The times they have a-changed

8 11 2015

Thirty years ago little old Bangor City strode purposely on to the Estadio Vicente Calderon turf.

By the end of the match the Northern Premier League’s finest had restricted the famous European aristos to a 1-0 victory. Bangor’s efforts were so memorable they earned a standing ovation from the very knowledgeable crowd of 20,000. The proof is below.

The home leg was only lost 2-0. Fillol was so overcome by the emotion of being the first World Cup winner to set foot on Farrar Road in competitive conditions since Bobby Charlton – a mid to late ‘70s Anglo-Italian sojourn – he went off injured.

The Bangor side of 1985 were all verve, shiny polyester and bubble perms. They were a lovely mixture of the home grown and the non-home grown.

The goal was guarded by the football geriatric Dai Davies, the defence was organised by future FA chairman Palios and the present Bangor manager, Neville Powell, did his midfield thing. Dai the drop cut short a long-planned family holiday in Corfu and underwent painkilling injections to play in Madrid. He saved a penalty in Madrid.

It wasn’t just the fact that such a match took place that lends an anachronistic air, it was the little details; A £160 two night trip organised through a local Travel Agency, scouts from Atletico Madrid scouts going to Bangor in Northern Ireland by mistake, Atletico giving a sword to Bangor as a present and Mark Cartwright being threatened with the sack if he went to Madrid (he went).

My favourite aspect of the story is the fans working together to make sure that Farrar Road complied with UEFA’s match regulations by installing fences and such like. This was a real reaction against Thatcherite mores of the time, as someone more erudite than me once explained to Eddie Butler on BBC 2.

Apparently there was lots of interest in Bangor as the European ban meant they were the last British club left in the Cup Winners’ Cup. Atletico knocked Celtic out in the last round, including a behind closed doors match at Celtic Park;

A semi-pro club a round away from a European quarter final? We’ll never see the likes of these days again. European football is now bespoke number fonts, Official Online Trading Partners and mind control by the Archbishop of Banterbury.

A prosaic cocktail has ruined my chances of seeing a European quarter final involving Bangor City; the collapse of state capitalism leading to the proliferation of Eastern European leagues populated by mercurial playmakers, Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham ruined our coefficient by refusing to do the decent thing and join the league of Wales and they stopped Welsh clubs (Bangor City mainly) playing in the European Cup for three years.

Where once the likes of Merthyr beat Atalanta and the likes of Wrexham were capable of beating Danish opposition before bowing out gracefully against Manchester United just before the quarter finals Welsh sides are now swotted like flies in every nook and cranny of the Baltic sea coast.

In a seamless 1985 transition, on the Saturday after the Madrid Wednesday Bangor City played an away match against Goole Town.

Problems with that modern football number 45 – “The silky smokescreen”

26 08 2015

When I first went to London the Underground’s massive adverts were one of my landmarks. Their gaudiness assaulted me at first but they soon developed a warmly familiar feel. There was no Imperial War Museum in the cultural hinterland of north Wales so the ads quickly faded.

As an older and theoretically wiser person I can see adverts for what they are; brightly coloured attempts at bullshitting rather than brightly coloured public art. Their only purposes are antiseptic image projection for toxic companies and the creation of demand for stuff that human evolution doesn’t require.

Nowadays multinationals place brilliant adverts in today’s underground, and everywhere else, to tell us just how tame their pet sport is.


sKY 3

sKY 4




Being the home of the premier league is a multi-media thing.

sky 8

We should all play their game and unveil blog posts that unveil our favourite #PLmoments™. I could certainly have a lovely time placing all those #PLmoments™  into a top ten as there are so many fabulous #PLmoments™  to choose from! There’s the first £1000 season ticket, there’s the first throw in that teenaged millionaires argued over, there’s Jermaine Defoe’s demand for a personal assistant. THERE’S…..PEAK……BANTER!!!!!

After much ado about literally nothing I’d probably plump for two top top top #PLmoments™. The first would be the fact that multinationals love The Banter nearly as much as their own hype.

The second would be football’s changing place in the cynicism of the mutinationals. The media conglomerate that now owns British football used to view football differently when didn’t have a product to sell.

sun 1

The Times once described football thus;

“We football fans are living in strange times. Those of us who stood on the terraces during the Dark Age — an era when football was famously summed up by this newspaper as a “slum sport played in slum stadiums increasingly watched by slum people” — feel as if we have been transported back to the bad old 1980s, to the “game that time forgot”.

