I think it was Brian Clough who once advised his players to treat a football as their friend. This was long ago, when Facebook was a mere glimmer in Joey Barton's malevolent eye, a time when people didn't have friends, like they do now, thanks to Facebook, and so, friendless, they needed to go round making friends with inanimate spherical objects made of leather - footballs, if you will.
In this era, Cloughie also tried to become friends with my mum in a lift in a hotel in Majorca. He'd taken the players from Derby County, or was it Notts Forest, there, to make friends not just with lots of footballs but lots of people too, including, in Cloughie's case, my mum, but she said: "No, Mr Clough, I don't want to be your friend. Unhand me, you loon."
And so to the present, a time when we have never had so many friends. In my case, for example, owing to revolutionary new techniques of football manufacture I now have 787 footballs in my garage, garden and wardrobe - all of them great friends. We talk about all manner of things on a daily basis, when I try to beat my keepie-uppie record (1,347, set aged 16 on the theatre of illusion - Budleigh Salterton seafront) by flicking a ball from foot to foot, Nabokovian-style for yes, the illustrious author of Lolita, The Defence and Invitation to a Beheading was a dab hand at keepie-uppie even if he was no friend of the Viennese witch doctor, so much so that, had the pair existed in this world of extra friends thanks to Facebook, he would have unfriended him, if they were ever friends at all, or simply refused to accept a friend request, or, if it is true that there is a world that is better than all the others, not been on Facebook in the first place.
This would have left the chess-loving bee-collector (and friend of tennis) alone with his footballs, and chances are he'd have liked that fate, as I do mine, for in making a friend of a football my solipsism is complete.
Meanwhile, I will miss tomorrow night's meeting with a friend and various footballers. Said friend will be kicked here and there by the Dynamo Choughs who refuse to die, or migrate to friendlier realms, this being the occasion of Tuesday night's regular game, and I hope they treat My Dear Friend well, perhaps even putting some photos on Facebook, the crucible of friendship.
Friendless, with another injury, I think about Facebook. For as my mum says: "You can say what you like about that Mr Clough but he knew how to treat a football."
Pictured: Brian Clough unfriends his own fans after Forest beat QPR 5-2 in 1989. By this stage of his life, Cloughie had met my mum and discovered that her eldest son (me) was a diehard QPR fan. Chastened by her rejection of his overtures, he nursed a secret love for London's finest football team for the rest of his days, by way of a strange kind of fidelity to the woman in the lift. Hence his decision to punch two of Forest's fans who had the temerity to invade the pitch and celebrate their team's win over the Hoops. As with so much of life, the truth outs eventually, friends or no friends.