Now that I have time to catch my breath following the pulsating excitement of the World Cup, I thought I should congratulate DH on the cameo appearance by Big Ron, with the excellent Dream XI he turned out.

But it did make me sad. George worked his ass off and Ossie provided an excellent alternative to Apres Match, but ya know – I  still missed  Ron.  I really did.  The World Cup is diminished even after all these years, all these arid, Ron-free years, this desert of Ronlessness.

There are a lot of fancy dans who can make one flourish every few games.  A bunch of old men back in the studio, living off their reputations, and sparring for effect…but the magic is gone.

Only George is keeping his end up – every game a florid, excited, garrulous wordfest of mixed metaphor, ill-advised sorties into ambitious simile, and the occasional gem – “siege gun” was super.  But none of them is Ron.

As for the succession…

I know DH puts a lot of faith in The Merse, but he has a long way to go.  As a man with years –  years I tell you! – of experience hanging around the rising young colts of comedy, and watching the established greats trot around the paddock before opening their legs and showing their class, I can point to a subtle but crucial difference between the Master and the Pretender.

Ron has a quiet self-knowledge, essential in the finishing armoury of every great comedian, and knows that he is faintly ridiculous.

A major part of his genius is that he never overplays this particular card.  There is no sense of self-parody, or hamming it up, or playing the buffoon to curry favour.  He knows that the moment can come at any time, and he doesn’t have to strain for it.

Sometimes it arrives when even he is not expecting it, but his impeccable poise and balance allow him to slide in a knowing chuckle, or a sly get-out phrase, and make it look as if he meant it all along.

Merse will never know.  Could he  ever conceive of “He’s hit the woodwork at both ends now”? Had Phillip Cocu hit the post with his head  first, before he struck it with a shot, then maybe a good practitioner could see an opportunity for a joke, if he were to shoot against the upright later.

But no.  Two unconnected incidents, separated (necessarily for the joke to work) by a halftime interval. The recall, the realisation, the double meaning that never stoops to double entendre, and is yet not a pun.

And yet it works as a mainstream joke. It’s the comedy equivalent of a typical Paul Scholes performance – nothing flashy, no tricks – just quality, quality, quality.

And that is just one moment, one sublime improvisation, in a career studded with outstanding performances.  Is there a footballer who has contributed anything like the number of signature moves to the game as Ron has given jewels to the language?

There’s the Cruyff turn, the Zidane “roulette”, Bianco’s bunny hop, and now Mata’s exquisite improvement on the nutmeg. One player, one trick. But Ron? “The eyebrows”, the “Hollywood ball”, “spotter’s badge”, “lollipop”, “early doors”. “Second post”?

If Eddie Izzard had done it, he’d have been carried round the Glasgow Empire on a lap of honour, and the Guardian would have devoted an entire paragraph of the review to it.

Maybe, in a different position, and a totally different style, just  maybe George himself could rise to the dizzy heights – the Real Madrid Armoured Rabbit was evidence of world class potential.

The Merse?  Get outta here….


Seamus Cassidy is the gaffer at Happy Endings.

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