The multinationals slick contempt for us should be reciprocated but their approach is tolerated.

I recently went to watch Chelsea. Before the match people were more anxious to have their photo taken with images of millionaire players advertising the products of multinational official partners than realise there was a statue of Peter Osgood behind them. In the multinational world the gloriously moribund present has as much worth as the hard earned past.


To paraphrase John Lydon, ever feel you’ve been cheated? I believe in better than this subscription funded circus.

Problem with that modern football number 44 – “Erm, which hipster club is your hipster club?”

20 08 2015

According to this quiz there are…

“…several ways to spot a football hipster; casually dropping positional nuggets such as ‘trequartista’ and ‘enganche’ into regular conversation, turning up to 5-a-side wearing a classic AC Milan shirt from 1984 or openly declaring that Giuseppe Signori was the most under-appreciated genius of his age are just a few. That leads us quite nicely on to this personality quiz aimed at letting you know just how hipster you are when it comes to your footballing tastes. You may surprise yourself.”

I did the quiz and here was my result;

Result: New York City FC

What this says about you: A newbie to the game. You have no idea what you’re doing, saying or shouting most of the time, but you know you like it. You were once overheard shouting “get in the hole!” during a World Cup game last year. You don’t live and die by your team, but whoever you support has been carefully chosen as much as a lifestyle choice as it has to do with glory-hunting.

Hipster factor: 4/10

That description was so bespoke I did the quiz again. This time the result was;

Result: Real Oviedo

What this says about you: Football is about ritual and community for you. Getting up on Saturday morning, going to the same pub before the game with the same people, cheering on your side come rain, shine or snow.

Hipster factor: 10/10

By answering three questions differently I’d gone from the most detestable specimen in football to the epitome of honour. What a foolproof personality test. Here are some of the other options I uncovered by answering in random patterns.

Result: Roma

What this says about you: Supporting a football team isn’t all about success for you. A full-time match-goer, you put your money where your mouth is when it comes to following your side up and down the breadth of the country and that makes you a knowledgeable fan on everything from the opposition’s youth-team left-back to which ground does the best bacon sarnie.

Hipster factor: 5/10

Result: Lyon

What this says about you: Not afraid to go off the beaten track somewhat when it comes to digesting your daily intake of football. You tipped Chile to win the 2015 Copa América and your all-time favourite player is Demetrio Albertini.

Hipster factor: 5/10

Result: Borussia Dortmund

What this says about you: Loyal to a fault. You enjoy life, taking it as it comes, the rough with the smooth. Friendly to strangers, welcoming to old friends. The game is as much about community and experiences as it is winning for you.

Hipster factor: 6/10

Result: St Pauli

What this says about you: A lover of how the beautiful game brings the community together: you’re the ultimate fan. You can’t think of anything better than watching your team at the weekend in a ground that allows you to stand and belt your favourite chants out for the full 90 minutes.

Hipster factor: 9/10

Result: Boca Juniors

What this says about you: Maniacally passionate. You’re never happier than when found in a corner of a pub d̶e̶b̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ranting at someone on why the role of the trequartista is a dying art in the modern game and how football has lost its ephemeral magic.

Hipster factor: 8.5/10

Result: Athletic Club

What this says about you: Gumption. Pluck. Resourcefulness. Shrewd. No, this isn’t a film noir, but these are the sort of qualities that any c̶l̶u̶b̶ person should aspire to have and you’ve got them by the bucketload. Loyalty to your neighbourhood is a given.

Hipster factor: 7/10

Result: Swansea

What this says about you: While others may have flashier jobs, more money, expensive things to show off, you’re the person people gravitate towards and want to actually hang out with.

Hipster factor: 7.5/10

Result: Ajax

What this says about you: A creative thinker, not bound by the daily grind and rigours of work. Not afraid to try new things. You definitely had a gap year and have been to Amsterdam more than 12 times before you turned 21.

Hipster factor: 5/10

I know that this sort of fluff is just a bit of fun to pass a few minutes but that doesn’t mean it should exist. Surely there are better outlets for creative energy than this clickbait.

People are never adequately described by these glib reinforcements of stereotypes. Football fans don’t generally rant – in the a corner of a pub or anywhere else – about the decline of [Insert zeitgeisty term here]. I haven’t seen anyone argue about football since I was in school.

