Magazine article The Spectator

Sausage Saga

Magazine article The Spectator

Sausage Saga

Article excerpt

Opinion behind the counter in the busy, family-run Silver Grill fish and chip shop was sharply divided.

The grieving Leicester City supporter who ran the place thought that Portsmouth had every chance of pulling it off. In the betting shop next door they were offering 33-1 on Pompey winning 1-0, he said, riddling the chip cage. Ridiculous odds. They are an experienced team and they won't mind mixing it. If they rise to the occasion, Chelsea won't have things all their own way, you mark my words, he said.

But his nephew - baseball cap, beard and his arms so densely tattooed that at first glance it looks as if he's wearing a purple and black cardigan - rolled his eyes at his uncle's romanticism. His job is to batter and fry the fish and that's all. He executes his trips between fridge and fryer with such perfect economy that he is able to devote a significant amount of his time to leaning on the counter and studying the tabloid sports pages. So he's the Silver Grill's statistician.

One might even say he is the Silver Grill's logical positivist, such is his respect for the cold hard facts and his unwillingness to believe in fairy tales. Chelsea are champions, ran his counter-argument. Portsmouth finished last. And Chelsea have been banging in the goals lately. If the bookmaker was offering 100-1 on a one-nil Pompey victory, he still wouldn't take it, he said.

But, like his uncle, I was brought up to believe in the romance of the FA Cup. If the team representing the school of hard knocks set about their multimillionaire opponents as though they meant business, I thought, and the pitch was as bad as everybody was saying, we could well see an upset. I took my hot parcel of cod and chips into the bookies and placed a ten-pound note on Pompey to beat the champions by a goal to nil. It was a riposte to the stats man, and to logical positivism in general, as well as a small votive offering to the celestial jokers who preside over the outcomes of football matches.

I hadn't planned to watch the Cup Final this year, but now that I had money riding on it I rushed home and pulled a chair up in front of the telly. The match had already started. Ten minutes gone and still nil-nil. A Chelsea forward missed an easy tap-in that even my Nan would have gobbled up. …

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