You know football is eating itself when there is an ‘official release’ of the date that the first live televised games will be announced.
Yes, really. They’re now announcing the date when another announcement about dates will be made.
Where’s Ricky Gervais when you need him?
Suffice to say, said date hasn’t gone down in the Couzens-Lake diary and I won’t be sitting in front of the TV waiting for the white smoke to start billowing forth from the Sky Sports chimney before David Bobin and Charlie Webster start stating the very bleeding obvious…
“…and we start with the Champions, Chelsea who are at home to Swansea on the Friday Night. We then have a Super Sunday double with newly promoted Bournemouth kicking off against Aston Villa at 1:30pm followed by the game you will *not* want to miss. Yes, it’s that early season clash between two sides who’ll be hoping to finish in the top four at the end of the season, Manchester United against Tottenham Hotspur, live and exclusive from Old Trafford at 4pm. We round things off with Monday Night Football with a London derby and its Arsenal taking on West Ham at 8pm….”
Yadda yadda yadda.
Which all means, of course, with BT Sport also likely to show a live game that weekend at 5:30pm on the Saturday (Stoke City versus a “much-changed Liverpool side” anyone?) that our little soiree against Crystal Palace is likely to be only one of five games kicking off at 3pm on the opening Saturday of the season.
When our first live game will be is anyone’s guess. But I can just see executives from both channels looking through our fixtures, whining “…do we HAVE to show them?” before eventually choosing our game at Southampton on August 29th, which will probably be switched to a 2am kick off on a Thursday night.
I’m joking of course. It’ll kick off at 5am.
Now this isn’t going to turn into a lengthy and tedious diatribe about football in the good old days and how good we had it back then because, first and foremost, there is so much to champion about the modern game and the way it is played and covered.
Take the grounds themselves for example.
At around about the same time as the Premier League was formed, the set-up in and around Carrow Road was very different to what it is today. Massively so in fact.
The area surrounding the ground was, to put it politely, shabby while, a little further away, the re-development of Riverside had yet to start, meaning that the ground itself – as well as its immediate surroundings – was somewhat less than desirable.
For example, one of the first things you’d see ahead of you as you strolled down Carrow Road in 1992 would be the big green gates that let you out of the old South Stand after a game.
The sort of gates that a farmer might keep his livestock behind. Or his second best combine harvester (the Sunday best one would be kept under cover).
Then there was the black fence that surrounded the old Barclay Stand, over which you could see the grassy mound (Dallas had a grassy knoll, we had a grassy mound) which you had to climb in order to take your place on the terraces. A selection of Manchester United fans did their best to improve the look of that part of the ground back in 1977 but, sadly, were largely unsuccessful in their efforts.
I have no doubt now that the majority of those seen here sticking their boots into corrugated iron and concrete would be the first to complain if someone at Old Trafford dared to stand up during a game or even, damn their non-corporate hides, started to sing a song.
Attending your first game in that old Barclay stand was a rite of passage. We were all, after all, all herded together in steel cages with, more often than not, an accompanying soundtrack of metallic tinkling as coins and other objects were haphazardly thrown from one part of the cage into another.
As for that other form of tinkling – well, luckily for me, I had a strong bladder at the time and never did need to use the infamous toilets at the back of the Barclay. I’m not so sure I’d hold out now though.
Everyone will have their own memories. Yet they weren’t bad ones at the time for, despite all of that and so much more, going to football was great, something to be talked about at school as the week drew to a close and then looked back on again as you went back on the following Monday.
The surroundings, the facilities, the ever present threat of a bit of ‘bovver’ if you happened to encounter a few opposing supporters. It was all taken for granted, very few people complained or demanded change.
It was just how it was. And the gates backed that up.
During the 1971/72 season, Carrow Road saw an attendance of over 30,000 on four occasions with a staggering 34,914 packing into the ground for the home clash against Bristol City on April 4th.
Think of Carrow Road as it is today pretty much full to capacity, then add around an extra 8,000 fans. Intoxicating stuff. And if the loos were toxic and the volcanic excuse for coffee served in the subterranean cafe under the South Stand was designed solely to remove all of the skin from inside your mouth, then so what?
This was football. Yellow and green in tooth and claw. And how we loved it.
And how we love it still.
Football is changing. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary in that statement or controversial. Life is all about change and football is just part of that. Think about all the other important parts of your life. Your home, your school, job, TV, music, clothes, food, holidays, car. They will have all changed too. Usually, but not exclusively, for the better.
And whilst it’s both easy and convenient to lambast the changes that have come into the game, changes that have recently seen all manner of people get excited about where all this started (IE. An announcement about a date that would reveal some further dates) at least the very worst thing such hype can do is mildly annoy us.
So I’m going to try very hard during the pending season to do exactly what I did thirty years ago. And that’s just to go to the football for the sake of the football. It’s what I did then, it’s what I’ll do now.
After all, there was a hell of a lot more that could have bothered us at any point during the 1985/86 season. But we didn’t let it. And a lot of what we collectively ‘put up’ with now is nothing in comparison.
Nothing at all.
Hmmm. Maybe I’ll stick around and watch out for the announcement about the televised games after all.
I think the first live game will be Sunderland away in the 2nd week – Sky love that fixture, it was on TV (home or away) more often than not during our last stay in the Prem.
colin mason says
Great piece. I’ve memories etched into the grey matter from the past: Standing at white hart lane,wooden benches at Kenilworth rd,the old Den,etc. The wooden South stand I loved it in fact I loved all the worn out, grubby, uncomfortable places because I was there for the footy and banter.
Lifts, escalators and padded seats, (Emirates) all very well but who cares? Give me standing anyday, didn’t sit down once at Wembley, we stood the whole game how much better it was. Now where’s my flask & flapjack!
el dingo says
Good article – to me one link between the two eras is the Upper Barclay bar area – it’s positively dangerous at half time sometimes. Also miss the Clarence and to a lesser extent the King sway. Sky is a double edged sword – we hate their patronising attitude but need their lovely money.
Tony Brown says
With you all the way Colin. And what would football be without a good moan? Isn’t it supposed to be the place to vent the weeks frustrations?
Chris Riches says
Pedant’s Corner – is it possible to have a soiree (evening event) at 3pm?
One HUGE difference for me is the price. It used to cost me 2% of my weekly wage to get into The Barclay “back in the day” – now it costs 10% of a much increased pay packet. This despite following a club with no debt and the super-rich Sky money flowing in…
The People’s Game? Sadly, no longer.