Things to do at the football part 65

2 01 2019

1. Read

Critchley in Barnsley

Pearson in Hereford

Engels at FC United

Saviano in Wrexham

Private Eye in Huddersfield

Calvino in Oldham

Adams in Stoke

Zephaniah in Tranmere

2. Photograph your feet

For more of that click here.

3. Find Stickers

For more of that click here.

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I didn’t say “Football, bloody hell?”, it was “Bloody football is hell”

31 12 2018

Sudden changes of heart are nature’s way of reminding one that one is an insignificant carbon-based unit, and therefore whatever thoughts momentarily pass through one’s conscious mind do not really matter in the vast span of space and time.

For example, the sight of footballers limbering up in Glan Conwy’s brilliant October sunshine convinced me that I missed the simple joy you feel when playing football.

Anyone that has played football knows football’s wonderful sensations. The fresh air, the verdant grass, the sense of satisfaction when foot and ball connect perfectly.

I remember my memorable goals and mazy dribbles, my penalty saves and reaction saves. I can remember how my application of delicately graceful force once encouraged a self-opinionated winger to switch wings and the occasions when I felt like an unbeatable goalie for our six-a-side side. Football joy stays with you.

The pursuit of wonderful sensations kept me playing football, like the feeling when you find a teammate with a slightly difficult to see through ball, the feeling of curling the ball past a keeper or performing a wonderful save. There was also the esoteric happiness in blocking shots, cleanly dispossessing opponents and playing the ball out of defence with calm assurance (Not my words!).

It’s funny how the memories appear to you in a splurge when you are reminded of something. The sight of two groups of males receiving expert coaching was my gateway this time; Glan Conwy were doing the one touch piggy-in-the-middle thing beloved of Barcelona and Llandudno Albion were doing speed drills.

I felt the heady rush of knowledge. I could have done something at this level! Yes I could have played on a Saturday, had I felt like it. I was capable of playing the ball out of defence with a calm assurance (Not my opinion remember), I also had a keen sense of positioning.

I’m sure that I would have found a level, any kind of level. My memory tells me that I could curl a football like John Barnes, mark like Baresi and turn like Darcey Bussell and who am I to argue with that assessment? I am not the sort of person that gives out praise willy-nilly.

Within minutes of the kick-off a character-building change of heart happened. I was glad that I no longer played football. What does the fresh air and verdant grass matter when football still contains the process that turns yesterday’s joy into today’s aches; ankle pain, aching knees, sore back and nagging pains in my hand when it’s cold.

My feelings changed as soon as it became clear the technically advanced warm up hadn’t signalled the Welsh Alliance’s move to a more technical plain. Both sides still demanded that “big heads” were needed “on this”. I visualised my ankle giving way in the sticky mud and my hamstring going twang as I was outpaced by one of them tricky wingers.

I soon progressed to feeling rather glad about never playing on any Saturday. I just couldn’t imagine feeling any joy, I mean where’s the pleasure in giving up the leisure possibilities presented by the end of a working week so you can hoof a football clear or narrowly dodge a juicy whack to your shins?

My football career may have been helped if I could have been bothered with organised football but enjoyment seemed to be elsewhere. I didn’t fall through any metaphorical net, I was interrailing through Europe when the talent trawler visited.

I was already feeling like Proust before I saw the players warming up. The smallest details near Glan Conwy’s club house, the pungent smell of deep heat in the ether and the clumps of mud that fall from football boots, placed me inside that changing room of yore.

I could see the sunlight thorough the frosted Perspex slits at the top of the wall and the marks the door had made on the marble effect floor tiles, I could see the Sellotape on wall’s wood effect panelling and the jagged edges of the hole two thirds of the way down the door.

The smell of deep heat is the memory that connects me to past happenings most quickly; the crap banter, the unspoken competition about boot quality, the feeling of not feeling my legs after a hailstorm, the harsh cold gripping me after the first slide tackle in the rain.

I’d never really seen eye to eye with organised football. Two of my more palatable memories are the pitch I took to be a normal grass pitch in Bethesda, my foot sank into the liquefied soil and reemerged with a film of shiny brown liquid. There was also a school match on a day of heavy rain, a couple of us thought it would be a good idea to get used to the conditions by warming up early, obviously the rain stopped before the match and I ended up with a heavy cold.

