The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

The curious incident of the winger in the Saturday afternoon

30 October 2018

It was on a cold morning in late autumn when Inspector Fishy interrupted the leisurely breakfast that my illustrious friend, Sherlock Holmes, and I had been enjoying in our rooms in 221B Baker Street.

Helping himself to a generous portion of bacon, Fishy began to relate what had  brought him to our door.

"I fancy I have the right man under lock and key, Holmes, but there are one or two details that are elusive, and I know you like to interest yourself in our affairs now and again.

"The facts are these. At around 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, an association football player with the Crewe Alexandra club suddenly appeared about 25 yards from the Grimsby goal, and with no other player within 15 yards of him, he could hardly help but score. There were more than 3,000 witnesses, so it is claimed, but none have been able to account for how the Crewe player got there."

"Tell me, what actions have you taken?" interjected Holmes, filling his pipe.

"I have arrested a local ne'er-do-well, JJ Hooper. All my sources insist he must be the culprit. Yet he was not on the scene at the time, having been withdrawn from the field of play a few minutes before. But my witnesses say he is a very lazy gentleman so I can only think some kind of voodoo must have been involved."

"I see. Do I take it correctly that Hooper is black?"

"I can't say I have noticed, Holmes."

"Of course, Fishy. Tell me, what were the actions of the full-back prior to this incident?"

"Well now, that is the curious thing. Luke Hendrie, his name is. He generally had a steady game but he was troubled for a period before the interval when Hooper had been switched to the opposite flank. And then of course he was troubled again after Hooper had been substituted."

"And what reaction was there to Hooper while he was still on the pitch?"

"There was no reaction."

"Really? I think that is the strangest part of this whole affair. This is quite a half a pipe problem, Fishy. Leave it with me for a while Watson refills your coffee cup and I fancy I shall have a satisfactory solution for you before the morning is over."

I entertained Inspector Fishy with news of the double discount for season ticket holders, doing my best to ignore the inspector's conspicuous yawns, while Holmes retired to his laptop but it was not long before he rejoined us.

"You must free Hooper at the earliest opportunity, Fishy. It is true that he appears to be somewhat hesitant in the face of the opposition goal, but then if that were a criminal offence, you would have to arrest half the Grimsby team.

"The clue to this affair lies in the difficulties Hendrie encountered when Hooper was not close by, and in the silence of the Grimsby support. Surely if a player of Hooper's reputation had been performing poorly, the crowd would have been telling him, and the manager, what they thought. There is only one explanation. Hooper was not performing poorly. Instead, throughout the game, whenever Crewe had the ball, Hooper was dogging the footsteps of their full-back."

"But I saw nothing," Inspector Fishy protested.

"That is what you might expect to see when a professional footballer is assiduously carrying out his duty. It is when he stopped doing it that you observed the effect of his absence. JJ Hooper seems to me a most unfortunate young man who will flourish if only he is aided to some greater self-respect."

"Come Watson, we just have time to catch a hansom cab to King's Cross, and then to Blundell Park. The Grimsby Town youth team play tonight, and I am hearing great things of them."