Another blast from the past, to the days of yore, the older lads scrapbook, Bex Bissell had one, Jimmy Cooper kept one, plenty of people did, A friend of mine, currently on holiday with the Queen even swapped his school record of achievement for a record of his misdemeanors!
Football then, football now, I can feel a rant coming on. Whilst I'm not here to advocate, promote or encourage football violence, not at all, no way. The above is a selection of some very old press cuttings from the local and national papers in the early eighties, passionately collected by an elder statesman at our place during his youth, also pictured is a little scrapbook charting our exciting final day of the 90-91season and first ever Wembley visit.You'll see trips to seaside town's ending in carnage, shock FA cup exits ending in carnage, then you'll see Thatcher throwing her weight around, ending in carnage. Managers banning their kids because of the carnage. Plus - no stranger to the bleak and uncompromising Boys from the Blackstuff and Blood on the Dole writer Alan Bleasdale even refusing to go to the match because of all the carnage!
According to these headlines football used to be horrible, if it was horrible then, what is it now?
Some of these used to feature on my site in the earlier days, days when I too, lived and breathed for football. Crazy you might think now, but this was all a way of life for young, working class men, once upon a time. It's a different ball game now, quite literally. Only fools would try and do what their predecessors did in those headlines back then and think they can get away with it. Now I was born in 1980 so was more interested in Star Wars whilst these were being written, but the stories you hear, the pictures you see, the footage you watch suggest football at it's best, it was good, it was bad, it was sometimes pretty ugly, but that was football, a great working class past time.
This was a time football was sometimes blighted by violence, back page headlines were more often than not bad news, it's been well documented how this eventually ran out of control and came to a pretty abrupt halt. Fun and games ending in tragedy? there's no fun in that. I'm more interested in how people followed their clubs not what they carried in their arse pockets, how it was then, to how it is now, I don't mind a bit of an edge, bit of atmosphere, bit of tension, cheap trains, travelling en masse, good natured banter, and a bit of rivalry, that's what got me hooked as a youngster. I'd be bored to tears growing up with modern day football.
I can remember standing on the terrace one year and a mini crush occured, the crowd which had congregated into one large huddle quickly dispersed in separate directions, this wasn't due to intruders taking the end, no, two sozzled supporters had decided to whip out their willies and take a piss, can you even imagine someone trying that now? they'd be banned for life and on some kind of register, probably. Remember, in the early eighties this was by and large the norm - ramshackle non seated stadiums, crowds made up of mainly young men, shouting, smoking, swearing and God forbid standing was actually what people did. There were no silly hats, no big foam hands, no music played after goals, and no Mexican waves, this was English football, how it was, and how it should have been.
Up until 1990 and a certain World Cup, football was in a state of disarray, the current Champions of England were very average, and made the headlines off the pitch thanks to their notorious following, my team unfortunately were bottom of the football league often applying for re-election, some things never change eh? As I type, we're in the all too familiar place of propping up the entire league once more. The headlines above sit alongside some very familiar looking league tables. Same old, same old, but it wasn't always like that...
Post 1990, post the near miss in Turin, post Gazza's tears... football picked up. It became cool again, for me personally it was the best decade ever to grow up watching football, our golden era winning Promotion in 1991 after tonking Scunthorpe now a Championship side, to leave the Fourth Division the correct way, led by our cultish Uruguayan hero the late, great Danny Bergara, notably the first overseas football manager to lead an English club out at Wembley, something he did no less than four times in that decade. This era also saw great rivalries on and off the pitch with the likes of Stoke and Burnley, Bradford, Wigan and Blackpool and level pegging with Brum and West Brom - all of which we battled with at the top end of the lower leagues, all of which are or have recently been, Premiership clubs, something which would seem preposterous for us to even think about now, but go back to the late 90's and led by arguably our greatest gaffer Dave Jones (now at Cardiff) this didn't seem all that crazy, romping our way out of the Second and into the First Division, a division we'd have run away with had we not played more games than any other, due to our superb cup runs in the League Cup, FA Cup and even the Auto Windscreen whatever it was called trophy, the League Cup which seemed much bigger then, saw us knock out Sheffield United via seven goals, former Premiership champs Blackburn Rovers, their fellow Premiership clubs West Ham and Southampton, only Middlesborough who were the early pacesetters at spending beyond their means with their multi million pounders Ravanelli and Juninho finished that emphatic run in the Semi Final, but we still beat them at their place in the return leg. A year earlier we also took then FA Cup holders Everton to a replay after a great two all draw at Goodison Park with over six thousand of our own making more noise than I have ever heard before or since for that matter. Only to lose the replay at home in the most cruel way, seconds after pegging it back in the dying seconds. This was also a time where we leapfrogged local rivals and current big spenders Man City, sitting a division higher than them for a season and by and large having the better of most of the fixtures we shared.