I know loads of people that like football but I don’t know many hipsters, I’ve always known people that have vague interests in “exotic” clubs for esoteric reasons but I’m not sure they’re hipsters. I can’t say I’m a hundred percent sure about what constitutes a football hipster, I’m not sure the author is clear about the subject either. A person with a 10/10 hipster rating is described thus;

“Football is about ritual and community for you. Getting up on Saturday morning, going to the same pub before the game with the same people, cheering on your side come rain, shine or snow.” 

A person with a 4/10 hipster rating is described thus;

“You have no idea what you’re doing, saying or shouting most of the time, but you know you like it. You were once overheard shouting “get in the hole!” during a World Cup game last year. You don’t live and die by your team, but whoever you support has been carefully chosen as much as a lifestyle choice as it has to do with glory-hunting.”

Of those two descriptions the second one seems to be closer to “hipster”, seeing as a hipster’s shallow existence can be defined by the phrase “something carefully chosen as a lifestyle choice”. Besides that, Swansea, a hipster club?

If the increasingly popular conceit behind the quiz – vibrant organic football cultures tranformed into mere content providers – wasn’t bad enough the bluffers behind the quiz are Squawka. Squawka used to be the self proclaimed world’s best authority on football knowledge through the application of pseudo science but now they’re the kind of bluffers that want to branch out in to the public sector. Beware the enlightened bluffers.

Summer football 2015

19 08 2015

Airbus UK 1 NK Lokomotiva 3,
Europa League,

I was a steward, there was no trouble, a programme cost £3, I didn’t buy one.

Bangor City 0 Litherland REMYA 0,

It was sunny but we lost.


Bangor City 1 Tranmere Rovers 0,

On one hand a nice performance, on the other none of us knew who was playing for Tranmere.


Bangor City 2 Guilsfield 3,

2-0 up, 3-2 down. Johno gone. Hope left in the same taxi.


Celtic 1 FK Qarabag 0,
European Cup,

The atmosphere was great, the steps were steep.


FC United of Manchester 1 Wrexham 1,
Supporters’ Direct Cup,

I met Ian, a Wrexham fan that watches Clapton, and saw some nice Wrexham flags.


Chelsea 0 Fiorentina 1,

Hell is other people.


Queens Park 0 Annan Athletic 1,
Scottish League Division 3,

I sat on a padded seat and the fellas behind me performed an episode of Still Game for me.


FC United of Manchester 1 Stockport County 2,
Conference North,

The Stockport fans on the tram had a drum, the Stockport fans in the ground had the worst flag I’ve ever seen.


Bangor City 3 Llandudno Town 0,

Bangor’s number nine left last Saturday. Bloody hell, where did this performance come from?


FC United of Manchester 1 Tamworth 1,
Conference North,

FC should have won, cynicism is obviously the international language of semi-pro football.


To sleep, perchance to dream; aye, there’s the rub lad.

18 08 2015

Relief’s golden glow barely dimmed before May’s darling buds shook in the rough wind.

The supporters player of the season preferred nouveau riche surroundings, our club captain felt that the queen of Welsh resorts was more suitable and our talisman followed the player of the season. No one cursed the heroic trio as they both knew and understood the world.

The loss of our stellar defensive presence would have been cruel enough. We tried not to think about our loss; the silky ball control, the grace and poise under pressure, the personification of coolness. It was difficult to deal with but we managed, even though we knew we’d never sing “You’ll never beat Johno!!!” again.

We never thought the third loss would come to pass. He was one of us, a Bangor lad from Maesgeirchen, he was our force of nature, our ultimate poetry of poise, pace and power, our avatar of unrelenting positive attitude and inextinguishable spirit. He was our member of UEFA’s elite 32. We’d never feel those waves of excitement and expectation again, we’d never see that quaking fear in opposition again.

The internet nearly melted in our now incomprehensible existence. The more thoughtful saw a less vibrant life, the more voluable poured forth their once simmering “look at me” anger. Denizens of royal towns laughed as angry demands were issued and pale shadows danced through minds, the world was bleak.

On a Friday in August a football was near a line of white paint. We saw a confident pass and a subtle touch then a blur of brightly coloured footwear. Before people were able to compute what their eyes had seen the ball had connected with the cross bar and careered down over the line. The cheer will have been heard in the nearby royal town.

Slight optimism, our fickle old friend, was back. We knew there was nothing to fear in the coming months, how could we be wrong?

“The pressure of forced cheerfulness” A.K.A “How to lose twitter followers”

26 07 2015

I want to tell you a story.

And lo, this season, I mean 2015-2016 here, four brave football clubs did traverse the cut throat world of European competition and lo, there was some success.

