Neil Jackson: “I was feeding koi. Now it’s back to the mad house”

Arrested Development, Iron Man, Doctor Who…all three have produced highly successful reboots several years after seemingly reaching their zenith. Now it’s time to add Sovereign FC to that list. As manager Neil Jackson, Jon Giddings, Liam Dixon and more return for a second bite of the cherry, we spoke about the seminal team’s seismic return.

Neil Jackson was enjoying a nice quiet life until last Saturday. “I’ve been tending to the koi, burying the body of an MS sufferer, creating a baby and getting over the harsh discovery I don’t actually have a metal knee,” he reveals today, plump and proper in his Bridgnorth backyard. “Oh, sorry, can we edit out something – the baby part. I’m only telling a few people.”

He sips his sugar-addled squash, observes his koi-inflected kingdom and flares his nostril in a mix of reluctance and readiness. “Now it’s back into the madhouse.”

The madhouse is football, a sport he vowed to give up after being, in his words, driven out by sensitivity. “Generation Corbyn I call it,” he rants. “Back in the good old days of 2013, I was able to compare female referees to contestants on Loose Women and it was accepted. Heck, they wouldn’t shout if I let a bit of spit fly into their face. Now you can’t even say the word ‘woman’ without a Facebook petition starting. Football just stopped being fun.”

Favouring a quieter life, Jackson would only be convinced to return to football on two counts – if Catalonia was granted independence and accepted his fraudulent passport, or if the chairman of Sovereign FC needed him back. Unsurprisingly, it was the latter. “I haven’t got a bad word to say about the guy at the top. As a chairman and as a father, he’s been excellent. He’s told Romanian investors to piss off, paid off Kev when I forgot his wages and let us use his Bonningdale trialing facilities,” Jackson says. “It was only a desperate call from him that made me swap my suit jackets for Slazenger.”

Sovereign FC are indeed in dire straits. After Jackson resigned in the summer of 2013, the core of a title-winning side drifted into a desperate sea of gambling, non-league and Blakemore’s. “Mitch called me and I thought he just wanted me to look after Ruby and Bella,” Jackson begins, referencing the daughters from his previous marriage (EDITOR – CHECK THIS). “Instead, he called in tears. The Sov were falling apart and spiralling towards oblivion. Plus, the Summer House was fully booked.”

Now in the Dog & Duck Leisure League, it has been a startling descent from the heady days of 2012, when the San Lams and Jon O’Hagans of the world were rubbing shoulders with Scholes and Drogba in the Premier League. The team are bottom of the table after a 7-0 thrashing from the Penderford Puff & Stuffs, drifting dangerously towards relegation into ‘walking football.’ “With my belly, that might be a pleasant alternative,” Jackson chuckles. “But, seriously, I did some reflecting and I realised that although the past is past, I couldn’t sleep knowing the Sov were deteriorating. I accepted with aplomb.”

His first official day as manager saw Jackson sat by the pool, only this time he wasn’t tickling Tank. Phone furiously being dialled in one hand, Haribo furiously devoured in another, Jackson dug out his little black book to re-recruit his former formidables. “The first person I called was Cad,” Jackson reveals. “Not because he was the best, but more because I knew he’d say yes straight away and would make me still look good.” Cad, playing as an ambient midfielder for Warehouse United, offered his services and a joke. Jackson accepted one and declined the other.

Soon, the stars that graced Sovereignville were aligning once more. Jon Giddings, who retired from professional football due to pressures from his Polish Orthodox religion, burst into tears when he received the call. “I’d been counting down the days,” Jon said joyously. “Every time someone moved away, got married, got divorced, fathered an illegitimate love child, grew bald, added Cad to the chat…I knew Sovereign would return. Fat, 40 and back!”

There were some casualties. San Lam had committed atrocities in his native Vietnam and law forbid him from travelling; Chris Austins had pug commitments every Wednesday; Frazer Evans is out for the season with scalp injuries; Jon O’Hagan had used his data. But Liam Dixon agreed to return on loan while the US Soccer Cruise League was in dry dock. Sam Lambeth, who has devoted his post-football career to philanthropy in deepest Zambia, said yes in a series of tongue clicks. Matt Palmer, cleared of drug charges, said “yeah, man.” Ash Wiley continually declined his services, but agreed to pay after a drunken ACCA spending spree left him so riddled in debt he faked a rabbit’s death to get the insurance money.

“If it was a show, I doubt Netflix would go for it!” Jackson laughs. “But there’s something magical about it – the old band back together. We’re older, fatter, beardier, but we’ve got something the teams in that league haven’t got – guts. And a pension plan. It’s mission impossible – and I’m ready.”

 

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“We could end up in Gateshead” – meet the Wolves gang that are using the football fixtures to decide their weekend getaway

lads

Heard about the one where a group of lifelong friends and Chris Caddick decide whichever team scores first will serve as the destination for a weekend getaway? Well you have now.

The gang, mostly from the Wolverhampton area (though one appears to have distinctly Eastern African heritage and another speaks only in a forced American twang), had booked in November 10-11 to enjoy a couple of days away from the Midlands to celebrate the birthdays of Ash Wiley and Liam Dixon. When they couldn’t settle on an agreed location, they hit upon an idea. “We’re all football fans, apart from Cad who enjoys long-distance walking,” says Sam Lambeth, the group’s resident funnyman. “We often tune into Soccer Saturday to enjoy Jeff’s japes and Merse’s mumbles, and that’s when we got to thinking – what if we went to the place of whoever scores first? If Wolves score first, it’ll be a fairly cheap weekend. However, we could end up in Gateshead.”

The deal was done. The posse – consisting of insurance giant Jon Giddings, first-year student Cal Pascoe (pronounced Pascu), hospital orderly Wiley, NFL coach Dixon, koi tender Neil Jackson, Saturday checkout boy Frazer Brodie, stay-at-home dad Caddick and transgender researcher Lambeth – agreed to meet for breakfast with their bags packed, before perching down to nervously await which team in the English divisions lets in an early goal. “The past few weeks has seen, erm, desirable locations such as Rochdale, Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Newport bag the first screamer,” says Lambeth. “I think we looked on TripAdvisor at what were the best nights out in Grimsby and ranked number two was some bloke’s house that had hosted a great New Year’s Eve party in 2003.”

With Leagues One and Two out of action, there was potential for the plan to be scuppered. However, the boys took it in their stride, and are instead including the FA Cup First Round in their endeavours, meaning the locations have become even more delightfully obscure. “We were finding places and teams that we never knew existed!” chuckles Lambeth. “One was Metropolitan Police…we didn’t even realise that was a town. We’re hoping for that one because we used to have a mate who was a copper, so it would bring back memories.”

With the likes of Blyth, Taunton, Solihull, Bath and, yep, Gateshead all on the horizon, Lambeth seems undeterred. “As soon as Jeff lets out his introductory roar, we’re straight in the cars and booking hotels on the way,” Lambeth says. “It’ll be a weekend to remember. I just hope they’ve got some playing ‘Zombie Nation’ when we arrive.”

THE LONGEST MILE

Here are some of the longest treks from Wolverhampton our boys will face….

AFC Wimbledon – 3 hours and 33 minutes

Torquay United – 3 hours and 34 minutes

Gateshead – 4 hours and 13 minutes

Portsmouth – 3 hours 4 minutes

 

New #1

It’s a Sunday evening and I’ve just finished watching Nanette, the acclaimed stand-up show from Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby. If you’ve yet to see it, the hyperbole is apt – it breaks down boundaries, it leaves an Opera House in stunned silence and it shakes you into deep realisations. One moment that touched me greatly was where Gadsby discussed how her sensitivity, which leans to the more extreme scale, is often pointed out by people in the most insensitive way possible. It makes her feel worse, inadequate and listless. It made me realise a lot about how I have been feeling lately.

Sensitivity has always been my biggest issue, but this year has been a little tough. If I was still in London right now – where I was living for the past eleven months – I’d be having the first of a few evening gins. The thing was, I was even a rubbish alcoholic. I didn’t like gin and still don’t, but there was nothing else in the house. There wasn’t even anything to distil the gin so I had to take it straight. I’m surprised that I didn’t end up sounding like a laryngitic Lemmy by 9pm.

Of course, I am stretching the truth by referring to myself as an alcoholic, but the manner in which I was imbibing this alcohol was a cause for concern. It wasn’t for my usual reasons – to convince myself I am nothing but a streamlined slice of homespun charm or to make me forget that you can see I’m not a natural blonde – it was to fill a chasm. It was to try and make the evenings alone more worthwhile and sprightly. It was trying to suffocate a void that was yawning from deep within me. That was when I needed to get out. Not just of London, but out of my own head.

Lately, I have almost felt like a toddler. However, instead of learning how to walk and talk, I’ve been learning how to process self-loathing, rage and anxiety. And just like a two-year-old, there has been a lot of clumsiness, a lot of unilateral anger and plenty of pouting. You see, I understand, empathise and actively try and reach out to people who struggle with mental illness regularly, but as someone who has been fortunate enough to slalom around such issues, once they were burdened onto me I had no clue to how to deal with them. I wasn’t exactly a sound structure beforehand, but now there was added stress put upon my fragile frame.

When my bandmates left, it dissolved into petty online squabbles and cancelled gigs. It’s blown over now in some ways but for me I struggle every day. Quinn’s latest single, All the Best, has gotten the best reviews I’ve ever received and continues to gain general acclaim, but all I feel towards it is nothing but detachment and regret. I should be allowed to enjoy this song, I should be proud of it, I should have been able to have promoted it happily and made it a lap of honour. Instead it was a funeral march.

All I remember from All the Best is band members and supposed friends calling me this and that. And yes, perhaps I wasn’t perfect, but what irks me the most is that those band members probably don’t even care. They’re perhaps sitting in a pub somewhere right now, laughing and joking, and not even giving a moment’s thought to how I’m feeling, how I’m coping and how I’m dealing with the fallout. Because that was never on their agenda – it was always a case of letting them puff out their chests and give me a heap of abuse, and then expecting me to scrape myself off the floor, dust myself down and go again. Yes, it happens. It happens to so many of us. But that’s why I’m writing this – why should we have to brush it off? Why should we have to swallow it all because “that’s just the way PERSON is”? I’ve had it with those excuses.

In London, I’d sit and feel an emotion I never feel – pure anger. I’m not a person who flies off the handle – heck, if I did fly it off I’d normally return to it and apologise profusely. Instead, I’ve sat, gin in hand, cursing myself in the mirror for all my bad decisions. Cursing myself for choosing to do this and that when I should have been more sensible. Then I’d curse my old bandmates. HOW DARE THEM. How dare they take away my one creative outlet? How dare they leave me with no band and no way to express myself? I didn’t even want them back and yet I was there full of anger. Today I blocked them from social media and it’s the first day I’ve felt genuine relief.

Only a few days ago I had to tell a drummer I’d rehearsed with that his services would not be required. We’d found someone better. But of course I put off telling him. Why? Because I was not ready to put myself in that situation again. Yeah, well it comes with the territory, I hear you say. But so? Why should saltiness be such an active part of modern day life? My old bandmates have made me dread any situation where conflict can occur. And of course this drummer gave me nothing but abuse – he has seen “the way I operate” and said I “deserved everything I got” from my old bandmates.

No. How dare you. How dare you ASSUME I deserve those things. How dare you think you know everything about me simply because I took slightly too long to write you a very apologetic message. People don’t care and people assume. People are quick to vent. People are quick to use other human beings, other people that are carrying mental scars that they have no idea about, as punching bags because of their own failings. And this needs to stop.

Other things have happened, too – relationships ending (both for myself and my close family), illnesses within my family, financial troubles, unemployment, the fact Clueless isn’t on Netflix.

The past few months I’ve been living with someone I don’t recognise – and no, that’s not a comment on London house sharing. I’ve been living with a version of myself that I didn’t even know existed. Rage, exhaustion, anxiety, acceptance, guilt and deep, deep resentment. I don’t want to be that person anymore and I’m finally equipping myself with the skills to do so. But if you’re in this situation – a newcomer to such feelings – you’re not alone. This has been a new experience for me and one I want to get out of. Other people won’t be that lucky. Let’s share this together. People have told me I’m too sensitive and that’s why I feel how I feel right now. But no. No more labels. No more excuses. Just the truth.

 

 

 

Jacky P confirmed for next series of Celebrity Big Brother

jacky p

“Yeah, I’m Jacky.” Those were the immortal words of Sylvester Stallone’s leather-clad – and, let’s face it, leather-skinned – mother as she casually strolled down the steps of Celebrity Big Brother. Now, some ten years later, another famous figure with the ‘J’ moniker will usher those words.

Jacky P, nee Jack Parker, has confirmed that he’ll be swapping the cultural Canaan of Digbeth for the rustic delights of the Big Brother house for Channel 5’s autumn series. The bald Brummie adonis has proven his credentials over the years, from hosting raucous gigs in his student halls, championing grassroots indie music and being a prominent figure on BBC WM Introducing.

In recent times, Parker has had numerous operations and quiff grafts to transition into Jacky P, a prominent YouTuber and rap promoter with a penchant for spitting bars and baking cakes. Fellow Brum legend Jim Parstall says: “It’s a natural fit. Jacky P is Birmingham – perhaps not literally, but certainly metaphorically. He has embraced the local culture and has done his stint. It’s all been leading to this.”

Jacky P has already been installed as the bookmakers’ favourite to win the forthcoming series, which will also include less famous figures such as the man who coined the phrase “Birmingham water” and the girl who claimed to sleep with Muggy Mike. It is unknown if P will walk into the house to ambient house or lo-fi grime.

 

BarceWHOAna – Five Years On

sov life

With the Championship title almost in the bag, Sovereign FC’s golden generation blew off some steam with a whistle-stop tour of Spain. Five years on, former Sovereign starlet and masseuse Sam Lambeth recalls the bacchanalian banter of Barcelona.

A breezy February afternoon in Barcelona can be a breathtaking place. While a few health-conscious chicas take in a leisurely jog down the pristine pavements (however, ironically, they remain in total control of their breathing), occasionally accompanied by an equally athletic canine, the streets are beautifully unoccupied. The only noise is the faint footsteps of townsfolk as they bustle from shop to shop – it’s a near-silent oasis of almost ethereally quiet contemplation. As the city spreads beneath their feet, oblongs of mist are battered by beams of unobtrusive sunlight, just as the pavements are battered by another gang of toned runners. Heavy breeze, light breeze, more breeze.

Into this step the soporific disposition of Sovereign FC, the highly-regarded team of young upstarts rapidly ascending to the top of the football pyramid. The team have injected a mite of masterful maturity into the homely huff and puff of the Championship, not to mention the footballer lovers worldwide who adore an underdog. Their punishing but personable style of play has pounded pussy and mounted Mandem. As a treat for such terrorising performances, manager Neil Jackson – stocky, slovenly, the kind of man who would get mugged for his wallet and take them to his private safe – has treated us to a few days of warm weather training. After being up for 24 hours, though, not even the Vitamin D is helping us.

After a sleepy saunter around the local zoo, the only thing most of us are thinking about is crashing our heads for a long-overdue siesta. Ash Wiley, usually so friendly and forthcoming, has already called me an “upstart cunt”. Frazer Evans’ fatigued vision has gotten his Barca birds all mixed up, as he spends most of the zoo jaunt flirting with a flattered but uninterested peacock. Derrie Catton, the oldest one here by a considerable distance (except the zebu), has paired up with chairman Mitch Jackson – Neil’s pater, who shares the same burly build and distaste for foreigners.

The trip took several hours, but would have been well under one if it hadn’t been for Neil’s unquenchable zeal for zoos. Every time we thought we were heading for slumber, Neil would instead cajole us to another cage. If that trip proved to be meandering, the night was to be worse. As a treat for beating the Shifnal Shitmunchers in our previous game, Mitch was treating us to a delicious supper at a restaurant he fell in love with several years ago.

However, locating the place proved exceptionally difficult. As we plodded along, still a tad tired after a post-zoo power nap, we began to wonder if this elusive eatery was akin to Harry Potter’s Room of Requirements – we began visualising each other as food, Liam Dixon becoming a tough piece of greying gristle and Matt Palmer a plump slice of pork. Eventually, Mitch conceded this restaurant must have either closed or had been in Bridgnorth the whole time. We settled in at a fish joint but we were more interested in shots than sharks – Ash and the rest of the boys flooded the bar, Mitch’s motto “the more you drink, the more you save” echoing around our ears like post-flight poppage.

Ash has endured some dangerous and disastrous relationships over the years, but his blossoming pursuit of paella proved fatal. After disappearing to the toilet for an uncomfortably long time, we eventually found the midfield maestro face-down in his own filth, a frenzied brown stream of pints and Pollock. If that night was drunken, the following day would be sobering for Getafe – the Colonels weren’t in despot mode when they came to the Nou Camp, and we got to enjoy a 6-1 mauling from Neil’s favourite team. Well, we thought it was his favourite team…maybe he was overstimulated, maybe it was the seafood platter still circling his plentiful stomach, but the ‘chant’ he sang sounded like a Medieval war cry than the theme tune of a football team.

It was no secret at the time that Palmer and I were looking for love (I hasten to add not with each other, although years later Palm would become attached to a member of our team). After failing to charm a succession of Spanish fillies, I settled upon a busty but basic casino worker. With junk in the trunk and ex-husbands on the payroll she seemed the ideal type of woman to educate me. I had a few one-liners ready but Palm’s persistence paid off, his complimentary cry of ‘DAYUMMMM’ filling the room and her womanly heart. They married but I believe Palm struggled to raise children that were not his own. I wish them well, respectively, although the marriage and divorce had a devastating effect on the photos he’d taken.

Alcohol proved to be the drink of choice while on the tour, and once we’d finish passing drills we’d move straight on to the shots. Ash, Liam and Frazer never seemed to be shotless but always seemed to be shitfaced, their intake so uncontrollable they even felt cunted on Kaliber. My own flirtations with the Devil’s dew drops resulted in me insulting a vast array of tourists from the top of an open-top bus, as well as gyrating furiously in the face of a clearly terrified and aroused Neil. Even our chairman didn’t behave, Mitch bluntly and brusquely telling a Romanian peasant to “piss off” as she dared offer him custody of her goat.

There were some notable absences from the trip – Jon Giddings refused to board after a transfer request from Legia Warsaw was denied, while Chris Caddick missed the flight and Austins spent the three days in a Spanish jail minding a bull beater – but the boys in Barca stole babes, balls and a whole load of beers.

Chris Caddick – “At the Frazer’s Edge”

cad

When it comes to Sovereign FC, Chris Caddick is a national institution – in the sense it’s hard to remember why he’s there, and even harder to work out how to get rid of him. He spoke to Tepid magazine about his three favourite things – ballads, baldness and banter. 

Bournemouth without Eddie Howe, EastEnders without Phil Mitchell, Sovereign with Chris Caddick. These are just three things that the public know probably happened, but can’t necessarily remember. The purists, however, will tell you that these eras were just as exciting, adventurous and, above all, amusing as the glory days that would follow.

Chris Caddick may not have been around for the Sov’s sensational years, after being sent out on loan to Barnet, Braintree and Blakemore’s (where he applied his utility skills to the freezer section), but he is still a much-loved custodian of the club. After joining in 2000 with fellow stalwart Derrie Catton, Caddick was the skirting board in a semi-detached – people could see he was there, but they didn’t really understand why. Whether he be a midfield marauder, defensive deputy or sluggish striker, Caddick – ‘Cad’ to the fans, ‘Banter King’ to himself – always gave his all.

Over his seven-year tenure, he made 134 appearances and, most importantly, 258 bald jokes. The latter were all aimed at young Egyptian upstart Frazer Evans, who was still grasping the language and, out of linguistic confusion, laughed politely. It was all the fuel Cad needed. “I realized then and there that me and Fraz were going to be close,” Cad reveals today, bolting the garden shed as his soon to be wife – Liv, whom he met after buying a novelty wig from Argos – patrols the lawn for his presence. “Once he began speaking English, we began exchanging numerous jokes and videos all about Frazer’s ample fod. His hair began to double up as a helipad, so I wrote a parody song about it.”

Cad’s lament, to the tune of hair-metal horror ‘Living On A Prayer’, garnered rave reviews from the rest of the team. If before the Jon Giddingssss and the Matt Palmers were perturbed by his performances, they were sold by his savagery. “The lads insisted I sing it on the team coach on long away trips,” Cad says. “It was amazing, I was getting so popular it was taking me 10 minutes to reply to Chiz. Even Jon came and spoke to me when before he spat on his boots and made me lick it clean.”

It was this friendship with Jon that formed the reasons for his impending departure. “I didn’t realise the reactions would be so bad,” Cad sighs. “I thought if eight parody videos went down well, surely the ninth would be the best of the lot.” He looks back to that fateful song with regret and uncertainty. “I can remember it well,” he shudders. “I spent all night writing the lyrics. I hadn’t been too sure how to tell Jon just how much I cared about him. I was still worried he didn’t like me, and was positive this would be the tonic he needed.”

The love song bombed. Hard. Several Sovereign players handed in transfer requests, Holly Bush Garden Centre removed their sponsorship from The Mark Williams Stand and manager Neil Jackson made him feed his koi. “I became an outcast,” Cad says. “I tried to save it the only way I knew how – through bald jokes. But even those began to wear thin…like Frazer’s hair! Sorry, I guess I’m still in the habit.” With his strongest suit now his weakest point, Cad organised a loan move elsewhere, but was unable to after failing to turn up for eight different meetings. “I was told it was a different time, plus wrestling was on,” Cad explains.

Jackson drove Cad himself to Blakemore’s, where a positive relationship was bloomed – since joining the side in 2013, Cad has stacked 54 shelves in 112 stores. Now manager of the Ambient Under-18s, he is currently organising his stag do, where fellow joker Chris Edward (nee Austins) will be his best man. “We both have great banter, and we’ve equally been through some hard times,” Cad admits. “I’ve sent Jon and Fraz invites, but I’m not holding my breath. Fraz can’t commit to anything, unless it offers anal.”

With that, he makes a polite exit to apologise for his five-minute absence. “I’m glad Sovereign fans still remember me,” Cad says. “I just want them to know that there was more to me than songs and savage banter. I’m a human being.”

Ash Wiley: “Home is where the heartlessness is”

ash

His friend(s) call him Boomerang Wiley – he always comes back. But he packs an almighty wallop if you get him wrong. His career has seen him take in the bawdiness of Blackpool and the Catton-ness of Cardiff, before returning back to the Midlands. Wiley tells Tepid about his work in the community, his Sov flatmates and why he’s done crossing the line.

When Ash Wiley last gave an interview in 2015, his career seemed on an upward curve. He was engaged to stripper Anita B Banged, had his own plush Blackpool condo and a range of cuddly bananas. However, a move to Cardiff changed everything. In a few short months of playing for the Bluebirds, Banged’s bags were packed after discovering Wiley had bedded a 17-year-old lesbian vampire. His career at Cardiff stalled to the extent he spent matchdays working in Argos. Worse, his steadfast friendship with fellow curmudgeon Derrie Catton crumbled like the damp ceiling in their apartment. It was no surprise when Karen Wiley opened the door of her home one fateful Friday to see Wiley, banana in one hand and suitcase in the other.