I’ve always hated playing on teams with people I don’t know. I was usually sat quietly, trying to change quietly, as my more confident teammates treated us to a tirade of “humour”. I wish I had been able to affect an air of confident diffidence but I was quaking at becoming their target.

I must have been blessed with a little skill because I was playing for the side but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong. I had not received the subtle schooling of north Wales’ elite junior football so I failed to develop a cocksure air or taste for humiliation based humour.

My feelings have remained. Organised football is ill-fitting boots pinching your Achilles tendon, mud splattered cuts and omnipresent scapegoating, it’s a nebulous sense of honour that convinces someone to propel a fellow human through the air with casual violence.

Organised football is listening to an opposing captain’s passive-aggressive support of his side of thugs, it’s listening to opposition wind up merchants, the sour grapes of the defeated and “Oh it’s like that is it?” from an entitled nobody.

Organised football is the pointless effort to impress disparate people thrown together by the same colour polyester and  helping cocksure humiliation experts, it’s about protecting the honour of a group you can’t abide and risking injuries for people you can’t stand.

This thinking even seeped into my lowly level of recreational football. I once twisted my spine playing in goal one Friday after school, I have countless scars from sand infected grazes after years on north Wales’ heartless all-weather football scene. Social pressure eh!

In a cosmic sense, everything is balanced, I have coped without football and football has coped without me. I know that I feel more contented as “football watcher” than “football player”. 

This is what I love about football, it allows once the space to think contentedly about the world.

By the way, I don’t know whether Glan Conwy or Llandudno Albion won, I left for the bus stop at some point in the second half.





Some photos what I took this year

27 12 2018





Everybody’s welcome

17 12 2018

Technology provides a vast ocean of entertainment for our amusement and we respect the artistic process by deleting entertainment content from our devices in a matter of seconds, even Hollyoaks requires the careful channelling of creative energy to come into being.

There’s no point in complaining about our decadent arrogance because of the inevitable reply; “Mate, mate, maaaate it’s always been like this. There have always been trends, different fashions, different styles of music, different lengths of football shorts etcetera”. They can say all that but they can’t deny that there was a time when you were allowed to keep vinyl albums.

When Stewart Lee complained about “youngsters these days” in Content Provider his words resonated. When I was younger you couldn’t find the collected works of blah blah blah with a search engine, you had to make an effort, and have the right sort of friends with arcane knowledge, to get involved in a musical subculture. I could pity the youngsters these days for missing out on a sense of gratification that took years to mature.

I happened across a football-related example whilst luxuriating on an August pavement outside Llandudno’s luxurious hipster micro pub. I sipped a luxurious drink under clouds of the deepest north Walian summer grey (Pantone 1118) and life felt alright, then three of them modern youngsters turned up to discuss their fantasy league teams with an assured air of authority.

Questions fulminated as I was forced to listen to people discuss the economic value of other people like slave owners. Did these experts know the feel of an icy blast from the Urals in the 64th minute of a humdrum league match? Did they know the stress of arriving 15 minutes into a match because a supposed two hour journey took six hours? Why is it so easy to look and sound like a proper mad football fan these days? Thankfully I had a train to catch.

To return to my salad days, the 1990s were a simpler time of unlocked doors, cheery neighbours and the ERM fiasco. Nobody wanted vulgar displays of ostentatious football analysis so nobody “curated” a “luxury football opinion”. We may not have been able to conceptualise gegenpressing or source artisan retro shirts from the internet but oh how we revelled in the joy of the moment like troglodytes.

Imagine not caring how far Marco van Basten ran in a match, imagine not being able to cash out, imagine not hearing someone add ”mate, mate, maaaaaate” to every tenth sentence. Imagine not taking football quite as seriously.

The beautiful game’s true beauty is that everyone can interact with it in their own way. Take the ex-Brazilian international Adriano. Some of us recognise him from a past world cup, some watched him a lot, some have appreciated his goals on you tube and some would need wikipedia to find out who he is. If we go by his bare statistics (played professionally for 16 years, won titles in Italy and Brazil, 50 international caps) we could conclude that he wasn’t bad, if we could be bothered to have an opinion of course.

