Peace and Love

I bloody love football but people are going out of their way to ruin it for me. On Sunday night the BBC broadcast 'United'. Apart from a couple of glaring errors (Edwards didn't play in the game Charlton made his debut in) it was a moving, poignant piece of television. Twitter was awash with praise for the show itself and even non-United fans paid their respects to the lost.

The following day, the 25th of April to be precise, Darron Gibson followed some of his Manchester United team mates in creating a twitter account. Just two hours later it was shut down after Gibson received a colossal amount of abuse from other members of the twittersphere. I won't lie to you, Darron Gibson isn't my favourite player either. It doesn't seem right however, to heap abuse upon somebody because you simply don't like the cut of their jib. Criticise a player by all means. Criticism can be constructive and I find the over analysis is half the attraction of football. The mindless abuse directed at Gibson was just plain unpleasant. Unsurprisingly, some of the named and shamed claim to be Manchester United fans.

We support someones local club

Confession time. I'm not from Manchester but I do support Manchester United. "Golly gosh!" I hear you cry, "A Manchester United fan who isn't from Manchester?" Unbelievable isn't it. Neither my Mother or Father are from Manchester either. Nor their parents. I haven't even bothered to invent some tenuous link via my great great great uncle's dog. And here's the real shocker: I could care less about where someone is from in relation to the team they support. I still consider myself a United fan first and foremost. Coming from the South West but supporting a Northern team has been a bone of contention since the day I decided I wanted to be Ryan Giggs when I grew up. Does choosing another team over your hometown club really matter anymore? People move about the world more freely and Sky Sports and the Internet mean there's much more access to the Premier League. It's no wonder the Premiership is the worlds most watched association football league when you think about it.

That said, the point of this post isn't for me to come out of the 'glory hunter' closet. It's to express my utter disappointment in my fellow 'fans'. The likes of Iain Macintosh and Dave Hartrick have expressed much better then I ever could why the moronic taunts about Munich, Hillsborough and Istanbul are totally unacceptable. However, not everyone seems to understand that such chants are not acceptable. The day after 'United' aired, the same old 'Munich' taunts were heard at Manchester City vs Blackburn. It's not just limited to Manchester United. Every time most clubs get within a sniff of Liverpool Heysel and Hillsborough are rubbed in their faces and even after a show of respect as both sets of Old Firm fans remembered those who lost their lives in the Ibrox tragedy, hostilities have resumed between Celtic and Rangers with Celtic manager Neil Lennon being targeted with a parcel bomb.

Let's be honest. Despite the Kick it Out campaign it's hard to ignore the persistent racist, homophobic and abusive chanting still heard all over the world. Most of the Football Clubs involved don't seem to be doing enough to stamp it out. They and everyone involved in football need to take the Copa Del Racism and run it over with the tolerance bus.

Let's hug it out.
Which brings me to my conclusion. I am pleading with the witless to stop watching football. You're really making it hard for me to enjoy. I figure that if you stick to 'The Only Way is Essex' I don't have to be associated with you. Also, if you stop going/watching/using it as an excuse for a tear up, then football will once again become something to be proud of. If football regains it's pride then it can get back to what it's really about: friendly competition. No more hate. Just peace and love. Trust me, it's the way forward.


Unsung FC - 'They Must Have Forgotten' - Jack Leslie

Unsung FC is a new feature designed to bring attention to the great men and women who have changed the game of football but perhaps don't get the recognition they deserve. First up is Jack Leslie.

In 1885, Arthur Wharton became the first player of African decent to play Association Football in England and the first black professional player in the world. An all-round sportsmen, Wharton was a keen cyclist, cricketer and sprinter, setting a world record of 10 seconds for a 100 yard sprint in 1886. Originally playing for Darlington he later signed for Preston North End. While a part of the famous 'Invincibles' side of the 1800's, Wharton left before winning any honours to concentrate on his running.

In 1978, Viv Anderson became the first black player to earn an England cap. Winner of two European Cups with Nottingham Forest, Anderson was called up by then England manager Ron Greenwood who stated: "Yellow, purple or black - if they're good enough, I'll pick them." Sandwiched between these to pioneers of football in England is Jack Leslie.

