October 10, 2009

Good Times: Bad Times

Good Times: Bad Times

Michael Henderson (2009) 50 People Who Fouled Up Football,

London, Constable

I have yet to meet anyone above the age of ten who believes that everything about British and European football smells of roses. Certain players annoy certain people, whilst a particular manager can rub someone up the wrong way by screaming the wrong choice of words, making a particular touchline gesture, or just being seen on the TV. We all have our favourite grounds; favourite TV sports presenters, favourite strikers, goalkeepers and favourite football shirts. Our favourite things form the basis of football debates, which are played out across the nation.

Michael Henderson’s book is for all of us that are coping with the ever-increasing things in life that slightly make us angry and frustrating. I sense that the number of things that slightly annoy us increases as we get older. We stop being the innocent child and teenage hormones crash together to turn us into cynical old grumps. Players move on, managers retire, worn but loved stands are demolished for the sake of a soulless steel structure full of corporate boxes with as much atmosphere as a municipal rubbish dump. Change seems to be generally distrusted by football fans and when it happens, we start to mutter in a very British way.

Henderson can distinctly remember those childhood days at Bolton’s Burndon Park and is wondering how it went so wrong for the beautiful game. Like a hapless customer making a tentative step into a high street coffee bar to be bamboozled by a never-ending range of skinny mochas topped with lumpy UHT cream and sickly syrup, Henderson is struggling to understand how football seems to have lost its soul since his childhood days in deepest Lancashire.

I have to admit that I agree with virtually every single suggestion from Henderson for the fifty people who are the warts on the face of modern football. This list is full of preening players who seem to believe that they are royalty in all but name, and chairman who live and work as if they are playing a particularly reckless game of Monopoly rather than being a trustworthy businessmen. Sequels to this book could be filled to bursting with further players and chairman whose actions caused a trail of destruction.

One-dimensional pundits and presenters are sprinkled into the mix, as well as football ‘people’ who want to hype up every single football ‘incident’ as a matter of life and death on the same level as the credit crunch. Henderson has particular contempt for those radio producers and presenters, who have presided over the mangling of the British language and a sense of perspective for the sake of a bit of ear-catching banter.

An ex BBC Radio Five Live controller have the honour of being gently, but comprehensive criticised in one particular chapter, whilst two pundits (one still at the BBC and one ploughing his trade on a rival station) are criticised for their one-track analysis. If Henderson wanted to produce another sequel to this book, it would be not that hard to find fifty pundits to be lined up in a fictitious studio of shame.

There are the comics and z-list celebrities who rode the crest of the football wave without a real understanding about what makes this game tick. One particular comic is castigated for treating the dear characters of football with a haughty and viciously cutting disrespect on a late night chat show, which sent their delirious audience into hysteria but made these ex players look like helpless fools. There are the footballer’s wives who have fought amongst themselves to gain those precious column inches in those gossip magazines. There are the ex referees living off their willingness to provide ‘good copy’ for the adoring press rather than being remembered as one of the best men to officiate the game.

Some of the criticised football people are easy, but comforting, targets. Current and previous Leeds United chairmen and managers are given a comprehensive dressing down. The presence of Don Revie in the list can allay the possible argument against this book that Henderson despises every aspect about football that has developed since the Premier League was formed in 1992.

Sir Alf Ramsey could be regarded as a controversial addition to the list but Henderson believes that Ramsey failed to adapt to the changing nature of football that was particularly defined by the Dutch during the seventies. It could be argued that England have generally failed to recognise this style during the subsequent forty years. Peter Swales, the ex Manchester City chairman and earnest TV set and record player seller of South Manchester is profiled towards the end of the book. His twenty-one years in charge at Maine Road is regarded as one of the main reasons why the City trophy cupboard remains bereft of meaningful trophies since the League Cup of 1976

The book is an enjoyable read and is impressively presented with caricatures of each rogue by Nicola Jennings of the Guardian. We will continue to grumble about the game that we love so much, but Henderson is right to note that somethings have been improved in football. He admits that there has never been “a truly blessed time for English football; no walk to the paradise garden. I am also sure that this walk will never happen in the future, but we will always have something to talk about when we rant about football.

October 06, 2009

Finding out about Fernando

Writing about web page http://www.thefirst90minutes.com/20091005293/football-culture/finding-out-about-fernando.html

How do you get someone interested in football? It is virtually impossible. You try to introduce a team, a player or a game and you are met with a stony stare, a sarcastic comment or merely fear.  I have to accept that football is not for everyone, regardless how much I try to convince him or her otherwise. If I manage to get these people in front of the television or into a ground to catch a game, I have to make sure that they are watching a game where goals are probable and when ninety minutes of continuous exciting action is a certainty.  