In the luxury opinion curation game one simply has to be judgemental so Adriano is lambasted because he wasn’t as good as his avatar on a computer game, and Andrei Shevcheko (17 year international career, over 120 goals in Serie A, European Cup winner) is breezily dismissed as an elite striker whose powers slipped away in a single moment

Decline is it? If I may be permitted to wear my “freelance sociologist in trainers” hat for a moment, my informal research into the pressing issue of “football decline” indicates that most players suffer a relative decline in speed, power or skill as time passes, it’s usually called “getting old”.

I will say one positive thing about the luxury opinion curators, at least they don’t stride around grounds brandishing Stone Thailand armpits as they parrot the inane ditties of you tube.

If I may be permitted to tilt my “freelance sociologist in trainers” hat to a jaunty angle, my research process has discovered that lots of annoyed people watch football. For example last season a Bangor fan loudly complained that Bangor were “too pedestrian”, after four hours of careful consideration I filed it under “Reflex comments that angry fans use as proof that they care more than we do”.

My next piece of freelance sociology will see me attempt to discover the identity of the group that the shouters are trying to impress.

It is gratifying to know that I am not the only one that has noticed that some people are trying too hard. A wonderful article entitled SUPPORT AS PERFORMANCE – NOT EVERYTHING IS A ‘MENTAL’ has been written. Is there anything more tedious than the knowing LOOK AT ME!!! behaviour of the fan park drink throwers and IKEA store invaders?

I don’t understand the appeal of those “fan parks”? You are already sharing an enclosed public space with people that normally give “the footy” a swerve but went along with “the vibe” because “we’ve sooooo got this mate” then some legend throws the contents of a plastic cup in your general direction.

Fan parks are the epitome of sponsored cynicism, little more than insipid communal experiences for the atomised citizens of market economies. What’s wrong with staying at home or going to a pub?

When I see people displaying knowing LOOK AT ME!!! behaviour I can’t help wondering how they developed an interest in football. In theory sports marketing provides a plausible explanation, football’s original punters fell into decrepit obsolesce years ago and Fabulous Football needs new punters to buy, literally buy, into its world.

The recent history of the Ricoh Arena could be used as a good example of sports marketing’s ability to create demand. Basically speaking cold hard business logic took a dispute with landlords, coupled it to a perceived demand for the rugby product in the midlands, and consequently Coventry City, a relatively big football club with a long history, became the tenants of Wasps, a rugby club that hails from London.

On the surface the Ricoh Arena still seems to be Coventry’s home ground; Coventry play there in front of sky blue seats and there’s a statue of Jimmy Hill and a Coventry City memorial garden outside the ground. If you look more closely you can spot the subtle signs of takeover; the stadium’s superstore only stocks Wasps merchandise and Wasps take credit for organising pre-takeover events.

Sports marketing seems to have worked here; the sporting midlands now has another set of big crowds with lovely disposable incomes and few people seem to mind that Wasps have moved to a more receptive market.

There is a caveat. This is an example drawn from rugby not football and it’s well-known that rugby fans and football fans have differing concerns; rugby fans focus on freshly ironed gilets and getting to the pub for Banter o’clock whereas football fans generally prefer coats. Football is definitely different from rugby, they say that the “build it and they will come” idea would never be tolerated by football fans.

The fact that MK Dons has fans may slightly contradict that stereotype but the concept of franchising is anathema to most fans, MK Dons are an aberration. Whilst franchising lacks widespread support too many football fans tolerate the thin end of the corporate wedge. The gentrification of half-time haute cuisine and £1000 season tickets is accepted, pay TV subscriptions are renewed and plans are made to meet down “The Etihad”, “The Tony Macaroni” and “The Emirates”.

Sports Marketing could be the cause of this acceptance because it seems to be everywhere. I certainly see the beautiful game’s version of sports marketing whenever I wear my “freelance sociologist in trainers” hat. For example I came across Sky’s football advert whilst undertaking informal participant observation as a commuter this summer.

