Who's the b**tard in the black ?

January 98
Richard Pendleton
reprinted without permission

Isn't that the bloke from The Cure ? Robert Smith spills the beans on following the Rs, vying for the Three Lions slot, and how close he came to being the new Nigel Clough

Twenty years ago the PE teacher at Crawley comprehensive made an important decision. He decided to drop the football team's left winger. He kept getting knocked off the ball & he'd always been a bit difficult. He was the only kid in the team photograph who had long hair & he never listened to what you told him. The left winger gave up his boyhood dreams of playing for England, picked up a guitar & decided he looked better in black anyway. Several albums of inspired musical strangeness later & The Cure's Robert Smith must reckon he got it right.

The Cure & football aren't such a strange combination as you might think. OK, so it's hard to imagine the Wembley faithful donning baggy black V-necks & heading off to Wembley to support the national team by swaying along to Lovecats or Boys Don't Cry. And it's true that 'Three Lions on a shirt' is easier to chant than some of The Cure's more popular ditties. But Smith insists that football sits alongside music as the band's great passion: 'It's not obvious from what we do musically, but we plan our tours around European Championships & World Cups.'

So how come Smith turned down the chance to don the outsize managerial jacket for Fantasy Football ? 'They asked me to be one of the first managers but I didn't want to upset Ron Newman.' (Skinner had suceeded Newman as Baddiel's partner in comedy.)

So who're his team ? You'd expect the frontman of The Cure to support somebody slightly, well, unorthodox. Perhaps a faded European team trading on a glamorous past like St Etienne. Or a suitably obscure eastern European outfit - Ukrainian League stalwarts Metallurg-Viktor Zaporizhzhya for instance perhaps. Not a bit of it; Smith spent his youth cheering on QPR from the terraces at Loftus Road.

'It's a family thing,' he says - slightly defensively. 'My dad supported them & so did my brother. It taught me that there's more to life than winning, anyway. I started going to Loftus in the Rodney Marsh era... sadly the legend's been undermined by his subsequent TV appearances.'

Smith's mum had a slightly different role model in mind. 'She really liked Nigel Clough,' he remembers. 'She still calls him young Nigel. That's how she likes to think I'd have ended up if I'd persued my football career.' You've got to wonder how things could have turned out in a different world - Cloughie bellowing instructions to Bob from the touchline at the City Ground while Nigel backcombs his side parting into that trademark explosion...

At least one of the current England squad repays Smith's enthusiasm. Stuart Pierce is said to be an avid Cure fan & was spotted by the band at one of their concerts. 'He was wearing a shellsuit... but at least it was black. And, anyways, who's going to tell him it's anything less than attractive ?'

The thought of Stuart Pierce listening to The Cure is only marginally stranger than that of a lissome Robert Smith the schoolboy dancing down the wing. 'It's hard to imagine which song he listens to,' Smith confesses. 'But I do like to imagine him rocking backwards and forwards in the dressing room with one of our songs in the background saying: "I'm going to go out & kill the bastard", over & over again.'

Even if Psycho manages to persuade Glenn Hoddle to put Inbetween Days on the team stereo, Broudie & Skinner needn't fret. 'We submitted a song for Italia 90,' recalls Smith, 'but we didn't get anywhere. It was too gloomy. Surprisingly.'

Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 15:00:03 CDT

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