This is Shola Ameobi. He's a footballer who used to play for Newcastle United.
I like Shola, and here's why.
Back when I was a working full-time (I was a Deputy Headteacher of a large comprehensive school in Manchester UK, up until the summer of 2016) I worked with a colleague who was a Newcastle fan. This dude - let's call him Argyle for the purposes of this post - was a regular and harsh critic of Shola's. Most Newcastle fans were, I seem to remember.
One day, whilst sticking the boot in as usual, Argyle said; "Shola Ameobi, eh? That guy has stolen a living." The phrase has stayed with me.
I knew what Argyle meant - he was referring to the fact that Ameobi had stayed at Newcastle for 14 years as a professional footballer despite not seeming to be anywhere near as good as other players on the club's books. His contract was always mysteriously renewed; he was never the focus of transfer speculation because no-one else wanted him; he holds the record for the most substitute appearances in English football (Shola rarely started a match - there was always a stronger option. You bring him on towards the end of the game when everyone else is weary;) and despite playing as a striker - whose entire job is to score goals - he found the net less than once in every four matches, a pretty unremarkable percentage. And yet there he was, every season, doing his best, working his socks off, labouring in front of goal, stealing a living.
So here's why I like Shola. I like Shola because I am Shola.
Or I feel like him most days. There are thousands and thousands of better writers out there, I think when I'm grouching. I'm stealing a living here, book to book. If the next one doesn't sell, I'm doomed, I think, pacing the spare room in my pyjamas, looking for a poncy metaphor to express my sadness. I'm the sparrow flying through the mead hall, I think, out of the storm and into the warmth for a few seconds before returning to the chaos and darkness.
Somehow, though, Shola kept it going for 14 years. Every week that guy must have thought... my time's up, surely. I've been found out. It's back to League Two football for me. I'm nowhere near as good as these other guys. I'm doomed. I'm like that sparrow in the mead hall, flying momentarily through the - what? New contract? Seriously?! Aw, cheers guys! Excellent news!
I love Shola. It ain't easy being quite good, year after year after year.
As you can probably tell, I'm soon-to-be between contracts. It's pitching time. It's welcome to the Hangfire Smokehouse time.
Shola, be with me.