The televisual part of the campaign featured people with excited little faces rushing to fill sofas in a gianto-stadium, as soon as I saw it I suspected that it was just the sort of froth that encouraged a certain sort of person to have a go at the old footy.

I developed similar observations after Easter Monday’s unexpected field trip to Macclesfield. To cut a long story short I ended up in Macclesfield because FC United v York was postponed whilst I was in Manchester. Only two local matches had survived the rain; Crewe v Port Vale and Macclesfield v Chester, Crewe’s match was all-ticket so Hobson’s choice sent me to Macclesfield.

Whilst there I encountered a Carling advert that claimed “Football is never just 11 v 11”.

Even non-“freelance sociologists in trainers” would be able to spot the common tone of the two adverts; “SEE YOU, YOU’RE DEAD IMPORTANT, FOOTBALL IS YOUR SPORT, SO GET INVOLVED WITH THE FOOTBALL AND GIVE US ALL YOUR MONEY”.

Sports marketing seems to encourage people to act in a certain way so it’s tempting to blame it for the behaviour of the easily led, before we join two and two together it is worth bearing in mind that people are never just willing dupes.

The adverts contain such ridiculous stereotypes that it’s difficult to see how people would use them as behavioural advice. Who actually watches football in this sort of ecstatic state?

HE’S HOLDING A BLOODY TEAPOT.

It is amazing that twenty-six years have passed since Sky invented football and they have still to work out how the fans of their sport behave. Fans are not continually on the verge of beatific ecstasy or volcanic rage, nor are we gibbering morons hooked on the buzz of watching televised football in pubs. sadly the stereotyping appears to be contagious.

Simple ideas undermine sports marketing. Firstly, repeatedly saying something is great does not make that something great. The esteem with which the sports marketing industry coats itself isn’t matched by reality. Sports marketing may motivate someone to consider something, or spread the awareness of an event, but it cannot force people to pay attention, or attend something, if people don’t want to do something, they won’t.

Secondly, a carefully crafted image isn’t always a true reflection of reality. Free market propagandists tell us that a free market is the best way of organising society because it “democratises opportunity” but you cannot access the free market if you have insufficient resources. Similarly sports marketing has created an inclusive image for premier league football but poorer fans are unable access the premier league dream.

Sports marketing cannot eradicate football’s earthier qualities. On my way back from Easter Monday’s excursion to Macclesfield I noticed an A4 piece of paper on the door of a Crewe station buffet;

The football world painted by that piece of paper is a place beyond the ken of the sports marketers, a place that smells of the petty regulation of fun, League Two aggression and “No Football Colours Allowed”, 

They can market the glossy premier league jamboree all they like but football is about more than 22 sweaty millionaires, it’s about local affiliation, long coach journeys, sharing stories in the pub, trains with standing room only and other heady things. Some people are actually drawn to football by these earthier qualities, odd no?

So why do some people take an interest in football? I haven’t got a clue but here’s my best speculation. Perhaps some of their workmates only talk about football. Perhaps their friends discovered the japes one can have at the footy. Perhaps they’re following stereotypical behaviour patterns because they adore the intoxicating personalities of alpha males.

Perhaps it’s fashion. Perhaps it’s You Tube. Perhaps they once followed a crowd to see where it was heading. Perhaps they like polyester clothing. Perhaps the world is merely a stage and people are merely playing the role of “football fan”.

If the last point was true I could become north Wales’ very own Lee Strassberg with a downbeat football actor’s studio; “Luke Darling! That was wonderful! But where is your sense of realism? Where’s your true sense of self? Try to be the bored football fan, not act like a bored football fan!”

I realise that you read “everyone can interact with it (football) in their own way” some time ago so most of this post may sound a little illogical (people are only interacting with football in their own way) or misanthropic (none of these people directly impinge upon my life) but I can assure that I am neither illogical nor a full-time misanthrope.

To be honest I don’t really care why other people like football, or how they interact with the sport, because it’s none of my business.  It’s just that I prefer to interpret football’s culture in my own way and I’ve lost count of the occasions when tedious behaviour has shaken me out of a carefully constructed reverie.

For me it’s like the concept of free speech; anybody can speak but nobody is compelled to listen. I wish that other people would stick to their part of the deal that I have just implied. I am only asking for ignorance of irritating details and a bit of peace, is that asking too much?





