You’ve probably been hearing the Christmas Carol ‘We Three Kings’ quite a lot lately (though not nearly as much as Christmas songs by Slade or Mariah Carey, I imagine).
This particular Carol hails from America and was written over 160 years ago by the minister Rev. John Henry Hopkins, supposedly for the General Theological Seminary in New York City as part of their Christmas pageant. I suppose that these days it would be an uplifting, propaganda piece, specially commissioned by Sony for the Donald Trump Foundation (plus optional lip work, hair styling etc.).
I was thinking of this when watching Football Focus last Saturday. In my younger days of football worship, it was presented as Football Preview by Sam Leitch and then the unblinking, unflappable Bob Wilson for many years. I loved it almost as much as my weekly Shoot magazine in those days, but they also now seem to have been at least 160 years ago …
Dan Walker’s three guest kings for this particular episode were Paul Ince, Leon Osman and Mark Lawrenson – each dressed, somewhat alarmingly, in various shades of black. I couldn’t see any other connection between them apart from the fact that Osman was born in the North West (Wigan); Lawrenson was born in the North West (Penwortham, near Preston), and Paul Ince has a middle name to remind him of the North West being the location of the less-than-immaculate conception (Carlyle).
At a time of great faith and hope, it troubled me that I could not see beyond this darkness. Viewers barely managed to see all of Paul Ince at all as he insisted on moving excitedly in his chair, proving difficult for the cameraman to keep him in Focus at any one time. I can only assume that Paul wanted to be in every shot, or that he was tethered to the chair by an unseen leash to stop him floating to the top of the studio ceiling and, well, maybe into the more rarified air, where he might have seen what stars really looked like.
Mark Lawrenson spent the whole time trying to be clever with words and catch Dan Walker out with facetious remarks, oozing sarcasm. For some reason, he seems to think that his opinions are somehow the final words on any subject regarding football, yet nobody at the BBC seems prepared to draw the line underneath him in order to move forward. I would draw my sword and place a line directly through him if anyone thought that would help.
Leon Osman has the appearance of having been through a coin-polishing machine at the Royal Mint. Perhaps he needs to do this before each appearance in public as, although his points are solid enough, he is dull beyond belief and surely a challenge to sales of Mogadon up and down and even across the nation.
However, this money angle had previously been hidden from me in broad daylight, and I had now successfully found the connection between these three average players, who would each have been working in B&Q at the same time as this broadcast, had they not been lucky enough to play with some good footballers who caught the nation’s attention in between the commercial breaks.
Every subject was given the commercial overview: “the lad needs time to develop away from the demands of celebrity success” (not Paul Ince, obviously, as this was nearly a coherent sentence); “they need to buy in the January window” (both Paul Ince and Mark Lawrenson because, although better, quality coaching might be more successful long-term than just buying success, both of them showed that they didn’t understand this when given the chance to prove themselves”, and “I know where you can buy a lot of toffees, cheap – knock-off, like.”
Each of these three were and are seduced by TV appearance money, given that they failed to make the gravy train (even at Christmas) that so many young players do today – and they’re not gloriously happy about it, hence the black.
So, to conclude, with Ince as Frankincense, given his enormous ego; Osman as Gold, given his shiny appearance and Lawrenson as Myrrh because of the gloom he seeks to spread to others, We Three Kings (with notes):
We three kings of Orient are (‘actually, could that be changed to Ilford?’ No, Paul)
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright (‘erm, do you think that, possibly, when you have a moment, that could be changed to royal beauty blue?’ No, Leon)
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain (think that’s out near Nantwich somewhere)
Gold I bring to crown me again
King forever, winning never
But over my modest allotment to reign
Frankincense to offer have I
Inces own a Deity nigh (if Tom ever gets his act together to pay me back for all those road trips to trials)
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Their eyes to me, the midfielder most high, despite my lack of inches
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
But I’m not bitter, Dan; not sealed in this stone-cold tomb, providing the online banking comes through
O stars of wonder, stars of the night
Stars with no deserved TV rights
Sky TV leading (sorry Dan), still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect (and pretty lucrative) satellite