Real pioneers rock a moustache - Viv Anderson and the late Arthur Wharton

Jack Leslie was born in Canning Town, London on the 17th of August 1901. Born to a Jamaican father, Leslie started his football career with his local side Barking Town. In 1921 the inside left signed for Plymouth Argyle but at the time you could count the number of black professional players on one hand. As a result of this and attitudes of the time Leslie was subjected to unforgivable racial abuse. He later recalled - "I used to get a lot of abuse in matches. 'Here darkie, I'm gonna break your leg,' they'd shout. There was nothing wicked about it - they were just trying to get under my skin." Despite this Leslie had an incredible career for the Pilgrims; he made a total of 401 appearances for the club scoring 136 goals. During his time with the club Argyle finished runners up in the Football League Third Division South, 6 times (1921–22, 1922–23, 1923–24, 1924–25, 1925–26, 1926–27), eventually winning it in the 1929-30 season. Leslie and Plymouth would also play against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, the latter of which was a fourth round FA Cup tie in January 1932. The game drew a record crowd of 65,386 to Highbury and Leslie scored Argyles second goal in a 4-2 defeat to Herbert Chapman's famous side. Between 1927 and 1929 Leslie held the record for most league goals scored (35), but it appeared that the best was to come.

During the 1930's legendary Argyle manager Bob Jack informed Leslie that he had received the call to play for his country. In an interview with the Daily Mail in 1978 Leslie told them - "One day, a Tuesday, as I remember it, the manager calls me in. 'Johnnie' he says, 'I've got great news for you. You've been picked for England.' It was quite a thing for a little club like Plymouth to have a man called up. Then the papers came out a day or so later and Billy Walker of Aston Villa was in the team, not me."

The reason for his exclusion came from FA officials who claimed that they had not known Leslie to be 'a man of colour'. Later, Leslie surmised - "They found out I was a darkie and I suppose that was like finding out I was foreign." His daughter, Evelyn, told the BBC of her fathers disappointment - "It would have been the icing on the cake, but it was taken away from him. He had a lot of disappointments because of his colour."

Not long after the invitation was withdrawn Leslie famously told journalist Brian Woolnough: "They must have forgot I was a coloured boy."

Jack Leslie retired from professional football in 1934. He later went on to be a member of the backroom staff at his local club: West Ham United. He passed away in 1988 but will live long in the memory of not only Plymouth Argyle fans, but football fans everywhere.

Jack Leslie


If Music Be The Food Of Love, Play Football

In the 1920's whilst manager of Huddersfield, Herbert Chapman arranged for gramophone records to be played over the public address system to keep the crowd entertained before games and at half-time. Since that day football and music have gone hand in hand like a Premier League footballer and a sex scandal. There are examples of this phenomenon elsewhere but it remains a largely British tradition. But, the relationship between the two art forms has changed in recent years. Fans were once content to to morph pop classics into hymns about their club heroes. They now express annoyance at having their every celebration undermined by stadium announcers with terrible timing. I would be inclined to agree. 'Duh-Duh Duh, Nuh-Nuh-Nuh-Na' will never be a match for cries of passion. Just ask any women I've ever slept with.

Let's not forget however, that prior to Chelsea Dagger and half hour Muse tracks there was a tradition which is now largely ignored: The Cup Song.

The first trace of such a song was in the 1930's when Arsenal released a gramophone record. Probably something to do with Chapman. The first commercial success however was the England national team's 1970 World Cup squad with 'Back Home'.

'Back Home' sounds as though it was recorded during a particularly heavy session down their local but it somehow became a hit, staying at number 1 on the singles chart for three weeks after knocking off Norman Greenbaum's 'Spirit in the Sky'. This also proved something that Elton John would find out after the death of Princess Diana: If people are emotionally invested in something, they will buy any old piece of shit record. Throughout the rest of the 1970's England failed to qualify for the 74 and 78 World Cups leaving Scotland to pick up the mantle with 'Easy Easy' and 'Ole Ola (Mulher Brasileira)' respectively. The latter of the two features Rod Stewart and is also terrible. Domestically in England it was much of the same. The two FA Cup finalists would each release a single in a build up; the highlight being Chelsea's anthem 'Blue is the Colour' which peaked at number 5 in 1972 and stayed in the top 75 for 12 weeks.