What do you do when you’ve nowhere to go?

2 11 2018

I haven’t really been going to watch Bangor City this season. I’ve been to the odd away game in grounds I’ve never visited but I have failed to yield to the selective appeal of home matches.

Other fans have also developed similar viewpoints, For example John and Joe have offered two fantastically evocative expressions of despair.

So here we all are, a football team in blue continues to play but we no longer care. How does one cope when one feels one’s club has left them?

In my case you make threads of tweets written in the purest sarcasm. My shattered peace of mind wasn’t my only inspiration. there was also the more official social media sources.

With gaps between the tweets and the date on the left, what follows is an illustration of the first four months of the footballing season.

 

In truth the removal of the obligation to care has been quite liberating.

 

 

Now is the season of our Discontent (Part One)

 

JULY

 

July 17th (Some twitter user had claimed any critics of the present regime should bugger off to be Caernarfon fans)

– It would seem that I am now no longer a true Bangor City fan, I imagine that my wife will be delighted.

 

July 19th (The Telford match had already been called off and I was indulging in sarcasm)

– To prove that I’m not as much of a false Bangor fan as I claimed I shall go to the home friendly with Telford a week on Saturday. I’m looking forward to it immensely. Can’t wait!!!!

 

July 22nd – I can’t believe it’s less than a week until Bangor City host Telford, I cannot wait.

 

July 24th – I didn’t leave Welsh football, it left me.

 

July 28th (Football PR babble masquerading as #ClumsyHashtags began to appear in official social media output) 

– On my way to the station to get the train to Bangor. It’s just like Christmas Day! #cantbeatmatchday #youjustthatcrackleofpreseasonexcitement

Train delay, oh no. I’ll have to wait a little bit longer to to feel that crackle of preseason excitement course through me as I walk past Morrison’s. #matchdayexcitementboilingtofeverpitch #delayscantbluntthegloriouscrackleofpreseasonexcitement

We’re on our way, after a delay, it’s gonna be a great preseason day! #cantbeatmatchday #cantbeatthecrackleofpreseasonmatchesinpreseasonbeforetheseasonstarts #excitement #anotherhashtag

Off the train, on the way to my first pre-season match of the pre-season and the excitement is crackling away. Walking down the Holyhead Rd to see the pre-season! #cantbeatthecrackleofpreseasoninpreseasonbeforetheseasonstarts

So I got to the ground and what do I find? The turnstiles are shut, that’s what. The main door was locked too. It’s like there is no game or something. Why weren’t we informed. I’m too disappointed for words.  #thecrackleofpreseasondissappointmentisthebestkindofdissapointment

On the upside if I rush I might make it to St Mirren v Dumbarton now  #youhavetotaketheroughwiththesmoothinpreseasonbeforetheseasonstart

Made it just in time for kick off! #dontstopbelievinginpreseasonexcitement





Things to do at the football – Part 528

30 10 2018

Here are some more books at the football.

I call this edition “Martin Keown likes reading books at the football” or “Reading at the football is the new rock and roll”

Mankell in Bethesda

Welsh at Hearts

Limmy at Celtic

Vonnegut at St. Mirren

Hobsbawm at Everton

When Saturday Comes at Barnet

Mundial Magazine at West Brom

Freud at St. Asaph

Conn at Guilsfield

Camus in Meliden

McGarvey in Prestatyn

Jennings in Denbigh

Roth in Ruthin

Cope in Chester

Rousseau in Shrewsbury

Burgess in Gresford

Boyle in Nuneaton

Orwell at Kidderminster

Orwell at Glan Conwy

Kennedy Toole in Llandudno Junction





Amusing yourself at the football part 176

31 05 2018

I’ve started taking pictures of books at the football,

Schneider at Altrincham

Bradbury at Bangor

Marx at Macclesfield

CLR James at Rhyl

Le Carré at Connah’s Quay

Levi at Alfreton Town,

Welsh at Coventry City

Zizek et al at Betws-Y-Coed

Hawking at Llanfairfechan

Joyce at Prestatyn Sports

Welsh at Old Colwyn

 

For what it’s worth I blame Nick Hornby.








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