The Mangle: An Ugly Wife Never Strays Gary November 2, 2011 The Mangle 4 Comments Bear with me on the metaphor. The ugly wife in question is the crap footballer on your team’s books. You’d quite like them to stray to be honest, but if never is a little strong, they’re pretty unlikely to. In the main they’d rather sit around on the sofa eating you out of house and home. We haven’t got too upset about Billy finally deciding enough is enough and taking it upon himself to play away in beachfront hotels on the south coast, for example – in fact, we’ve seen it as something of a relief. If only Bruce and O’Brien would take the increasingly unsubtle hints. The beautiful wife, on the other hand, is the class player your club’s produced: youthful, talented, lights up the dullest event of a match. And highly coveted, you fear. I find myself unable to enjoy the blossoming of an LUFC beauty these days without breaking out into acute paranoia about them leaving for one of those clubs with a shiny sports car and aviator shades on all the time. Take Tom Lees. Against Cardiff, I think most of us saw it. He’s one of the stand-outs now, and has become so in seemingly record time, if you conveniently forget about the two years of increasingly successful loans. But I imagine for many of us the welling of pride in another cracking academy product coming to the fore also became immediately tinged with fear of loss, then resignation that without measurable improvement on last season’s nearly show, Tom and us might not be together very long. I’m not sure I’m necessarily having a ‘Bates bash’ here either, as fun as it always is. More or less no-one outside the Premier League can hold onto star youngsters anymore without getting forced into a corner by someone waving wads of cash and the offer of regular bench time. We’re all even vulnerable to West Broms, Wolverhamptons and the like, as depressing as that thought is. “It’s always been my dream to play at the top level,” they’ll incredulously tell you with a slight tinge of moisture welling in the corner of their dollar-signed eye as they sign on the dotted line at the DW Stadium. As perverse as it sounds, from the club’s point of view, not involving your natural beauties in the first team for a while and offloading them on loan to somewhere extremely unfashionable (like Accrington) is the only way of keeping the slick sleazebags of ‘Premier League Football’ off the scent for a reasonable amount of time these days. Kind of like only letting that beautiful wife visit convents when she’s not heavily chaperoned by you. But obviously this kind of jealous social control proves counterproductive when you realise that means you’re not actually seeing any direct benefit at all from discovering and coaching the footballing beauty into existence. So then comes the grudging realisation that there’s a point where you have to put them on show i.e. actually play them, in your slightly less unfashionable team and so allow the fear to start incrementally creeping. Once the full-scale paranoia kicks in it’s very hard to shake. Time for thoughts about what desperate shows of affection could be done, what overtures could be made to make them stay. New long-term deal! Buy them a gift! Something outlandish like a decent partner at centre half, you think that might seal it. No, wait, it’s only us the fans that realise the latter might be a reasonable investment; or at least make it publicly known. This is not a call for an entire harem of ugly footballing spouses – that would be a sure-fire way of guaranteeing attendance drops of greater leaps than the 15 percent we’ve already got. We all want talent in our ranks, but with seemingly little chance of keeping it anymore, we have to learn to capture the beautiful moments of the marriage while it lasts, while hoping that maybe in some rare (say one in five), probably Leeds-born cases, there’s an odd adherence to that old ‘loyalty’ thing – well, at least enough to get an extra season in the second tier out of them, should it be required.