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FA Carling Premiership, 4/3/00
West Ham United
By Kevin Birdseye
(Dateline: Brussels, Friday lunchtime)

First I was going. Then I wasn't. Then I was going after all.... Now, barring a last-minute miracle, I'm almost certainly not. Going to the West Ham game, that is.

It went like this: ordinarily I'd have been on the train tomorrow - day-return, as per usual. But that was before Mrs Kevin decided to accept tickets for her and my son to go and'll like this..."Disney on Ice" up in Ghent. This Saturday. Leaving me to look after daughter Emily.

Best pleased? Me? Not really.

No bother, though. Simply adopt Plan B, I thought, bung the little lady in the Nissan Hornera and drive across for the weekend instead. Emily sees her Nana and Grandad. I go to the footie. Everyone's a winner!

Then blam! Eurotunnel wanted a hefty two hundred quid for a weekend ticket - I am stupid, but not that stupid. Or wealthy for that matter. Not at Belgian tax rates.

So, game off!

But wait! The Eurotunnel website started touting an affordable ninety-nine quid last-minute special weekend return late Thursday evening....

Game on again!

This morning, however, daughter Emily awoke with a stonking temperature and then proceeded to throw up everywhere. So no car trip for her, obviously.

Game well and truly off!

A day-return would be my only option. So why don't I tell The Wife to cancel that trip to Ghent?

Too late. Wifey has already blabbed to the boy about his "surprise" this Saturday. He's talked about nothing else all week. Stopping him from going would break his heart. (After all, he doesn't know what a load of tosh "Disney on Ice" is, does he?)

How very mature and responsible of me. So why this sickening feeling in my stomach?

Because all other avenues of hope have been exhausted. Babysitter? Of course! But have you ever tried to get a (Belgian) babysitter to work daytime on a Saturday? And look after a sick three-year-old who's throwing up everywhere? Without being able to give 'em a definite time at which they will be relieved? Slimmer than our chances of beating the drop, mate!

So how about foisting my sick daughter onto a sympathetic friend, then? No go either, I'm afraid - all the likely candidates are going to bloody "Dismal on Ice", aren't they?

I am sunk. All hope gone. In the last thirty-six hours, I have run the full gamut of emotions, topped off now by a curly turd of total, complete and utter anguish. It hurts.

It's too late even to find anyone to use my ST tomorrow, 'cos the ST book is sat here, pathetically, in my drawer, miles from Watford - I've tried to contact the few candidates in my adopted home town who'd be interested, but all are busy/otherwise engaged.

At least Elvis Mark, the famously bequiffed Bloke Behind Me in the Rookery, will be able to ease his match-day tension versus Wess Tam by stretching his legs and parking them in my usual berth, left conspicuously empty on a sell-out occasion. Better, his mates will be spared my normal, inane waffle about what a class act Des Lyttle really could be.... My grey cloud will be their silver lining!

And relations with The Wife? Put it this way, fans of black football humour will be amused by her well-meant attempt to cheer me up by saying: "You can go to the Sheff Weds game after all, if you like." (She'd "arranged something" for that forthcoming weekend as well, you see.)

Sheff Weds. West Ham. Tripe. Smoked salmon.

While admiring people's continued optimism about our survival chances, I have to say that I've been resigned to the drop since August. My one source of salvation for the season therefore was the prospect of seeing us upset one or more illustrious apple-carts at our gaff, à la Chelsea, and perhaps continuing with the 'Appy 'Ammers. Seeing us beat the toiling Wednesdayites, which will still be quite nice in this season of scraps, won't be anything like as tasty.

Am I being totally unreasonable to my wife and family? Hell, of course I am. And the fact that I know I'm behaving like a complete git over this simply adds to my, and everyone else's, gloom and despondency.

Les McQueen, jilted rhythm guitarist from seventies group, Creme Brulee, on the BBC hit comedy show, "The League of Gentlemen", sums it all up perfectly: "It's a shit business", opines Les. Too right, it is. Only he meant the music biz, not football addiction.

Anyway, do Enjoy The Game, those of you who are going. You lucky bleeders.