MARTIN SMITH: The football addict’s guide to a National distraction

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THE Grand National, who needs it?

With a profile somewhere between a night at the dogs and a dinner dance the National squats on the early spring calendar, the last of the winter racing, a big steeplechase blow-out to leap towards summer.

Along with the FA Cup semi-finals and the Boat Race the Grand National confirms the cycle of our sporting lives even if you’re only using their exotic excitement to distract you from the dread of watching your own football team.

If they’re safe you’re bored, if they’re going up you’re terrified, if they’re going down you shuffle between depression and irrational hope.

The pin-stickers guides, the sweeps at work and the two-bob-each-way granny bets give the national the air of a school fund-raiser.

Everyone has a go, they don’t really know why but it’s expected.

The World Cup, The Ashes, Wimbledon, give people a chance to air an opion that at other times would, thankfully, remain unuttered.

So when your mum asks you to put a quid on the one with the same number as the house she grew up in, or on a horse named after her old next door neighbour’s cat, just smile, take her money to the bookies and dream of the next distraction from your football habit - the Royal Wedding.

Gawd ‘elp us. Even a relegation battle will seem bearable after that lot.