I’m sure that many of you will remember a song from your childhood called ‘One man went to mow.’ Some of you may even have sung it or had one of your parents do so in an extended – and almost certainly vain – attempt to send you to sleep so that they could then go and find numerous excuses for not mowing the lawn.
‘One man went to mow, went to mow a meadow,
One man and his dog – Woof! – went to mow a meadow.’
I often sat on my swing in the garden and pushed myself up and down while pretending to be entertaining the many boarders at our house (ok, flower borders) with my tuneless but always accurate renditions of this and ‘three wheels on my wagon’ which – quite understandably I think – with the benefit of a fifty further years of watching football, I recently re-dedicated to all previous, present and future managers of Sunderland AFC.
Those carefree days would soon change, not through school, puberty or even being exposed to Gary Glitter songs on the radio, but by my joining the Cub Scouts. We would sing ‘One man went to mow’ in our battered old coach as we travelled to various jamborees, which proved not to be about as much fun as mumps.
I hated the restrictive organisation of the whole thing, others’ perception of the movement and how it prevented my ability to express myself as an individual. I swore then that I would never name any of our children, Baden, and, even with no pressure at all from my wife, I stuck to that early promise.
Phonetics tells us that we recognise the sounds of words, sometimes without even understanding their places in our personal contextual memories. This is often the case when novel experiences are building the particularly large pillars that hold up subsequent layers of our knowledge and experience. We don’t know how we know, but we know that we know. It’s a bit like Alan Pardew being able to remember managing a team to a Premier League win. Nobody understands how he could possibly do that, and Alan knows that.
The mow sound has resonated with me in terms of the names of people on four particular occasions that I am aware of.
Mo Johnstone was a Scottish footballer who played for Celtic in Glasgow and then became only the second player in history to cross the sectarian divide (if not the ball very accurately) since World War Two – after Alfie Conn – in joining Rangers. Mo also played for Watford in the early 1980s and was the Troy Deeney of his day, scoring lots of goals and probably eating lots of fried breakfasts. He also played for Everton but scored far fewer there, because that’s what players who move to Everton usually do (or don’t do).
Mo Mowlam was one of the few politicians I have ever admired. Her ability to engage with others who opposed her, respect their opinions and then argue constructively against them reminds me a lot of Claudio Ranieri – who continued to be loved, even as he lost. Mo was a winner – instrumental in the Northern Ireland peace process – but some have tried to besmirch her character because she didn’t tell Tony Blair the truth about the malignant brain tumour that eventually killed her. However, you don’t need me to re-arrange the words Blair, truth and killing to arrive at a familiar sentence.
Mo Farrah is Britain’s most successful distance runner who is also responsible for keeping us up late into the night at numerous Olympic and World Championship events. Not only that but many still seem to mistrust him – as they did Mo Johnstone – because he was born in, believed in, or came from a place they didn’t attempt to understand. Sir Mo was born in Somaliland in Africa, which is a bit like asking someone in Sheffield to recognise their fellow man from Rotherham.
The third male Mo was also from Africa and came to our attention when he went to mow a meadow in south-west London. For whatever reason, his 19 games for Chelsea were not successful, although, mercifully, Chris Sutton has failed to mention this in his almost daily criticism of anything that can show more movement than him – including the corner flags.
Only Chelsea legend Didier Drogba has scored more goals, out of Africa, in a season than Mo Salah – which makes his strike rate for Liverpool this season and Chelsea’s simultaneous struggle to score goals even funnier. Unfortunately, this will all come to an end soon. It is rumoured that Barcelona, Paris St-Germain and Real Madrid are all interested in signing him for £200m. Not sure how that would work in reality – maybe a third of a season each? Think about it: how quickly Liverpool could waste £600m; there must be many more Alberto Morenos out there (but Moreno could never be pronounced as Mo … ).
Jurgen Klopp is, of course, in a self-effacing, heavy-metal kind of way determined to take all the credit for Mo Salah’s success – and equally determined to hide his passport – by apparently playing a guitar solo that is perfectly clear:
“Nobody could know [that he could operate a lawnmower whilst running up and down the pitch]. We learnt it step by step. Without consistency, we couldn’t know for certain but in the pre-season, we knew. You need to learn as a team, ‘Where is he?’ because there isn’t always time for searching. It’s normal that you talk about that.”
Phonetics eh! We’ve heard it all before. This Mo won’t have to face that difficult second season at Anfield, nor the weight of expectation or pressure to conform to the organisation’s requirements, nor, thankfully, the ‘fan’ abuse that will accompany his fall from the heights he has suddenly been elevated to by the media.
In a bid to continue to be true to himself as an individual, this one man will, of course, join Coutinho at Barcelona although, presumably as a follower as well as a maker of football history, before the Champions League jamboree begins again next season. Woof!