Another single well worth a look at is Nottingham Forest's 1978 effort 'We've Got the Whole World in Our Hands' if only for the shot of Brian Clough 13 seconds in. Ol' Big 'Ed is clearly not enjoying himself.

The football songs of the 70's were hardly significant in the history of song writing. In 1981 that all changed.

With the release of 'Ossie's Dream (Spurs Are On Their Way To Wembley)' Chas 'n' Dave revolutionised the football song. The Rockney duo who had opened for Led Zeppelin forced the humble football song into the modern era. Not only was it self-aggrandising and terrace friendly; it featured Ossie Ardiles singing "In de cup for Tot-ing-ham". Chas 'n' Dave followed 'Ossie's Dream' up with 'Tottenham Tottenham' in 1982 and 'Hot Shot Tottenham' in 1987. The Spurs supporting pair were often imitated (see Everton's 'Here We Go') but never duplicated. It was during the mid 80's when Chas 'n' Dave reigned supreme that the football song plague spread to America. The Chicago Bears released 'The Superbowl Shuffle' and the New York Mets 'Let's Go Mets Go'.

In 1988, to borrow a football cliche, the goal posts were moved again...

Liverpool's 1988 number 3 hit really has to be seen to be believed. It borrows from LL Cool J's 'Rock The Bells' and Eric B & Rakim's 'I Know You Got Soul' in addition to sampling 'Twist and Shout' by The Beatles. It was conceived AND co-written by Australian striker Craig Johnston and centres around the rather xenophobic idea that there weren't enough scousers in the Liverpool squad of the time. It features John Aldridge, Steve McMahon, John Barnes, Bruce Grobbelaar, Craig Johnston, Kevin MacDonald, Gary Gillespie, Steve Nicol, Ronnie Whelan, Alan Hansen, Ray Houghton, Jim Beglin, Nigel Spackman and Jan Molby, manager Kenny Dalglish, ITV commentator Brian Moore and legendary manager Bill Shankly. Not only was it full of sick rhymes it paved the way for John Barnes to do something even better.

'World In Motion' was amazingly New Order's only number 1 hit. You can forgive them for featuring Keith Allen (who would later go on to inflict Lilly on the world) because for the first time ever there was a football song which was pretty decent. Also, I dare say, a song which has some actual music credibility. It was the start of a peak in football's relationship with popular culture that would end with 1996's 'Three Lions (Football's Coming Home)'. Both songs were two of only four number 1 football songs (the other two being my starting point 'Back Home' and Manchester United and Status Quo's 'Come On You Reds' in 1994). 'Three Lions' took the musical credibility tag one step further by not even bothering to feature the chief protagonists, save for a small cameo in the video.

Everything since has been either rubbish or derided. With a new big money effort and numerous unofficial songs released every other year the people of Britain once again became cynical. The football song slowly slumped back to it's former status as a joke, tail firmly between legs. The first blow was dealt by Adam and Joe. Their 'Footie Song' summed up the football song effortlessly. Neither of them understand nor care about football and make it and the idea of the football song sound as stupid as it probably is.

Football and music will continue to collaborate for as long as both exist. At least until the next great football song we can take solace from 'Diamond Lights', 'We've Got a Feeling' and 'Head Over Heels in Love'. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Kevin Keegan...


Why England Lost My Support (Other Curious Football Phenomena Left Largely Unexplained)

Much like a Middle Eastern dictator, the England national team recently lost support. Namely mine. Gaddafi never had my support but England did. Not anymore though, I've had enough. I'm taking my ball, and I'm going home.

I first became aware that England had a football team during Euro 96. I was too young for the 1990 world cup and only vaguely aware of a man they called Gazza. That summer I saw something awesome. Unfortunately, it's been down hill ever since.

In the run up to England's victory over Denmark a few weeks back, Ashley Cole was named England's player of the year and whilst playing in aforementioned game, became the most capped fullback in England history. A remarkable transformation from pantomime villain to fan favourite had occurred and I couldn't work out why. I've never liked Ashley Cole, as player or person, but public opinion had shifted. That is until this week when the News of the World broke a story about A-Cole shooting a 21 year old work placement student with an air-rifle. How did an air-rifle make it's way onto the Chelsea training ground? Ashley took it there himself of course but apparently 'forgot' that it was loaded. I find this to be the behaviour of a moron. As for the gossip regarding his marriage, I'm no expert, but I do know that Cashley didn't exactly come out of it smelling of roses.

