Brendan Hobbs provides a very personal eulogy to Paolo Di Canio, incredibly not mentioning him, football or Swindon Town once…
Girlfriends, like football managers, come and go. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a fair few of them growing up, normally there’s a cavalcade of ‘Plain Janes’, sometimes there is the odd gem and maybe a couple that would really turn heads.
Very occasionally though, maybe just the once in your lifetime you manage to snare an absolute stunner, a total supermodel with all moves and skills that any man would crave.
At first you’re unsure, she has a reputation of being a lunatic and has a bit of ‘history’ or ‘baggage’ if you will. Some of it is pretty unsavoury agreed – but deep down you’re really excited, intrigued by the prospect, the promise and what the future holds.
Nothing quite prepares you for the turbulence ahead though, the wild mood swings and unstable tantrums, but you’re willing to put up with it because you love the prestige of being seen on her arm. You like everyone looking at you as you stroll though town, “Why on earth is she with him?” you’d hear whilst acknowledging the all the quizzical looks.
Yeah, there will be the occasional person who whispers and giggles, pointing out her chequered history and odd beliefs, but secretly you love the controversy, the division that she causes.
As the relationship squirms in its infancy you start to notice some major flaws; she has a habit of falling out with your friends and family, usually because of some inconsequential mishap or misdemeanour. What makes it worse is that she doesn’t ever hold back in letting other people know her feelings. She tells everyone and anyone – whoever is willing to listen will be told about it, often in a simile laced tirade complete with wild, uncoordinated gesturing.
The first few months is testing, you struggle with absolutely everything, exhausted by the constant high maintenance pandering that you need to do and the draining one way conversations you don’t participate in. Soon you ask yourself ‘surely this can’t be worth it?’
She also has an uncanny knack of spoiling a perfectly good day without warning, you could spend a lovely afternoon together, everything has gone well and to plan. But just as you drift home an unrepentant rant comes out of nowhere and is driven into your ear with all the subtlety of a rusty screwdriver. Before you know it she’s viciously berating you, or any other named individuals for some unnoticed faux pas. You will then spend the evening in silence, feeling angry and confused.
But still you persist because despite of her oddness and quirky behaviour you are indeed falling for her, you can put up with the rants and apparent selfishness because you believe it will lead to something special. And needless to say, some of her ‘performances’, ahem, are sensational, borderline mind-blowing, it’s almost as if each occasion is meticulously planned – and ruthlessly executed.
She’s addictive, you feel captured by her and it’s impossible to escape, it’s classic Stockholm Syndrome played out in your own home. You feel turned on by her mere presence, you feel that you’re constantly teetering on the edge of danger and wonderment – carrying out a careful balancing act in which you could fall at any time and plummet head first into crisis, embarrassment or total ecstasy.
It’s a bit like walking a dog down the High Street, you’re all happy and smiles at first until suddenly you remember that you’ve left the house without any poo bags. You’re scared and nervous at first, quickening your stride, fearful that your pooch will suddenly execute the most shocking of urban taboos. As time passes though you become all confident and brazen, ready to deliver a mildly threatening speech to anyone who will question your inevitable non-scoop.
You start to strut almost willing your dog to do his business in front of a crowd, “Yeah? My dogs doing one and I’m not gonna do anything, deal with it!”
Suddenly all your bravado and confidence evaporates quicker than a snowman in a sauna when your dog’s puckered anus finally starts to tremble. And in one final hammer blow the dog delivers its deadly payload – and its runny diarrhoea, so in the end even if you’d bought a bag it wouldn’t have made a difference because it was a sponge you really needed.
And that’s when the end game begins; you’ve been too comfortable, too complacent in your relationship. You’ve learnt to live, even love the tantrums and odd foibles; you’ve adapted unknowingly to accommodate the unconventional.
It’s from this over-confident platform that you suddenly, without warning lose your footing. It will seem like a lifetime ago that you had a stable relationship; you’ll even struggle to remember what ‘normal’ felt like.
Eventually the final shot is fired, you start piecing together and remembering all the tantalising hints left in the preceding weeks – she had become uncommunicative and seemed to be a shadow of her normally bubbly self. You did try to convince her that everything was ok and you constantly sought reassurances in the validity of your relationship – but each time she would stop just short of any kind of commitment.
You’re shocked at first, then disorientated and also angry. You try to reason with the madness and reflect on the relationship when it was back in its infancy – everything felt temporary and it was just a bit of fun, back then you couldn’t have given two hoots if it had ended in disaster. You try and cling to that, but you can’t get the crushing affection of the one you’ve lost out of your head.
Annoyingly she will want to meet one last time, your hopes will be up that perhaps reconciliation is in the offering, you’ve heard rumours from various sources that maybe she was interested in getting back together with you, that’s where the smart money was. A meeting is arranged and you’re almost high with anticipation and excitement about what may be rekindled.
Alas you’re not greeted by her, but by the solemn face of her sister; your worst fears are going to be delivered by proxy. She has your borrowed sweater tucked under one arm and your favourite LP by The Wedding Present in the other, both lent to the one who you now know will never be returning.
The sister returns the items and delivers a predetermined speech in a monotone way. You’re not listening, or even looking her in the eye, your fingers are tracing the pattern on the LP sleeve whilst trying to take in the final realisation that it is, in fact over.
You didn’t bring any of the stuff you borrowed from her, but you don’t need to worry as two days later at about 1am she will break into your house using a spare key and retrieve the items in a ‘forcible manner’.
The feelings of hurt and loss will pass in time, you’ll hear the ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ line quite a few times – and there will be various successors available, all clambering for a bit of you – your profile and social standing suitably raised by dating a supermodel.
Unfortunately the standard won’t be the same, the majority will all be a bit rough, needy and desperate, with sketchy histories of their own, but on the rebound you’ll end up settling for one of them in the end. The new relationship will eventually settle down but it won’t stop your heart skipping a beat every time the phone rings or you receive a text, hoping it’s from your previous liaison.
On reflection you will realise that the relationship was never going to be long term, and in time you’ll admit that she was high maintenance, a total lunatic and perhaps a bit unhinged but deep down you’re happy that she was with you even for a short time. Before you know it you’ll be laughing and joking with your mates down the pub – remembering some of her more absurd antics, it would be a joyful reminisce – full of happiness and maybe a tiny bit of relief that she’s not around anymore.
She’ll turn up again someday though, probably on the arm of another man, but far from being angry or emotional (but with an odd tinge of jealously) you’ll be happy for her and you’ll hope that she will look at you and feel again, if just for a millisecond, the massive amount of warmth that you once both shared.