A Peep Into Division 1

Ah, international week. Always a chore, never a joy (unless I'm doing something interesting; then it's benison extraordinary) and even less so since they moved internationals to Friday evening. Call me a blind and deaf fool, but I don't recall seeing or hearing anyone call for that particular timetable adjustment.
In London, those who battle through the North Circular and the tube system were crying out for c70,000 people trying to reach Wembley during Friday rush hour, not to mention the extra time off work people need to take to see England make an exhibition of themselves. I'm not trying to be populist, it's just blindingly obvious. Is it FIFA or UEFA we should blame, allied to the FA for doing their customary FA about it? It can't be television: surely all the networks would prefer Saturdays… And why did Liechtenstein get an exemption last Saturday? As did Scotland – surely not co-incidentally Liechtenstein's opponents on Saturday – the other month?
Anyway, such thoughtless idiocy means neither Premier League nor Championship matches for a weekend (this racket must cost those clubs a packet) and it means a peep into Division 1, which is actually fine. I'm a pop-to-Barnet-on-my-day-off kind of guy anyway. On a Saturday with no Match Of The Day, the match of the day is Charlton Athletic v Tranmere Rovers.
Oh Charlton, how you've changed, except, of course, in being hard to reach. Way back when, going to Charlton was a mini-joy. They had the friendliness of a small club (nb: this isn't actually true, since small clubs are no more or less likely to be friendly than big clubs), allied to the scale of a big one. This time, apart from the nice view from the stand, it's like observing a match from a park. Or Hereford. They're still fairly friendly, but there's no wifi, no replays on the televisions (mine isn't working anyway), no food and, at half time after I've trekked down several flights of stairs, gone out of the ground and back in via Erith or some ghastly place, there's no tea either.
Feeling my pain, my esteemed colleague Richard Rae sends a wry tweet pointing out that, as I gnaw my shoulder off and sup my own bile, Sheffield Wednesday are serving a banquet for hacks. Including mushy peas. It's the mushy peas that break my soul.
Anyway, there's a selection of pleasant hacks to chat with and I learn one thing that makes my heart leap (be careful what you secretly wish for though) and another that makes my blood run cold. Funny business, learning things.
Anyway, what, weirdly, we're not talking about is Ramiz Alia's death, which is a shame. What a fascinating man he was. He rose without trace, survived many a murderous purge, got the top job and escaped from prison ('walked out' is the more prosaic truth, but it technically still counts as an escape) while a pensioner.
And he's one of the last – perhaps the last; it's certainly getting closer – who knew the truth of that great 20th Century mystery: how Mehmet Shehu met his end in 1981 and whether the rumour Enver Hoxha personally shot him is true. after all, PLA leaders didn't have to die as unnaturally as Beqir Balluku or Koci Xoxe, hence Hysni Kapo's surely natural demise.
The official version – that Shehu committed suicide in the midst of a mental breakdown – is certainly possible, undermined only by the convenient fact that suicide was a criminal act at the time. The PLA's tale that Shehu was a western spy is highly unlikely to say the least; that he was a Soviet and/or Yugoslav dupe marginally more plausible. Either way, it all happened so very quickly – presumably so he couldn't mobilise his PLA faction – that being taken out and shot is surely the most likely possibility. Alia, a man who knew where so many bodies were buried, knew though about this one and he knew why…
Anyway, much as I'd been looking forwards to it, the game is pretty poor. Charlton never get going and once a confident Tranmere go ahead just after the half-hour, they start time-wasting.
Charlton equalise with a penalty and that's that. All pretty subdued in fact. And speaking of subdued, Chris Powell looks like his world has come to an end, despite talking of the “fantastic achievement” of an unbeaten start. I like him. He's sensible.
In contrast, Tranmere's Les Parry players the comic sScouser role, joshing gently at himself for being fat and certain to get the sack at some point. It's a tad contrived, aided immeasurably by some people feeding him questions who seem just to have dropped by for the crack. I lob him a simple one about his team's mid-table position being false (in fairness, it looked it) and he tells me how unlucky they've been all season. I reckon he's smarter than he's letting on. And you can't help but like him.
Getting home is easier than getting there. I'm home in time for a Wallander I haven't seen. It's the one where he accidentally beds a prostitute and destroys his relationship in the process.
Playlist
Kathryn Calder
Are You My Mother?
2011
I keep recommending this deep, dark album, but nobody takes any notice, perhaps because of the misleadingly twee title. Their loss.