Terry, Crouchy, Rio, Coley, Lamps and SWP. All of them bastards.
So far this is reading like I'm just having a pop at a man who likes to text pictures of his genitals to women of questionable moral standard. It's not just Ashley Cole though. There are few players in the current England selection pool that I like. Glen Johnson tried to steal a toilet seat, Gareth Barry wanted to play Champions League football but settled for cash instead and 'happily married' 'Dad of the Year' John Terry fucked his mates girlfriend. Wayne Rooney is another terrible human being. I don't even like him playing for Manchester United and I actually DO support them. Temper tantrums that could once be blamed on youth and immaturity are becoming inexcusable. Well, inexcusable to everyone but the FA. It pains me when walking around a city centre on a any given Saturday; to see children wearing shirts with the name of a man on the back who has cheated on his wife (whilst pregnant) with prostitutes of various ages and who this last weekend elbowed an opposition player in the face. It's even worse when it's a grown man. I don't expect football players to be angels because most of them certainly fucking aren't. I just don't want to see them engaging in thuggish behaviour on or off the pitch regardless off whether Phil Collins is played or not.

Don't get me wrong. It's not just the players that have put me off. Most football clubs have owners. Usually rich business men after a quick buck with little to no regard for the history or welfare of the club they run at a loss for tax purposes (allegedly). Sitting pretty atop of this particular pile is The Football Association. The FA was founded near the turn of the last century and hasn't really changed it's views on the game since. They are the ultimate bad owner if you will. Whilst safety at football grounds in England has improved since the tragedies of the 1980's there are still many things the FA can't get right: Football clubs are going into administration left, right and centre with nobody positions of power doing anything. There are only two black managers in the whole of The Football League and no outwardly gay players or managers. So called 'grass roots' football is in terrible shape and the women's game isn't fairing much better. It goes without saying that the FA is not spending it's money wisely. Wembley stadium ended up costing the FA in excess of £757 million. In January 2010 it was reported that they were advertising for jobs at the new Wembley with six-figure salaries. They aren't the only ones being overpaid though: England manager Fabio Capello is believed to be earning around £4m a year. I'm pretty sure that that's too much money for one man to get paid and not deliver on his job requirements.

The new England Shirt
Obviously the line between governing body and business is a blurred one. There are certain practices that are now common place amongst the world's top clubs. I think the problem here is that I expected more from the national team. I am of course referring to the release of a new shirt every year. In recent history: England launched a new 'retro design' home kit in March 2009 in plenty of time for it to be worn at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. In March 2010 Kasabian, resembling snarling twats of a by gone era, swaggered onto the L'Oympia stage in Paris wearing England's new away shirt. In September 2010, after a terrible World Cup, in typical money grabbing fashion, a new home kit was launched. When first launched the shirts retailed at £49.99 for adults and £34.99 for children, which I'm sure is great news for parents. Even better when you add the socks, shorts and official training gear to your shopping basket. Joey Barton seems to have summed it up best whilst referring to another phenomenon: the releasing of autobiographies during a world cup years. Coley, Lamps and Stevie G have all been guilty of this during their England careers, but 'Everyman' Barton hasn't. Probably because he played for England once. Cleverly mimicking an actual England midfielder in December 2006, he said: "England did nothing in the World Cup, why are they bringing books out? 'We got beat in the quarter-finals, I played like shit, here's my book'. Who wants to read that?" Who indeed Joey.

Even the people who I have stood with in pubs and at badly organised barbecues are ruining the national team for me. These people are more commonly known as England fans. I'm bored to death of the wave of optimism that blankets the country every two years. I'm annoyed by my local being painted to look like the St George's Cross. AND I fucking hate those poxy flags that are on every car for two weeks every other June. These people, with their optimism, also like to boo at the end of halves. England are not the best team in the world. The thousands that overpay to see England play at Wembley must surely realise that they aren't going to see anything akin to 70's Brazil. I have also never been able to understand the way that some 'fans' are able to boo a player all season because he plays for the wrong team but come summer they'll proudly display his name on the back of an England shirt. This was particularly evident to me growing up supporting Manchester United. As far as I could see it you either liked Gary Neville or you didn't. There's no middle ground with Red Nev. The opposite of this hypocritical support is scapegoating. In recent tournaments Frank Lampard and Owen Hargreaves have been held solely accountable for England not winning everything. The worst case of this occurred the moment some genius reader of The S*n decided to burn an effigy of David Beckham outside his 'boozer'.

