Reds, blues and pales

Nov 24th, 2009 | By | Category: Spirituality

Bill Shankly got quoted in the sermon on Sunday.  Reflecting on the controversy surrounding Ireland’s exit from the World Cup, my colleague quoted the words from an interview Shankly had given, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

There were times when I would have agreed with Shanks.

At the age of nine I made a decision that in later years would bring me a considerable degree of anguish and ridicule. I changed the football team I supported.

Until May 1970 I had taken pride in the claret and blue colours of West Ham United, not that you ever knew what colours they were playing in on a block and white television. West Ham had seemed an obvious choice they had the England captain Bobby Moore and the 1966 World Cup hero, Geoff Hurst. But they weren’t flashy enough. 1970 wasa time of outrageous glamour and fashion and the east end of London was neither glamorous or fashionable.

I was tempted away by the style and flair of the west London club Chelsea and also, much more importantly, by the fact that they were in the FA Cup final.

There was a brief period of glory: they won the FA Cup, the following year they won the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and the following year they reached the League Cup final, and then the rot set in.

A quarter of a century of disappointment and abuse was to follow. Relegation in 1975 and 1979, a struggle to stay in the Second Division in 1983, sometimes it was easier to talk about cricket.

But did it really matter, did any of it make any difference? I have seen people break down on tears at matches, I have seen people taken away in cardiac ambulances, I have seen horribly vicious fights take place, about what?

Bill Shankly was a marvellous man and manager, but his perception of reality was slightly askew. The result of a football match made not one jot of difference to whether someone had a home to live in, whether they had food on the table, whether they had treatment for an illness, whether it was safe for their children to walk the streets.

I read ‘Fever Pitch’ by Nick Hornby. It’s his account of years following Arsenal. In it one encounters the sort of people who take days of their already brief annual holidays in order to spend a large part of their weekly wage travelling from London to places like Plymouth to watch Arsenal play midweek cup matches.

I remember travelling to Chelsea matches when I was a sixth-former in the late 1970s. To buy a return ticket from Castle Gary in Somerset to London, to travel by tube from Paddington to Fulham Broadway, to buy lunch in a pub, to get into the match, and to buy egg and chips for tea at Paddington station, cost just under £10. It sounds a laughable sum of money, except it cost me most of what I earned in a month. I had a job pumping petrol from 8 till 1 on Sunday mornings earning 60p an hour, £12 a month – £10 in a day was a big commitment.

It seems astonishing that there are still hundreds of thousands of people who every week still show that sort of commitment to attend football matches up and down the country.

Interestingly, the very people who say that they believe in matters of life and death were mostly missing from church on Sunday.

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  1. I dont get football, never really have and I know I will be pillioried for saying this..22 men running around a field chasing a bag of wind!!!!!……No doubt some people will think that driving Land Rovers around in the mud strange behavior too……!!!

  2. I have grown to prefer rugby to football – it takes more thought – but I think half the reason for going to many sporting occasions is to be in the company of friends.

    Driving a Land Rover at high speed along a muddy lane is definitely odd!

  3. And enviromentally v unsound too!

  4. We do follow a code of conduct which means we drive at a max speed of 12 mph, and no more environmentally unsound than driving the kids to school in the cloned nose-troughing pretend 4x4s that do 18mpg!!! My Landie does 35mpg and is used about once a month for my hobby unlike the day trippers that clutter the roads in Devon causing traffic chaos throughout the year…..The lanes and tracks we drive have by-way status which means that they are legal to use with a vehicle, and if they had been more popular routes when tarmac was invented they would be now covered with the black…….and finally the pollution my Landy chuffs out is miniscule compared to the tin boxes that fly around in the until they are all banned I have no qualms about driving it…I dont need to fly anywhere and dont intend too……

  5. Les,

    Bette is winding you up!

    But on a more serious note, I was interested to read today on the website of the Energy Information Administration in the US that the chief source of carbon emissions is electricity generation.

    (I know, I’m sad – who else reads such stuff!)

  6. Guessed as much, but we do get looked upon as destroyers of the countryside, which being a country bumpkin I do object to, unfortunately as in every walk of life there are the idiots who do drive where they are not supposed to, giving the various anti 4×4 groups the ammunition they need to get local authorities to close lanes…..there’s now 2 sad old men….I’m off to have a look at the article……….

  7. Just read the article…I suppose the answer is some form of alternative energy to supplement our requirements…….some members of the anti 4×4 groups also belong to the anti wind farms groups too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Don’t know if you looked at any of the other pages on the EIA site, but I found a page on the sources of US oil and petroleum fascinating:

    The Gulf really provides a small proportion of US fuel needs – which makes you wonder why on Earth they invaded Iraq!

  9. Thanks Ian I have had a look, I was surprised to see how much comes out of Canada, I think there were a lot of reasons for Iraq maybe?……….Did you happen to see the headlines on our papers last week? I think most of the oil is currently anchored in Torbay/Lymebay, I counted 11 tankers the other day, and at night it looks like a small town with all the lighting!!!!

  10. There were lots of reasons, none of which seemed to make any sense! There was no link with Al Qaeda, no weapons of mass destruction, not even that big an issue with the oil – what was it all about?

    Do the tankers lie offshore in anticipation of higher prices?

  11. Yes they do Ian and apparantly the goods have been traded several times and on average are making about a million a day!!!!!!

    On a completely different matter from one of your recent blogs….Prof H Bellot gave Turn Hill to the National Trust in 1918 in memory of his son……..I dont have facts but I would hazard a guess that his son had perhaps been killed in WW1….

  12. You’re right, I checked Bellot on the CWGC website:

    No-one ever told us that.

  13. Ian, just thinking about Prof Bellots sons age when he died in 1918, and Prof Bellot dying in 1969, its no wonder we cannot ever remember seeing him or his wife. He must have been well into his 90s when he died……Thanks for finding the CWGC info, it rounds off the whole mystery..

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