The glandular problems Darcy has faced were not all in vain though, he'd been diligently collecting tokens from Monster Munch packs and had collected the 12500 tokens necessary to win him a trip with two friends to travel to South Africa and watch a World Cup second round match.
He had to invite Tony G (Tony wouldn't let Darcy out of a headlock until he did) and he wanted to invite Tony C but unfortunately Cappers couldn't get off work - major server upgrade at head office at the IT firm he works at apparently. Thankfully the third and final ticket was offered to me, I think Darcy wanted a left-footer along to provide some sort of balance should we get into any impromptu three-a-sides whilst we were out there. I was delighted. For me, the biggest international football tournament is almost certainly the World Cup. For my money your European Championships, Copa Americas and CONCACAF Gold Cups of this world simply don't compare.
When we arrived in South Africa we were delighted to learn that Darcy's tickets were for England vs Germany. Tony G was talking down the Germans saying they weren't as good as they used to be. For me, that's fatal, you simply never underestimate the Germans (unless we're talking about fashion of course). I remember when I played for Manchester City, the lads there used to talk in hushed tones about German striker Uwe Rosler. One of the catering lasses had once underestimated the amount of bratwursts Rosler could eat at lunch. She never worked in Manchester again at least not with German cuisine. And that's a fact.
Darcy and Tony G are up for getting the pints in but I fancy doing something a little more reflective so have taken a trip to Robben Island. Now, from reading my guide book I had ascertained that Robben Island was supposed to be one of the main tourist attractions in South Africa, yet I wasn't so impressed. Let me tell you, it's got nothing on Barry Island, you've got your log flumes, your candy floss, your pirate ships even a Hyper Hyper Value. Yes, I admit that the accommodation at Robben is of slightly higher quality than Barry but for me, Barry Island wins this battle when you compare them like for like.
I met Darce and Tony G outside the stadium and was amazed to see they were dressed as RAF pilots. Helmets, moustaches the works. Tony had apparently swapped his playoff final losers medal for the outfits at the Irish Bar in town. Darcy seemed to think the outfits were a great idea and was pestering me to buy him a vuvuzela whilst Tony kept going on about the "Hun" and babbling on about something to do with his granddad's chip shop being bombed. For me, sporting rivalry is one thing, but dressing up as WWII pilots to watch a football match against a former war-time foe is another. As an Irishman, like in World War II, I remained staunchly neutral and explained as much to the very nice couple from Gelsinkirchen who we happened to be sat next to in the stadium - We had perfect seats sat only a couple of rows from the front.
The game started with a frenetic pace and it was obvious that Germany had the upper hand and within 20 minutes the Germans were ahead by 2 goals to 1. It was also at this point that both Darcy and Tony started losing concentration. It's been a common problem this season, a focused first twenty minutes or so only for Tony or Darcy to get distracted and make a fatal mistake.
Tony was barely watching the game and was busy goading a group of schoolchildren from Dusseldorf with a horrendously off-key rendition of "Ten German bombers". This obviously enraged somenearby Germans and a vuvezula fight soon broke out. Tony G threw his and it hit the linesman on the back of the head, I think Darcy's hit a child. The lino has turned around to look at the crowd and at this very point Frankie Lampard has unleashed a terrific volley that's hit the bar and bounced over the line. The linesman has lost concentration at the vital moment and missed it. For me, this shows just why vuvuzelas are such a menace in the modern game, it only takes a slight misunderstanding for these events to occur.
The crowd were going mad and I used this opportunity to shout "RUN" at Darcy and Tony G and we made our getaway from the stadium. Tony G and Darcy are quickly taking off parts of their RAF costumes and throwing them into the streets of Rustenburg with the Germans in hot pursuit. It must have been quite a sight for the locals; two half naked men running away from a group of mulleted German football fans wearing liederhosen.
We eventually managed to shake them off by running down a crowded market street and knocking a fruit stall over and running past a couple of workers carrying a large pane of glass. It was a method of escape that had served us well on multiple occasions during the past couple of seasons.
The return trip home wasn't nearly as eventful and mainly consisted of Tony G ribbing Darcy about his RAF pilots hat that he had been unable to remove since the Germany game. The gaffer wasn't best pleased when he turned up at our pre-season base in Portugal still wearing it. He had tried wearing an afro wig on top of it and claiming he'd grown it during the summer, but it didn't fool anyone least of all Terry Burton, who is disco to the core.
Portugal was tough this year around although it was good to see the lads once more. Jay Bothroyd (as always) came up with a nickname for Danny Drinkwater our new loanee from Manchester United. Get this, it's DRINKY!! I have no idea where he gets them from, I really don't. Jay cracks me up every time.
The club's well documented financial problems meant we could only afford all inclusive for eight players only. Each of these eight players had to sneak food up from the buffet into the hotel rooms where we had doubled (and in some cases tripled) up. This was fun for a couple of days holed up in a hotel room with a lot of the lads bantering about Anne Frank and all that, but when Naughts is only bringing up boiled or scrambled egg and omelets you do start to get a little frustrated.
Unfortunately our fun was put to an end when Adam Matthews was caught attempted to swipe a whole large roast turkey from the buffet. It was an audacious attempt from the youngster but ultimately his inexperience cost him. He's young, he will learn from this and take this experience forward for the future. Terry Burton, Wilko and a couple of the senior players were hauled unceremoniously in front of hotel management who told us in no uncertain terms that our behaviour had been unacceptable. They said the only way we could stay is if we played a "Winner Takes All" match against their hotel football side. We had no choice to accept these terms and I must admit, we were feeling confident about it. Playing against a team of waiters and cleaners should be no match for a group of professional footballers like ourselves.
When Huds was turned inside out by a cook who chipped Marshy to score their third we knew we were up against it. The Portuguese were obviously more used to the hot and humid conditions as well as the new ball. They also looked as if they were a week or two ahead of us in their pre-season preparations.
It was at this moment a Portuguese police car pulled up alongside the ground. I was obviously concerned that a local had reported us for our criminal defending, but unfortunately it turned out to be far more serious than that. The copper had an INTERPOL arrest warrant for Darcy Blake - "striking a child with his vuvuzela" (thankfully not a euphemism). It was quite a scene, Darcy was in tears and Tony G was looking sheepish. There looked to be no way out for young Darce as it was obvious from the RAF headgear he was still wearing that he had committed the crime. Put it this way, he would be picked out in a police line without any problems..
I stepped in to try and resolve the situation and managed to negotiate a fee with the copper to pay off the South African government. Unfortunately for us the club,had no money to pay this. so I quickly rang around a few mates. I rembered Keano owed me a favour after I managed to get my close friend Quientin Blake to provide artwork for his last biography. Thankfully he negotiated a bank transfer of £75,000 from Ipswich Town to the South African government as a fee for Darcy Blake's exoneration, on the condition that I play for Ipswich Town in the forthcoming season.
I'm obviously not totally ecstatic about the situation, as any woman will tell you, no one wants to swap a Darcy for a Wickham. But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, it's all part and parcel of football.
Sparky, Ipswich Town and Republic of Ireland, signing off.