As a writer and proofreader, my world is dominated by words. Subconsciously – and occasionally when I’m awake too – I will see quotes and phrases that are either grammatically incorrect or punctuated badly so that their meaning is altered or made nonsensical.
On the subject of the nonsensical, football managers are a great source of this kind of material, and Alan Pardew is far from being exceptional.
With Mark Hughes consigned to the bottom of a half-formed pot and David Moyes resigned to coming, well, bottom, the path is now clear for the well-groomed Pardew to steal the coiffured high ground of football selfies. One method of keeping yourself in the picture (and that’s really all that matters, at the end of the day, with the right blend of experience and other clichés) is to be associated with famous events, famous places, or famous names.
Alan now manages West Bromwich Albion who haven’t won the league title for almost 100 years, the FA Cup for 50, and even the mighty Tennent Caledonian Cup triumph was 40 years ago. The Hawthorns is a well-known ground in the West Midlands – and so it should be as it’s the highest ground above sea level in the UK – but to outsiders like Donald Trump, the Black Country isn’t a place they want to talk about often.
Poor Alan, therefore, had little choice but to start dropping famous names into conversation. Having toyed with Batshuayi – but given up when respondents tended to leave a bright sheen on his lovely suit when dribbling through their pronunciations; Boavista – a club in Porto which isn’t as famous as the club in Porto called Porto – and Batman, Alan changed tack (because, after all, he is a well-known tactician and can do this) and settled on Daniel Sturridge.
In the past, only flies have settled on Daniel, so it was a surprise when Alan declared that, “This is a big coup for us. He has fantastic talent.” He probably really meant, “We have a big coop here and Daniel has fantastic talons,” or “The best chickens have flown the nest – and so have the throstles – but we are confident that Daniel won’t be going anywhere soon or fast.”
And so, to Daniel. What does all of this really mean? Well, there are no known incidents at Millwall – which is very unusual for Bermondsey – so we can probably rule out the Lions angle, though Christian names are all-important to Daniel. Many have prayed for him to be brave and perhaps the second coming out of A&E is truly just around the corner …
While we are waiting, we should perhaps focus on the surname instead. Will ‘sturridge’ become an anepronym, which is a trademarked brand name now used generically, such as aspirin or kleenex? If so, what will be instantly recognisable and understandable about a sturridge? ‘One blessed with talent but also a messed-up head’? ‘An ankle joint that turns heads but adversely affects knees’? ‘A dig in the ribs when talking about success’?
None of these possible meanings really tells the whole story, does it? That’s because you usually need more than one noun to make a sentence. One swallow does not a sturridge make.
Maybe a sturridge is just a synonym of ‘anderton’, meaning ‘noted to be sick and often identified through its horizontal position.’
Or, perhaps sturridge is a verb? The English language contains many examples where longer words began life as two shorter words, before becoming hyphenated and then joined together – much like a pardew which means ‘average wetness’?
How could sturridge have been formed rather than created whole? The ‘ridge’ part is fairly easy to see – being a ‘long, narrow raised strip or elevation.’ This would certainly apply to Daniel and his PR team who have had no problem in elevating his supposed talents, while simultaneously falling over the edge of reason. Ridge is also used in meteorology to mean an elongated area of high pressure. Daniel knows all about the pressure of almost playing for top football clubs and yet, quite unfairly, not being mentioned as a viable alternative to Brazilian strikers.
The sturr stem of the word is much more difficult. Clearly ‘sturdy’ cannot have been the root of sturridge as it means ‘physically strong and solid, and therefore unlikely to break or be hurt.’ Similarly, and the spellings of words do become modified over time (just ask Neil Warnock when a fowl – meaning ‘kick any creature that flies past you’ in Welsh – became acceptable in football) we could focus on ‘stir.’ Unfortunately, that can be defined as ‘to wake up or begin to move or take action’, which, again, really doesn’t apply in this case.
We are no further forward, then, even after all of this verbiage, to really understanding what a sturridge is.
Daniel still has friends in Birmingham, apparently, which, given that he was born there, makes the following statement far from incredible:
“I’ve got friends here I’ve played with before.”
Sadly, he may actually be referring to games of Wembley (who remembers that board game?) on the kitchen table at home, when he was an eight-year-old and dreaming of playing for England in the World Cup.