So scrap back to the scrapbook days, the headlines were bad, sometimes pretty shocking in fact. Yes there was violence, yes it had to stop - seats were smashed, faces slashed, inexcusable behavior of course, but it was a different era. Not the Orwellian predicted society and surroundings we know of today. But, seriously compare those days to the current footballing Monster, the vile horrendously priced Sky Sports santised shitfest, (even at the lowest league level it's evident) the 'Super Sundays' with their own special sponsorships, the fast food WWF style wankathon it has become with it's ridiculous graphics and high definition replays of absolute nothingness, rubbish games bigged up so much they're inevitably going to be piss-poor bore draws, sit down, shut up, fuck off. I don't even want to mention it's dickhead pundits and crap ex-footballing 'experts' who become 'ledges' in the eyes of funboy footie fans who's idea of supporting their team is to spend all day in a pub watching (ahem) Soccer Saturday with a betting coupon in one hand and a bottle of repugnant blue WKD in the other.
Football is crap now, any genuine non replica shirt wearing fan will tell you that, who wants to pay twenty quid (that's cheap) to see their team get beat off inferior opposition every week in a soulless flat packed stadium? I don't. Yeah, the headlines up there are grim, but I'd take that over what we have now any day of the week and so would so many others. Can't go back, won't go back, but I've got the memories, the nineties, the noughties or at least a bit of it, that's what mattered to me, I'd sooner go back to the days of our garish kits advertising shit, Indian Lager. Super Kevin Francis (now a Canadian cop), solid Mike Flynn (now a teaching assistant), silky Lee Todd (now a Painter and Decorator) et al, players who were genuine cult heroes, whom would often be torn out of the Stockport Express and blu-tacked to my bedroom wall. Take me back to a packed terrace which stunk of cigs, pies and even piss, but not some fake, re-imagined 'Phoenix club'. It just wouldn't work, ironically because you'd have to be successful for it to take off, which is surely not what it's all about? 'if you build it they will come', nah, but if you're winning they might do for a bit.
Just last week Wigan were the subject of amusement to many because they supposedly only took sixty fans to Tottenham away, that's a trip to London and a ticket price which in itself costs half a weeks wage, can you really blame them? Ask most of their genuine original fans, they'd rather be back at Springfield Park.
Reading this you may think I'm fickle, unloyal? I'm past caring now, and that's a very regular a fan of over twenty years, we were rescued from the clutches of liquidation and certain oblivion last season, something one or two clubs seem to be threatened with every season but something which actually never really happens. Now though it's another familiar and boring story, there's no money, we can't compete, blah, blah, blah, same old shite, just three games in. The worst moment in this club's history wasn't successive relegations, it was surrendering our one true asset - our ground of over a hundred years, to an out of town Rugby Union club.
Our new Manager Paul Simpson clearly shocked at the task ahead of him went to press shortly after taking over, saying a 22nd place finish would be a success, a few weeks later after discussions with the board revealed there was no more budget to play with, unsurprisingly the crowds had remained pretty poor, a fifty percent drop on the last few seasons, Simpson again went to press and urged more fans to come along in a bid for more cash, those who did were rewarded with a woeful four nil home defeat to his former club Shrewsbury Town.
When there's other clubs in this division seemingly without a pot to piss in, who without contradicting myself too much, were always not as good as we were - small outfits with small budgets getting Promotions, getting to the Play Offs why can't we? because even Accrington Stanley have an advantage over us, they own their home. How shit must things be when you look at the league tables and wish you were more like Walsall or someone similar?
But that's beside the point, football has pretty much lost me, I've hardly been since our first ever win at the 'new' Wembley, having lost four matches at the old place. If I'm honest, it wasn't quite the amazing experience you'd expect, don't get me wrong I'm not that miserable I did a weekend in the capital and made the most of it, and had a good time in the process, but looking at the bigger picture, two small North West clubs with two small North West die-hard followings rattling around another rubbish, soulless new stadium for the price of £46. Accompanied by absolute dreadful music picked by people in suits playing loudly as we tried to celebrate promotion, with the said suits legging it on the pitch to make our players replace their shirts with blue and white Coca-cola t-shirts, a classic example of what football is today. I think it is great need of a revolution, a national boycott day, it'll never happen, it's too late, it's gone to the divs and we can never have it back.
Were the eighties really that bad?