5 September 2010

The good old bad old days.

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?


  1. you are 100 percent right, its nearly the same development in germnay, ticket prices are getting redicolous, sky rules the sport, "ultras" try to reclaim the game, but they are lost... last men standing with now chance to start a revolution.
    at least we are still having standing terraces, but they want to forbid smoking and dont even try to get a beer whilst an international game.. only for the shrimp eating vips!
    i dont follow professional football for a few years now. i find my paradise in the lower leagues. supporting my local club in the 5th divison, with players still playing for the game not for the money, working hard all day, going to the training after hard work and playing a hard match on sunday before a hard working week starts again on monday!
    in the lower divisons there you can still fell a real passion for football, by the players and theit loyal followers!

  2. Quality post. I grew up in the same generation and have lost the hope with top flight football. A revolution is needed, clubs like FC United of Manchester and St Pauil may offer some e direction?

  3. even tho your are on the wrong side of the border!you have got this spot on,we are the richest club in the world now,and it does my head in,these middle class wankers who would not go near a ground in the 80s,are every where now,they think football started when the premeirship started,the clubs toss there local loyal fans to oneside for these people.i have had 30yrs of mediocracy being a city fan and was happy with my lot,all the promotion and relegations were magic,none of this top 4 bollocks,if they bought the full members cup back i would be made up!they were the good old bad days but they were our days.
    from a bitter blue

  4. Brilliant post. I read recently that a group of Leicester City fans have been threatened with a ban because they've tried to start an ultras group and other fans complained about them making noise! Despite what people think about ultras in the English leagues it makes you wonder why some people go to the match. Complaining about noise? Why don't they just sit home with the radio and moan to their long suffering wives? Cunts.

  5. I'm fucking ill with it to be honest, first watched City at Maine rd in the early '70's and stuck with it right through till a couple of years ago. I went to two games last season, both Manchester derbies and I wont do any this season.Living just round the corner,our old ground was part of my community. You could catch the players knocking round the ground or in the local sandwich shop, even the boozer on occasions. You wouldn't get anywhere near a player now, all bodyguarded up and VIP this, that and the fucking other.Yes there were bad times, and in the 70's and 80's City had their share, but it was part and parcel of why we went. I didn't give two shits if we lost a game, so long as a good day out was had , bit of banter , few beers and maybe a day out on some other teams patch, and getting home in one piece was a result.
    Ten years ago everyone was slagging United for their masses of out of town followers but that is the norm now, City even offer their website in Arabic and my local boozer has Mancunian Chelsea fans in it, i shit you not.
    On moving to our new stadium I've had to endure draconian stewarding form "security" in shit yellow vests, had friends banned for life for refusing to sit down, threatened with eviction for swearing on times to numerous to remember because it it offends Nigel and Jenny from Cheshire and £40 a ticket, whats that about!
    Rant over

  6. * applauds and raises right fist in air!!

  7. I agree that Sky package football along with breweries and papers as the du rigueur de facto lifestyle accessory for the modern day 21st ‘LAD’. But for every ill informed pleb in a replica shirt and a digital camera there’s still a bunch of passionate 16 year old scals chancing it following our lot around the country. Getting nicked one week and rushing the turnstiles again the next. Doesn’t stop me and my best mates getting to every match we can home and away. Costs me a fortune admittedly. Much more than my dad and his brothers in the 70s. But how much worse is it than spending £1500 on a Cabourn jacket? Or £400 on a Haversack shirt? As much as people paint this Halcyon picture of football in the 80s, people went to the football and never came back. Or were scarred for life. That’s when my old man stopped going. Too many arseholes spoiling it for the regular man he says. Something had to give. I’ve seen people pissing in bottles and winging it at their lot at this year’s Manchester derbies if we’re bragging about urine. Running battles with the Police in the city centre. I can choose to avoid that now though as a regular Joe. I reject this claim that there’s no passion anymore. When 1500 turn up to watch our reserves on a wet Thursday night in February night to protest against our chief exec. I was in Stalybridge on Sunday watching FC get tonked 5-1 with 1800 other decent fans. The real ironic beauty is that you’re pretty much never happy as a football fan apart from those 4-5 hours after you’ve won on a Saturday [Sunday/MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL/ Tuesday night]. BLACKPOOL are in the top flight ffs. Amidst all the debt laden, mismanaged, clueless clubs in the Championship they’ve usurped them on a shoestring and made it into this dark black soulless ether that people would have you believe the top flight’s become. AFC Wimbledon are top of the conference only 8 years after their club was stolen from them. Is that not what it’s all about? I don’t disagree entirely but just wanted to offer some alternative optimistic viewpoint. The ‘it not as good as it was in my day’ attitude pervades music, fashion, film and arises as every youth and sub-culture movements succeeds the last. But it’s always been that way. We all think no youngster’s as cool as we were. I digress somewhat though, so to close: There’s still passion and commitment in football. On the (all seater picnic basket ;-) terraces too.

  8. You make some valid points, of course there's still passion and commitment, and fair play to Blackpool, it seems good old team spirit prevails even in this day and age. Also it's good to see AFC Wimbledon bouncing back, but for every one of them there's loads of old league sides who can't get back, some might have just been crap, but really, when you look at it most of them got shafted.
    I feel sorry for the younger fans, it was four quid in for me when I watched the good times I spoke about, genuine heroes, look at all the c-words out there now, look at that shite World Cup, all the hype, all the flags on houses, and for that shite?
    Lots is written about 'post Euro 96' etc, blah blah, blah, a lot is just rants for the sake of ranting, but a lot is also true, there's a generation of idiots spawned by Soccer AM and the like, idiots I don't want to mix with.
    The bad outweighs the good for me personally, flat atmosphere, terrible stewarding, all ticket matches in empty grounds, I hope it picks up, I really do, something clicked for me though, for now - fed up.