October 02, 2009

Remembering Sir Bobby in Broad Street

Writing about web page http://www.twtd.co.uk/news.php?storyid=15328&title=[blog]_remembering_sir_bobby_in_broad_street#

I know that Birmingham has its critics. In some areas, it has the appearance of a budget version of Dallas, but I am growing to like Britain’s second city. The football is plentiful in the region and of a decent quality too at a very decent price. I have enjoyed a number of trips to Villa Park, Molineux and St Andrews since I have been living in the area, but my hometown team in Suffolk remains close to my heart.

September 25, 2009

Tales of the Unexpected

Writing about web page http://www.thefirst90minutes.com/20090921290/football-culture/tales-of-the-unexpected.html

For people of a certain age, Sunday nights at 10pm meant Tales of the Unexpected on ITV and it was a must watch show for my parents. It was a murder mystery drama to finish the weekend off in style. If you type ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ in to any well known video sharing website, you will get a chance to catch the scarily catchy signature tune complete with various shadowy women dancing around the screen in a pretty evocative way.

The Power of the Picture

Writing about web page http://www.onlinegooner.com/exclusive/index.php?id=1327

My father is coming up to the end of his working career as a professional photographer and there have been photos of me from my early days in 1980 through to today so I know everything about the power of pictures. The most powerful shots will stop you in your tracks with powerful memories or a horrified trance. The flicking through the newspaper pages will suddenly stop and you will examine the picture like a detective on a television crime drama.

September 17, 2009

We Are Off To South Africa!

Writing about web page http://www.thefirst90minutes.com/20090914287/football-culture/we-are-off-to-south-africa.html

Two days had passed since that Wednesday night at Wembley, and as we trudged up the stairs to start another day at work, a colleague turned to me and wondered what I thought about England’s recent victory against Croatia? There have been many occasions during my lifetime when that question would have provoked an emotional rant about what went wrong with the team, and why I believed that England were an embarrassment to world football as well as the nation. I would finish my screams with the wish that I was born in Brazil, so would be assured that my team would get to the World Cup and be a serious bet to win the tournament.

The Emmanuel Adebayor Issue

Writing about web page http://www.onlinegooner.com/exclusive/index.php?id=1311

It is not often that footballers annoy me. I like to think that I am a fairly placid guy regarding football and I usually treat the top flight players with the upmost respect. They are performing tricks on the pitch which I could never do in my wildest dreams, even when I was at school. Match of the Day does not annoy me either. It is too late on a Saturday evening for me to start ranting at the TV screen. My brain has been deep cleaned after the Strictly Come X Factor reality mush during the early evening. It is also difficult to get a true picture of the afternoon’s game in a three minute highlights package topped and tailed with a little bit of punditry.

September 11, 2009

The 17 Million Pound Question

Writing about web page http://www.thisisanfield.com/2009/09/10/the-seventeen-million-pound-question/

I do not know whether it is my complex personality, but I have always tried to stick up for the underdogs throughout my life. I guess that I have been an underdog too on some occasions but when everyone is picking on a helpless victim, I will usually try to offer some support. This act will often cause me to become the new target of the abuse, but I can cope. After all, you have to remember that “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” and all of those other corny sayings that you were told when a kid?

September 09, 2009

Roy Keane: The Leader

Writing about web page http://www.thefirst90minutes.com/20090907284/football-culture/roy-keane-the-leader.html

Four weeks have passed since the start of the Championship season, and my beloved Ipswich Town Football Club has yet to win a league match. At the moment whilst watching daily documentaries of the police fighting the causes of crime in Grimsby or Portsmouth, I am fighting a fierce battle in my mind.

Should I make snap judgements about the season that is still in its infancy, or has the Roy Keane bubble burst? I wonder whether I should be running to the metaphorical window to jump out of this season before GMT has begun, or try and be a bit more rational.

September 03, 2009

The Measured Reaction to Hooligans

Writing about web page http://www.thefirst90minutes.com/20090901282/football-culture/the-measured-reaction-to-hooligans.html

When you talk about the history of football in the UK, it is difficult to avoid talking about hooliganism, which blighted the national game for decades. It was a shameful period in British football but the story has to be told. These yobs dominated the UK national scene throughout the seventies and eighties. Football was a regular lead topic on the BBC’s Nine O’clock News for the wrong reasons.

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