x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Charlie Chaplin was a Birmingham fan and he would have been rooting for them against Arsenal

Birmingham City lay claim to all kinds of celebrity fans. Before their Carling Cup final against Arsenal tomorrow, we speculate on the Bluenose allegiances of comic genius Charlie Chaplin... and a certain Elvis Presley!

A friend of mine has a habit of claiming unlikely celebrities as closet Birmingham City fans.

From random newsreaders and weather girls to Hollywood legends and heads of state, whenever certain names crop up in conversation, he will interject with a knowing tone: "Massive Bluenose, by the way."

Ask him why these alleged fans are not more vocal in their support and he will mutter something about dark forces or "media bias" before insisting that his neighbour's cousin's milkman saw the celebrity in question sitting on the Tilton End during a lively 0-0 against Crewe in 1993.

Despite a marked lack of evidence to support these claims, my friend has continued to make them since our school days.

Hopefully, he will make a few more tomorrow, when we meet up to watch Birmingham play Arsenal in the League Cup final at Wembley. Michelle Obama, perhaps, or Jacques Cousteau.

However, seeing as he got me my ticket, I am bringing one for him: Charlie Chaplin.

New evidence emerged this week to suggest the silent movie legend was not born in London, as has always been claimed, but at a gypsy caravan site near Birmingham. Well, that is good enough for me.

If you think about it, the connections are obvious. Chaplin's most famous character was the Little Tramp, a humble drifter who spent his life on the road. He first appeared on screen in 1914.

And what is the official anthem of Birmingham City fans? An old show tune called Keep Right on to the End of the Road, written by Harry Lauder in 1916.

Coincidence? Well, yes, and not much of one at that. However, the idea of Birmingham City as a tramp seems to fit perfectly. This scruffy club from a ramshackle stadium has won only one major trophy: the League Cup, in 1963.

It is outshone by all of its neighbours. Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers all have significantly more silverware. Even lowly Coventry City managed to win the FA Cup as recently as 1987.

Like real tramps, people tolerate our existence but would rather we stayed off their property.

Our football is often drab, our manners poor and our personal hygiene questionable. Neutral fans for tomorrow's final will be flocking to support the cultured aesthetes of Arsenal, who represent everything that Birmingham do not.

In the unlikely event of a Birmingham victory, it will most likely be gained through a snatched goal and some dogged defending.

Even without their gifted captain Cesc Fabregas, and possibly without the lightning pace of Theo Walcott, Arsenal are widely expected to demolish Birmingham as the first and easiest hurdle of their potential quadruple (League Cup, FA Cup, Premier League, Champions League).

So why do we bother to go? Well, because Birmingham fans are also like Chaplin's tramp. We go where the road takes us and we cheerfully accept whatever fate throws at us.

Besides, we love to believe - whether it is in secret celebrity fans or our chances of beating superior opponents, it is what we do. Like Elvis Presley, we just can't help believing.

By the way, Elvis Presley? Massive Bluenose. Think about it. The blue suede shoes, the blue Christmas, it all adds up. Plus, my friend's cousin's plumber saw him eating a meat pie on the Railway End when we played Shrewsbury in the Cup.

Remember Agincourt? England won that battle in injury time

An anti-English rant by the French rugby coach Marc Lievremont has generally been put down to “mind games” before today’s highly anticipated Six Nations clash between the two great nations.

Or, as Monsieur Lievremont would put it, between one great nation and one damp island full of arrogant and insular people who fail to realise that all their neighbours hate them. I make no criticism of Lievremont for playing mind games. Like many non-purists, I love a bit of needle before kick-off.

Nor will I respond in a puerile tit-for-tat manner, making childish gibes about English military victories over France. However, somebody should tell him that his tactics are worse than those employed by his forefathers at the Battle of Agincourt.

Mind games should be used to influence your opponents’ tactics, to sow a seed of doubt that will (hopefully) grow into a tree of incompetence bearing the bitter fruits of failure.

Mind games are a simple raised eyebrow when your golfing opponent pulls out his driver.

They are the double-edged compliment or damnation by faint praise. “Hey, the way you play the game is really … effective.” But general insults, xenophobic or otherwise, will have no impact other than galvanising team spirit.

Particularly when it comes to rugby players, who are not exactly the most sensitive creatures. Okay, maybe some of the backs are.

It is a cliche to say that Lievremont has written England’s pre-match team talk for them, but the taciturn coach Martin Johnson can be a man of even fewer words than normal today.

Just one note of caution for the proud Frenchman. You see that 17-stone inside centre skittling your boys like a runaway juggernaut? His name is Shontayne Hape. Please do not hate him too much. He is from New Zealand, really.