Joel and I just looked at each other and cracked up as we heard Shane Long, the West Bromwich Albion striker, being interviewed on Sunday. We were watching Match of the Day 2 after church and couldn’t believe what we heard him say. It was so funny that we pressed the rewind button (we were watching on satellite) and listened carefully again. And again. And each time we heard him say the same thing: ‘I wasn’t happy with my hair in the first half’!!!

How come no-one in the MOTD studio found it amusing? We couldn’t believe it wasn’t picked up by the presenters or post-match pundits. Anyway, I think I now understand, as since then I’ve googled ‘Shane Long’ and discovered he’s from Ireland and so was probably speaking with a strong Irish accent, and then I later found online the script of what he actually said. Which was this. ‘I wasn’t happy with my header in the first half’.

Ok! His header! Not his hair!!! Now it makes sense.

All this got me thinking about two things: haircuts and halves.

First, footballer’s haircuts. One of favourite books is the brilliantly entitled ‘Footballer’s Haircuts’. My friend Phil Reid bought it for my birthday a few years ago and I love getting it out and scanning the pages. It always makes me laugh as it has some classic footballing haircuts in it. Valderrama’s has to be one of the best (as can be seen from the picture above). What is this thing about footballers and hair…?

Second, the first and the second halves. Shane Long was commenting on his first half performance and how he thought he could have done better. But what about me? I am now 43 years old which means, given that the average life expectancy of a UK man is presently 78.2 years, that I’m now well into the second half of life. As I look back on my first half, I want to say that some things were good and some things could have been better. But the good news is that, even if my first half performance may not have always been sparkling, I have still have time to make up for things!

And that’s true for us all. There’s still time to improve and pick up. For instance, you might look back at your marriage, or the way you’ve parented, or your career, and think that things could have gone better. Or you might think less long-term and, for example, consider a group that you’ve been involved with for a year or so, or a hobby that’s been developing. Maybe you think that things could have gone better. It that’s the case, well… make sure the performance in the second half is better!

Being a fan of Manchester United really helps me in this because one thing Sir Alex has done brilliantly is instil in his team the understanding that the game is not over until the final whistle blows. And it’s amazing how they often pull off a win – not only in the second half but often in added time at the very end!

That’s why I love it when I see people not giving up on things, but working and praying for progress and development and transformation. That’s why I’m inspired when I see older people trying new things and instead of giving up on life they’re aiming to finish well. My father was like that – living a really fruitful life to the end.

All this gives me great hope for the future. None of us know exactly how long we have before we die and so the challenge is to make the most of what is left – and not be hindered by a substandard first half performance. With the help of God’s Spirit, and as we spur each other on (Hebrews 10:24), we can all make a difference and give our best, right down to the final whistle when the Lord finally calls us home.

Finally, back to haircuts. Joel and I were convinced Shane Long was unhappy with his hair in the first half. In my first half of life, I’ve been relatively happy with my long blond flop of hair – but now I’m beginning to lose it. And to be honest it’s unlikely to improve in the second half of my life! Which reminds me that whilst most things can and will improve as God works in us and through us, realistically there are a few things that won’t. And my hair is probably one of them!

So even though I expect to be unhappy with my hair in the second half, nevertheless in most other areas of life, the best is yet to come. I really believe that.

What about you? Are you planning for a better second half?