans - when all that separated us from them was a rickety wire fence? And meeting those guys in the queue for the bus who met Liz in the pub later? And queuing up to meet Lee Chapman who was signing in Waterstones, and who looked slightly confused when I handed him a copy of 'The Conference of the Birds' - an Islamic Sufi textbook - to sign rather than his own autobiography (I still have that book with his signature in)! I couldn't afford to buy his book!

Miss Jones said...

Great days, indeed. Coming home to find a collage of Gary McAllister assembled on my bedroom door... xxxx

Anonymous said...

I preferred the Ian Rush one myself...