And lo, two did progress through a round, one did lose on away goals in injury time of the second leg and the other did do a draw in Croatia.

And lo, everyone was deliriously happy with a fervour that bordered on religious fanaticism.

Sadly when some people found out about the one that did succumb to an injury time away goal they took to twitter with poison in their fingers. “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA” they tweeted.

And lo, these people were labelled childish and bitter and lost twitter followers.

….Just to reiterate at this point in the story, apart from those bitter individuals everyone was happy, deliriously happy, there’s absolutely no question about that, so don’t……..

….And lo, everyone was deliriously happy for the league was getting better exponentially and the coefficient points did increase  exponentially and the summer crowds did show that crowds were increasing exponentially.

And lo, everything in the garden was rosy and everyone was happy, deliriously happy.

And lo, a day after the glorious summer’s Indian summer the true believers looked up, through the cold autumn mist, and realised there was nothing there, apart from the temple of the successful.

And lo, they noticed that the temple looked slightly different, for there was a glinting, glittering quality that hadn’t been there before.

And lo, they inched warily forward towards the palatial building. Upon reaching it they used the tasteful alabaster and gold pillars to steady themselves and saw that the glinting glitter was the new solid gold window frames.

And lo, they looked through the windows and closely inspected the contents of the biggest room. The luxurious fixtures and fittings that they knew, loved and purchased cheap copies had been replaced by even more sumptuous luxury. They also noticed the recently improved security system.

And lo, they were no longer deliriously happy, they quickly realised they were like the lowly party member on an official tour of Ceausescu’s palace in 1982.

The one that When Saturday Comes didn’t like.

23 07 2015

A couple of months ago I entered the WSC competition for amateur football articles, needless to say I didn’t win. Here’s the rubbish what I wrote.

The Doors of Perception

What happens when your pre-conceived notions are thoroughly disproved? How do you cope? This season I found what happens when events take an unexpected turn.

Two things notable things happened to me this season; my club, Bangor City, were nearly relegated and I reconnected with the spirit of football.

During the last few summers I saw an impending season as a fantastically exciting script with a happy ending. That the improvisational skills of the actors always sullied the finely honed scripts never led me to question my methodology.

The actions of the arrogant actors forced worrying questions into my mind –“What if there’s no happy ending?” “What if they score next?” “What if we concede from this corner?” “What if Johnno slips passing the ball back to the keeper and their striker puts the ball through our keepers’ legs?” – but Bangor’s success rendered them meaningless so I carried on as normal.

Last summer’s script logically led to another perfumed garden. Our relatively inexperienced squad had earned European qualification via the playoffs, a trio of promising signings had arrived and we’d drawn European debutants, Icelandic side Stjarnan, in the Europa League. I foresaw another challenge for the top six (The Welsh Premier League’s European play-off places) or even top two (The guaranteed European places).

It turns out that the side slightly famous for their choreographed celebrations on You Tube were rather good so we experienced a hammering rather than a hotly contested tie, not even the unexpected pleasure of seeing Stuart McCall lightened the mood. Stjarnan later knocked out Motherwell and Lech Poznan before losing to Inter. Fate may have deprived me of a trip to the San Siro but the script was inexorably directing us towards another European trip.

Our first match of the season – a league cup win against Newtown – hinted at the script’s exciting story of logical progression but our first three league matches bellowed something else. Our opener saw one of our new signings, Sam Hart, earn an almost unprecedented eight match suspension for inappropriate contact with an official that had clearly simulated. Our second match saw Newtown avenge their league cup defeat and a contentious injury time penalty denied us a victory in our third match at Aberystwyth. Little did I know but a tone was being set and a script was being rewritten.

From then on logic made way for the quirks of fate, everything that could go wrong did. Victories became draws, draws became defeats, luck deserted, confidence evaporated, the ball bobbled at the wrong time and bounced in the wrong place, our keeper fumbled, dropped crosses and threw the ball to the opposition, the mishit clearances of our defenders deflected exactly into the running gait of unmarked strikers through on goal, even floodlights failed as we were winning.

By the end of October we were adrift. Bangor City the conquerors of Napoli, the only unbeaten Welsh side at Wembley, the coolest side in the Welsh Premier League, were rock bottom of the league and looking up wistfully, we used to beat those clubs. It was inexplicable.

In the midst of communal despair hope wafted when we won our first league match in Carmarthen on November 1st. The relief was so intoxicating the only detail of our homeward journey I’m able to recall is a happy fug of excited chatter about closing gaps and the pungent aroma of beef flavoured Hula Hoops. Naturally we had to wait nearly two months for our next win. By the end of November familiar shrugs were exchanged in Nantporth’s car park. Resignation reigned.

