Forgetting Aki Riihilahti, among other things

I’VE come to the conclusion that my brain is like a chest of drawers. If I try to stuff too much in there, other things start to slip down the back and get lost. Worryingly, I seem to be losing the important stuff while retaining the crap.

When I was on a sub-editing shift at the Daily Star a couple of weeks ago, one of my colleagues asked for the date of Liverpool’s win at Stamford Bridge earlier this season. Straight off the top of my head, I was able to tell him that it was October 26.

It gets worse. A few days before that, a colleague at the Manchester Evening News rang. He was writing a story about Craig Bellamy’s arrival at Manchester City, and wanted to track down details of a game he had played for Coventry at Maine Road, when his dazzling footwork traumatised Richard Edghill to such an extent that the defender had to be taken off at half-time.

Without even having to look it up, I was able to tell my colleague not only the date of the game (August 2000) but also the score (2-1 to Coventry).

This wouldn’t be a problem if all other areas of my life ran so smoothly. Last Saturday morning, I realised on waking up that I should have been having a sight test at the opticians – two days earlier. I had even written the appointement in my diary.

What’s more, I recently got a letter from my local council reminding me that I had forgotten to pay the final instalment of my Council Tax bill. (Don’t worry, I’ve paid it now.)

Even for someone who earns a living in sports journalism, remembering obscure facts about matches played months, even years ago, is of limited use. Getting my eyes tested regularly and paying bills on time is far more important. My brain, however, fails to realise this.

(Weirdly, though, I don’t have any problem remembering people’s birthdays, so I can’t be a complete loser.)

It doesn’t help that I am currently stuffing my head full of useless facts about Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace, in preparation for my visit to Hillsborough on Saturday.

So I can tell you, for example, that defender Claude Davis, on loan at Palace from Derby, hasn’t scored for more than three years. And I can give you chapter and verse on the ankle ligament problems that kept Sheffield Wednesday striker Francis Jeffers out of action for the best part of a year.

And I can also tell you about the curious discrepancy surrounding Palace striker Paul Ifill’s goal tally for the season. Soccerbase states he has scored six times, Palace’s official website claims it’s seven.

Against all instinct, it seems that Palace’s website is wrong. The confusion has arisen because some sources wrongly credited Ifill with two goals in last month’s FA Cup defeat at Watford, when one of them was scored by Neil Danns. I checked my tape of the goals from that game, which Palace lost 4-3, and Ifill definitely only scored once.

This info may come in handy if Ifill scores on Saturday (a goal at Hillsborough would be his seventh of the season, not his eighth), but there’s a fair chance it will be of absolutely no use whatsoever. And in committing it to memory, I have undoubtedly dislodged a far more important piece of information.

I would tell you what that piece of information was, but . . . well, you guess the rest of that sentence.

During the course of my research, though, I did stumble across former Palace midfielder Aki Riihilahti’s blog, which I’m delighted to say is still as utterly bonkers as ever.

Riihilahti was, for a while, England’s favourite crazy overseas footballer, writing a regular column in The Times and being interviewed by Gabby Logan in wood-panelled Thames-side cafes thanks to his off-the-wall online ramblings.

The Finn is still going strong, playing in the Swedish Allsvenskan for Djurgardens while finding time to assess his chances of world domination following Barack Obama’s election victory, or to ask why anyone would want to be a tennis line judge.

Here’s the really sad thing, though. I had completely forgotten about Riihilahti’s writing. And the only reason I rediscovered it was because I found out that he was a part of the last Palace side to win at Hillsborough, in February 2002 – and was curious to find out what he was up to these days.

Maybe, then, obsessive fact-hunting does bring its rewards after all. Try telling that to my optician, though.


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