On Ocean Drive, Miami, I once met a chap called Chad from South Yorkshire. He was clenching a crushed Coke can, his ankle wrapped in clingfilm. I asked him if he was OK. “Had a tattoo,” he explained. “Bloody agony.” He peeled back the cellophane to show me a word in Russian: “Фрикли”. I asked him what it meant and he told me it was where he was from. I asked him where he was from. “Frickley,” he said. I inquired as to why he would want Frickley tattooed on his leg in Cyrillic. He didn’t have an answer for me.
Chad was a football fan, in Miami for England’s warm-up game ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Incredibly, four years later, I bumped into him on Nikolskaya Street, Moscow, during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. I told him that if England won it, I’d pay for him to get “ENGLAND”, or rather “Англия”, tattooed on a bum cheek of his choosing. Sadly, neither event came to pass.
In a similar way, I have long said that if West Bromwich Albion won anything I would get myself tattooed with our club crest. That has not happened, either. This week, however, in South Yorkshire as it happens, I had to get a (temporary) West Brom tattoo for a part in the sitcom, Meet the Richardsons. I was very excited. Unfortunately, the makeup artist put it on back to front. The poor woman was mortified, but I identified at least two positives: first, it made the words look a bit Cyrillic, so put me in mind of my mate Chad from Frickley; second, in the mirror it looked bloody marvellous. If and when West Brom do win anything, my real tattoo will be going on back to front, just like this one. That way, I’ll be able to stop and admire it properly in every mirror, shop window or shiny saucepan that I chance upon.