It's alright. Spain are my 'Premiership' team

I think now I've got most of that off my chest (I've looked, still no 3 lions) I can see things more clearly. In future I'd like to keep my relationship with England the same as the one I have with my brother. He's a bit of a dickhead but I do still want the best for him. The problem is though, come Euro 2012 I'll be sucked back in all over again but like every other time I'll only end up feeling used as tears wash away the little flags I so carefully painted on my cheeks. They'll promise it'll be different this time, but it won't.


My Two Cents

Unless you've been living inside some wonderful arsehole repelling bubble this week it can't have escaped your notice that there's been a bit of a kerfuffle over at Sky Sports towers. Richard Keys and Andy Gray were caught on mic having a bit of banter that most level headed folks consider to be inappropriate. Since football began in 1992 Keys and Gray have been the faces of The Empire's football output. That's most of my life. Due to a mental problem I don't normally cope well with change but in this case, someone else presenting Monday Night Raw Football or Super Duper Sunday doesn't bother me in the slightest. I mean come on, this isn't like Des Lynam leaving the BBC and Match of the Day.

The comments Keys and Gray made during the Wolves vs Liverpool game (and in the various videos being leaked on to YouTube by the hour) were highly sexist. As I'm not a women and have never experienced prejudice based on my gender I'm concerned that commenting on the treatment of women in football will come across as insincere but I'll do my best.
Keys in happier times
Keys came to the attention of the nation presenting TV:AM, a sort of primitive version of Daybreak. Breakfast television at the time was far from innocent. TV:AM put a homeless rat into various humorous situations and on BBC Breakfast a woman was forced into a green leotard and made to writhe around. With a background in controversial television it's not surprising that this isn't the first gaff Keys has made whilst miked up, once describing a Scotland vs Faroe Islands international game thusly: 'Daft little ground, silly game. Fuck off.' But, who can hold that against him? And who amongst us can consider him sexist when he actually got married, to a woman! And, he allowed her to say things like this to the Guardian: 'Sky were offside in the sexism row' and 'The wrong two guys were given the red card.' Having a wife who can deliver so many football based puns without even knowing the offside rule is quite an achievement but Keys easily outdid her (probably because he's man) by saying things like 'Success breeds envy', 'the dark forces were out for me' and 'Smell my cheese, you mother!' to Talk Sport, presumably forgetting he was on mic again.

Viewers of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding will recognise the 'grabbing' technique

Andy Gray took the traditional route to football journalism. He played as a striker for Everton and then met a bloke in a pub who knew someone who knew someone who Gray showed a trick involving salt, pepper and some imagination. In Gray's defence iPad's hadn't been invented prior to 1991 and neither had football. According to his Wikipedia entry Gray has 5 children by 4 different women. I'm sure you can make your own mind up about him.

Charlotte, can you give me a hand with my microphone cable?

Both are thankfully now gone. After a short suspension Keys resigned while Gray was sacked. Andy and Richard may have fucked up on a Ron Atkinson level but, there are a few silver linings to this whole incident: 1. The profile of women working in football, particularly the mens game, has risen beyond belief and the hope is that it will keep rising with the launch of the FA Super League in April and the continued introduction of female officials in the Premier League. 2. With Keys and Gray out of the way Sky has the opportunity to refine it's output. The Internet (twitter being a prime example) is awash with talented football types who could do a far superior job covering the Premier League and could do so without uttering 'Did you smash it?' or 'He's said I'm going to hit it, and he has, and it's gone in. Tika booow san.' That's also not mentioning great pundits already on the telly like Lee Dixon who could actually provide more of an insight into the game without having to resort to touchscreen technology.

Unfortunately the obvious casualty from all of this, Sian Massey, is still suffering the after affects. She had been due to be an assistant referee of the Crewe vs Bradford game mid-week and was to referee the Corby Town vs Eastwood Town in the Blue Square Bet North league this evening but she has been withdrawn from both by the same people who have persisted with Stuart Attwell for so long. She has to be the first official in the history of the game who has been pulled from matches for getting a decision right.