courtsey J Nicholson
Whatever Happened To…Away Shirts?
Let’s have a recap. Until recently, you wore your regular strip on every occasion possible, only changing to an alternative when you were away from home and your regular colours were the same or very similar as the home team.
This all made sense for a hundred or more years. When Arsenal went to Old Trafford they’d wear yellow and blue and Liverpool would wear white with red collar and cuffs. This sensible idea has recently been abandoned in favour of a completely random system based on absolutely nothing other than having three different shirts to sell to fans.
There are no home and away shirts now because any shirt can be worn on any occasion. The home side can change strip and the away side do so when unnecessary. So it is that Arsenal played at Wolves in navy blue and all because navy blue makes Arshavin looks less like a lesbian hockey teacher…or something.
Home and away has been replaced by a more clinical first, second and third strip concept. It’s anarchy and it pleases no-one.
Whatever Happened to….Not Showing Pain?
Until not all that long ago, if some big hairy gibbon kicked you up into the air, you would get up as though nothing had happened. “You think you hurt me? Pah! Bigger men than you have failed, son, get away with you before I lose my temper,” you’d say, brusquely, even if only your sock was keeping your leg attached to your foot. You would rather pass out from the pain than let the man know he’d hurt you. Showing pain was showing weakness.
Then sometime in the late 90s, being a wuss became fashionable. Outpourings of grief were de rigeur as men got in touch with their feminine side – but not any of the good feminine bits, not the multi-tasking, multiple orgasms and sensitive nipples, oh no, we just got the PMT elements of over-reaction and over-wrought emotion.And so footballers began to contort their faces and throw themselves to the ground in anguish at the mere sound of a defender’s footstep.
And today we have the ridiculous spectacle of seeing extraordinary physical specimens of men flapping like a run-over seagull after the merest brush with a defender, sometimes signalling for the stretcher or an ambulance only to miraculously recover two minutes later. Others just walk off if they’ve been hurt and refuse to play on. Man up you simpering nancy boys or hand your genitals in on the way out.
Whatever Happened to…The Sliding Tackle?
The sliding tackle was magnificent. It could only be done on rainy days on a muddy pitch. A defender would begin a tackle ten yards away from the opposition player and using the greasy pitch, would gather pace like a speed skater, ploughing a potato trench of a furrow, taking both man and ball simultaneously to huge applause.
This has stopped recently because any tackle which touches, might touch, potentially could have touched or in an unlikely set of circumstances involving a goat on a bike with a machete, could have been dangerous, has now been outlawed, while the shamefully girlish crime of shirt-pulling is 100% allowable. Shame.
Whatever Happened to…Ex Footballers Opening a Sports Shop?
Back when top-flight players earned just double the average wage – which was typical up until the early 80s – when their career was over, they had to do something else to earn a living. Naturally a sports shop seemed like a good idea.
This was before the existence of the giant emporiums to polyester in soul-less retail parks, staffed by the clinically depressed and inhabited by gaunt pukey-faced boys of the under-class and their fat, pregnant girlfriends. At the time there were still small, family-run shops on your high street and not just identical branches of multi-national corporations run by faceless corporate-speak managers called Gavin.
Such great little shops would sell you everything from dart flights to a jock strap to a table tennis ball. Quite often the ex-player was behind the till. On Teesside, it was Willie Maddren’s sport shop we all went to. Dour players such as Leeds full-back Terry Cooper bought a newsagent, while the more flamboyant would open a boutique. Malcolm MacDonald had one in Newcastle’s Newgate Shopping Centre – a hideous 1960s built pish and vomit lashed concrete alcove.Bestie and Jamie Pollock (surely the only time those two players have been mentioned in the same breath) both had clothes stores for a while.
These days it’s impossible to imagine nipping into a sports shop to buy some dubbing for your caser and being served by Michael Owen. Though I can see Jimmy Bullard running a fruit and veg stall, oddly enough.
Whatever Happened to…Just Running Out and Starting A Game?
It went like this. We sat in the local pub until ten to three boozing. We’d saunter into the ground just before 3pm; the players ran out, tossed a coin and kicked off. Easy.Today, it’s all so complicated. Now players have to line up in the tunnel 15 minutes beforehand. If it’s an international, each player has a kid at their side, both looking vaguely embarrassed. Why?
Where does this inexhaustible supply of kids come from? Why are they often so weird-looking? Are only fat kids allowed? League matches must also have a kid or two per side in the tunnel. On Sunday one of Chelsea’s was a young girl, maybe 11, who had to stand to the front and side of John Terry as he arranged his tackle in his shorts. A lovely bucolic sight. Once on the pitch they have to negotiate the mutant creature in a fake fur suit who does…stuff for some reason that no-one understands nor asked for. After a photo shoot, the kids and the players have to shake each other’s hands in single file before the kids can leave and we can then get on with the serious business of having a minute’s silence, the breaking of which is a crime against God second only to not wearing a poppy.
It’s surprising the players are not asked put up some flat-pack furniture, prepare an artichoke dip and sketch a post-impressionist portrait of the referee to decide who kicks off. Just bloody get on with it!
We’re here to see football, not small children, fake fur animals with giant heads, dancing girls, parachutists or the local radio DJ hosting a spank the monkey competition for a bag of meat.
Whatever Happened To ….The Pink?
The Pink was a local paper which came out on Saturday early evening with all the football, rugby and racing results. In some places it was green, occasionally blue. You’d leave the ground, get down your local club for some subsidised ale and by the time you’d got your first pint in, the Pink was on the streets and being sold by a bloke called Alf, aged 75, with a roll-up permanently on his lip. Same bloke, week in week out.It was essential for the football geek because it gave you results and tables and it was the only source of such info because you’d missed the teleprinter on Grandstand or World Of Sport coming out of the ground. Radios were too big and heavy to carry. There was no other way to know the results.
Think about that. No other way to know what had happened until Match Of The Day or the Sundays paper. Okay, there was. At most grounds there was a bloke who put the half-time scores on a hoarding with a big hook-on number beside a letter. Each letter corresponded to a game in the programme. I’m not making this up, honest. But if you didn’t have the programme this was useless and even if you did, the bloke would deliberately put up wrong scores and rarely did the full-times.
In the pre-digital wi-fi age, you might have been out of touch with the rest of the world, but on the up side, no-one walked into you in the street because they were on their freaking Blackberry oblivious to their greater responsibility to society not to be a dick.What happened to The Pink was the internet and all other forms of mobile digital voodoo. But not even the iPhone has got an app to turn it into a pink, poorly printed, flimsy newspaper, and until it does, I’m not buying one.
Whatever Happened To….Talking About Football Without Talking About Money
Come to this site on any day of the week and you’ll find people stalking about the money their club has or hasn’t spent; talking about the difference between net and gross. The maths nerds have taken over. What are we people, accountants? I never wanted football to become about money rather than sport, competition and art. We used to sit over a pint of Stones Best bitter and consider how players had played, not their ratio of earnings to contribution. Incredible as it might now seem, we never talked about money at all. It was all about the sport itself. This all changed with sponsorship in the early 80s. Once your club had taken the big bucks from Heritage Hampers, it altered everything.