The Guardian have granted me a week off from the back-breaking physical labour of drawing football cartoons, so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait another week to read my searing analysis of Ralph Hasenhüttl’s waistcoat game. However, as punishment, I’ve been asked to scour my back catalogue and pick out 10 panels from the last few years that I hate the least. Usually when I’m away from my drawing board, a huge story breaks, so feel free to dip in and out of this selection as you wait for the liveblog to refresh with updates on Pep Guardiola’s shock move to Chippenham Town.
This sequence comes from what is probably my most popular cartoon, a parody of The Shawshank Redemption published when Arsène Wenger finally left Arsenal. Maybe if he and Gunnersaurus had stuck to sanding down boats in Zihuatanejo we wouldn’t now be dealing with the prospect of a World Cup every fortnight.
The character of “Emo Mourinho” was the longest I’ve let a joke run, as it was obvious from the early days of the 2018-19 season that he’d entered his classic End Phase at Manchester United. By the time he left in December, I’d almost exhausted the “Emo Bands” entry on Wikipedia, so was relieved to see him move on.
Similarly, I started drawing Roy Hodgson as an indie kid when rumours circulated that the over-70s might be banned from football stadiums at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
Mike Dean is one of my favourite people to draw and I always enjoy watching him referee (possibly because he never refs Swindon games). Football is better for his flamboyant facial contortions, and no one delivers a yellow card quite like Dean. I also liked the idea of him booking a crab.
The background to drawing Roy Keane in a farmyard is too convoluted to explain now, but one day I hope to dedicate an entire cartoon to Roy’s agricultural adventures.
I drew my first cartoon for The Guardian around Remembrance Day in 2014, when James McClean was receiving abuse for his refusal to wear a poppy. I’ve covered Poppygate nearly every year since, as the rhetoric around the day intensifies. This panel comes from one such cartoon in 2017, when people started wearing poppy onesies to football matches. It’s definitely become harder to exaggerate human behaviour in recent years.
All the cartoons have to be checked by the lawyers before they’re published, which means that whoever is in the editorial hot seat on a Tuesday has to explain a few of the jokes to the legal department. On one such occasion, they were left with the task of acting as a middle man in an argument over whether it was libellous to suggest that Pippo Inzaghi had really populated Italy with a plentiful sperm donation.
When England travelled to Sofia to play Bulgaria in October 2019, I filed a cartoon in advance that parodied the classic football episode of Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, with Big Sam and Roy Hodgson in the roles of Bob and Terry, spending the day trying to avoid the result. Of course, when the England players were subjected to racist abuse from the stands, there was no way the cartoon could be published on the site, but here’s a panel showing how the former England managers spent part of their day together.
It’s rare that anyone from the football world requests a copy of one of my cartoons. A member of the Manchester United backroom staff got in touch during the Mourinho era, and sometimes family members of featured players email me. My blood ran cold when I saw Peter Drury’s name appear in my inbox after this cartoon was published, but he couldn’t have been nicer. The only part of the cartoon he took exception to was the claim that he rehearsed his florid outbursts, so I’ll choose to believe he drops words like “parabola” into his everyday conversations.
The great thing about writing about English football is that there’s an endless cycle of new comedy characters. OK, I don’t get to draw Harry Redknapp or Sepp Blatter as much as I used to, but now I’ve been gifted Marcelo Bielsa (plus interpreter). The Spygate story of early 2019 was perfect cartoon material. Here’s Marcelo making his getaway in an invisible James Bond car. I was a bit dehydrated when I drew this one.