It has been a while since I last posted. Quite a long time in fact. It was not deliberate, but just happened for a number of reasons, none of which are particularly note worthy or relevant to what is ostensibly a coffee blog. Needless to say, I missed it and am pleased to be back.
Having just said coffee is the main subject around here, today’s topic is football. I guess, on that note, most of the coffee people, bar one notable roaster, have just surfed away to something more relevant to them and anyone left is either a football fan or simply can’t be bothered at the moment to look for something else to read.
It’s that time again, the start of a new football season with all of the usual excitement. Everyone has hopes and dreams. I remember the summer of 1976, an August Saturday morning, not unlike today, but with less rain. It was my first real season of following football properly. Football Focus had a preview of
the season and as Grandstand began Frank Bough stood in front of the old green BBC football results and tables charts. They were still manually operated in those days, clever graphics were years away. I remember as the show opened, Frank said that it was the first day of an exciting new season and at a quarter to five, the boards would spring frantically to life with details the day’s events. Earlier that morning, I had bought a new football magazine called ‘Roy of the Rovers’. It was fantastic and for the next few years, without fail, I would run down the hill to the newsagents every Saturday morning to claim my copy from the ‘collections’ pile. It could have been delivered with the morning papers, but that would have simply spoilt my excited fun. I wanted to feel that first Saturday morning every week.
The excitement is still the same for most football fans as it ever was, but things are different these days. For starters, the Premier League and Football League often seem to kick-off on different Saturdays. Oddly though, today’s Football League season opening seems more like the old days to me than next
week probably will when the ‘big boys’ including my team begin their season. For me, the Football League Championship, not the Premier League, more closely resembles the old First Division. I think it is because the lower tier teams still have a large number of British players. I love the Premier League, it is surely the greatest league on earth these days and the quality is breath-taking. It’s just that each year the start of the Football League evokes strong memories of my youth. So, when Championship tactics appear a little naïve by comparison, I just remind myself they play a brand of football that many of us were brought up on, and then I rejoice at the whole stunning other level of skill that those in the Premier League are capable of producing. I love it all.
Football has changed immeasurable off the field as well. There wasn’t a lot of money about in 1976. Compared to the rest of us, footballers were well paid, but they were not getting ‘pop-star money’ and the average fan could relate to them. My point though is not about the pay packets of footballers but the amount of cash in the boardrooms. Back then, clubs were not really expected to make money by their shareholders, avoiding a loss was a good year. They were typically run by custodians who came from successful business careers. Local men made good with a desire to help their football club do well. Football was about sport, winning matches, not making money. Clubs were not an investment opportunity for money men, they were about community togetherness and entertainment. In those days, the club was an amalgam of the people in the boardroom who ran it with the sole aim of success on the field, the manager and players who went out and played each week with the sole aim of success on the field, and the fans who stood on the terraces each week to support the team with the sole aim of success on the field. It was simple; that was the football club. In the old days, the fans were the heart and the boardroom knew that. There were often hundreds or thousands of small shareholders, ensuring that the ‘ownership’ was never going to play a significant part in vetoing ‘football decisions’.
I find it difficult these days to work out what many clubs actually consist of now with leveraged buy-outs by investors looking for a quick profit and billionaires seeking a play thing. Where is the heart of the club? Where is someone at the top who actually cares about winning for winning’s sake rather than potential profit alone?
I think all that is truly left of those innocent days are the fans. They adore their clubs for the sheer love of it, without ulterior motive or thought of personal gain. It is a pure love. The spirit of clubs seems these days only to reside within the fans themselves and perhaps a few committed local born players, or those lucky enough to find themselves playing for their boyhood favourite teams. A disparate group is likely to erode the identity of any entity and foreign born players cannot be expected to truly understand the history of clubs from another land. Huge sums of money and a lack of historical understanding can easily change the motive for players wanting to succeed within a club and what they perceive ultimately amounts to success. Is it winning trophies or attaining the next big contract? In some cases, it makes me wonder. Today, there is an ever blurred line between the loyal player with a genuine love of the club and the mercenary with a taste for glory, be that personal or collective.
I recently caught a couple of episodes of a low budget reality show called “The Amazing Adventures of a Nobody: USA”. It’s a well put together half hour program about someone trying to travel across the States on five Dollars a day. The presenter and producer, Leon Logothetis, is a hugely entertaining and very likable man, who despite finding himself in a terrible predicament with nowhere to stay during the making of one particular episode, insisted that he got his priorities right and found a bar showing the live Liverpool v Chelsea game. His company is called ‘Shankly Productions’. I think that says it all.