“There’s some issues I need to clear up here,” Wiley tells me, frantically flicking his hair in his Walsall apartment. “First with Anita, she’d gotten too thin. Everyone knows I like a garden with a lot of rockery, if you get me. I kept buying her Flumps but she wouldn’t have it. Secondly, I wanted the job in Argos – I’m a sucker for the pens. And thirdly…” his voice cracks. “Well, let’s just say I had to get out of that environment.”

If Cardiff and Catton were a perfect fit, Wales became a nightmare for Wiley. Months of alleged domestic abuse occurred, whether it be plates left unwashed, food consumed or games consoles switched off. “If Hollywood tried to make a movie of it, producers would call it too grim,” Wiley shudders. His form on the pitch suffered, too – where at Sovereign he was indispensable, at Cardiff the Welsh fans were unforgiving of his scuttling performances, nicknaming him ‘The Crab’, ‘Pinchy’ and, simply, ‘C**t’. The nadir came when Cardiff faced Sovereign, now managed by Walter Zenga, in which Wiley was substituted, the first time he had left the pitch involuntarily for over eight years. “The away fans lapped it up. At Sovereign, I wouldn’t leave the pitch,” Wiley says. “One time we had a home game on the Tuesday, so on Saturday at 5 I just stayed on the pitch for a few days. I just took a sturdy fleece.”

Wiley looks down as he recounts the story, but there has been light at the end of the tunnel. His partner, Matt Palmer, frequently squeezes Wiley’s hand while he recounts his woe and offers plentiful supplies of tea and weed. The two became an item shortly after Wiley’s return to Wednesfield, with Wiley moving in to Palmer’s pad. “I know, you’d think I’d learnt a lesson from living with a Sov player before,” Wiley comments. “But it felt right this time. Next time you interview me I’ll be shacked up with San!”

With his personal life mended, as well as his career – he’s now pulling up trees, sometimes literally, for Walsall in League One – Wiley felt it was the right time to start giving something back. He and Palmer began volunteering at the local hospital, assisting elderly patients with physiotherapy, will rewriting and rectal wiping. “It’s been highly rewarding…sometimes literally,” Wiley comments. “But helping out old people has made me and Matt realise how lucky we are. The only downside is if we argue there’s not a bed for me there…bloody NHS!”

It’s not all being plain sailing since joining the Saddlers, however. After attending the notoriously bacchanalian wedding of former manager Neil Jackson, an extremely zoomed-in shot of Wiley’s limp love gun did the rounds in every tabloid. Former lovers were contacted to confirm if it was ‘little Wiley’, while Paddy Power used the image every time Jose Mourinho acted like a ‘dick’. “I took it for Matt. He was delivering pizza, had his car stolen and needed something to cheer him up,” Wiley says. “I didn’t realise I’d put it in the WhatsApp group. It was everywhere. I’d walk into Sainsbury’s and I could hear people commenting and looking…I guess I should have put trousers on, but still.”

Walsall instructed him to do a series of educational talks on the matter. Wiley’s presentation, The Line, saw him discuss what constitutes as overtly sexual behaviour. “People cross the line every day. Sometimes they’ll talk about crossing the line so much the joke begins to wear a bit thin. Although I don’t think it’s gotten to that stage yet,” Wiley says. “I think a lot of people were touched…but then my talk helped them, ha!”

Wiley now seems in a good place – Walsall. He’s come a long way from the boy that left home, went to Blackpool, went to Cardiff then scurried home again. He’s learnt from his mistakes, but he’s not completely changed. I ask if he still trades blows with Fraz and if he ever regrets it. “Why, it’s not like he’s f**king dead, is it?” he asks.