During the dank winter a mishit shot ricocheted off the perimeter wall and I experienced a Proustian episode. The questions from the carefree sunny days returned. I had always feared the mystery that shrouded the possible answers but now I was in the heart of the mystery I saw nothing to fear. The fact that Bangor had lost two thirds of their matches didn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme. The world was still spinning, we still enlivened matches with gallows humour and Chinese food was still freely available.

The penny finally dropped. I had been looking at things from the wrong perspective. My season mapping scripts were pointless. I should have just gone with the flow. I realised that I had been reconnected to the spirit of football, I thanked the power that had thrust failure towards me.

A few parallel processes reinforced my desire to reconnect with carefree football. Firstly being guided by circumstance meant that our terrible season suddenly felt less stressful. Nervous tension, caused by the pursuit of UEFA’s prize money, was a terrible by-product of the scripted seasons. We didn’t go in for financial doping at Bangor so the gold at the end of my script’s rainbow was our ticket to happiness. If we qualified for Europe we’d have no worries, we’d keep the same players. The trouble was that both the inevitable glory that we alone deserved and the slight mistake that would rob us of it were both tantalisingly in sight at all times. This tightrope meant stress.

Now that we were out of running for everything apart from relegation nothing else could go wrong and there was nothing to get stressed about. I could be feel normal again, I could just turn up and accept what was going to happen without worrying. Everything was relaxed and refreshing, what a sense of liberation!

Secondly, the stupefying structure of the WPL made our possible relegation look positively appealing. If the world’s most optimistically serene philosopher studied the WPL they would instantly become a cynical pessimist. Not only had familiarity bred contempt – in 2013/2014 Bangor played Rhyl seven times – the riches of our perennial champions prevented the light relief of success easing the monotony. Concrete plans about an artificial pitch revolution and annoying rumours about a switch to summer football hardly helped one’s joie de vivre. Relegation enticed me with the promise of trips to the exotic corners of mid and north Wales I’d never considered visiting.

Lastly, the social media bubble did its thing. Society may have been introduced to the concept of the reality distorting social media bubble in the aftermath of May’s general election but we had our own last autumn. The style will be familiar; uncaring players, lost dressing rooms, a board requiring instant removal and nothing being good enough. I was also annoyed by our position but we couldn’t change results

Where others saw ineptitude I saw fate dealing bad hands, months earlier the same squad had earned European qualification months earlier so hope seemed to be a better outlook. Criticism has never come easily to me and I find it especially difficult to criticise people that are better than me at something; WPL players are certainly better at football than me. When these four ideas combined I remembered that a true appreciation of the good times only comes from an experience of the bad times.

Anyway, back to our season. We eventually stopped floating helplessly just before Christmas when we managed to string a couple of unbeaten matches together. After Christmas we managed to string a couple of victories together, then construct an unbeaten run. If there was a single turning point it probably came in the fourth match of the season against Cefn Druids in February. We were 2-0 down after 20 minutes but ending up winning 5-3.

Several factors combined to lead us to safety; a new assistant manager arrived, the right January signings were made and we took points off all the teams around us. We were safe on the pitch with April’s away win in Prestatyn, by the time we cleared up the licensing issue we were totally safe from the Cymru Alliance.

Roughly five minutes after the final whistle of the Prestatyn match the sun moved from behind the clouds, the symbolism of feeling the sun’s warmth after a cloudy period wasn’t lost on me. Our steps leaving Bastion Gardens felt noticeably lighter but this feeling probably related more to relief than celebration. I was so happy I forgot about our cancelled tour of untouched north Wales.

This season we had seen a fantastic turnaround that was every bit as captivating as a season ending in Europe. To emphasise just how fantastic the turnaround here are some simple facts. Before December’s Prestatyn match things were ominous, we were stuck fast to the bottom, nine points from safety and five behind Prestatyn, the club above us. By the end of the season we were as close to the European play-offs (seventh place) as to relegation.

I don’t know whether my change of emphasis caused Bangor’s change in fortune, I have no scientific proof, but I was definitely able to deal with events with a carefree stoicism. This season may have been the one that no-one wanted but it was the one we all needed. Everyone needed to experience the bad times in order to truly appreciate the good times. Needless to say there won’t be a script next season.

You can’t blame them for picking something else.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,001 other followers

%d bloggers like this: