Museum Review Number 2 – National Football Museum, Manchester

4 01 2013

I went to Manchester on Wednesday. I had to go, I wanted a certain sort of t-shirt, some DVDs of films in a foreign language and a Fry & Laurie boxset. As I typed the last sentence I realised that it wasn’t just a shopping list, it’s a director’s commentary on the thrill-a-minute life of the Jet Set.

The trip to Manchester also offered the chance to revisit the National Football Musuem. Even though I didn’t stay long in the museum, I only wanted to buy something from the gift shop, my mini visit reminded me that there are several reasons to visit the musuem;

1. The chance to buy stuff from the gift shop

Particularly paper copies of A Fine Lung.

2. The Bangor City connection

When I went to the museum in the summer the staff were very interested to find out which club I supported. I said “Bangor City” and followed this up with the quickfire “I don’t suppose you have anything related Bangor related in the museum?”“Erm, I think there are some Swansea and Cardiff bits” came the reply. I thought about asking why there wasn’t a “Bangor City in Europe” display case but I just accepted the fairly understandable reply.

Imagine my surprise when I reached the section dedicated to Wigan’s rise from the Northern Premier League to the sky premier league. The display contained a home programme from Wigan’s last season in non-league football, Wigan’s opponents were Bangor City.

“Effing Massive Shock” doesn’t do justice to the experience I had when I was in the “football for all” section on the third floor; a photo of Les Davies appeared on a flatscreen TV. I stared open-mouthed at the changing display for several minutes, I hoped that another view of the “Giant in Blue” would disprove my incredulity. Incredibly the changing display not only featured Les, there was a benchful of Bangor subs, our manager Nev Powell, our captain Brewie and our ex-players Craig Garside and Mike Walsh.

The changing display was still there on Wednesday.

3. The exhibition of Stuart Roy Clarkes’s photos on the top floor

A photo is wont to capture the period at which they were taken but Clarke’s photos do more than just represent a moment of reality. His photos immerse you in football culture; the terraces, the colours, the smells, the calming ordinariness of people standing in queues.

Several photos captured the moments that are pregnant with promise;  the millisecond before expectancy becomes disappointment. Other photos, like the one featuring a clothes line of identical shirts in a garden, showed football’s often unobtrusive part in the fabric of British society. This is a wonderful example of Clarke’s work;


In a word, go to the National Football Musuem so you can see rather lovely photos on its top floor.

4. The artefacts

The wonderful artefacts included; one of the balls from the first world cup final; the European Cup Winners’ Cup; the shirts of Matthews, Maradona,  Di Stefano,  Law and a Hungarian from 1953; LS Lowry’s famous painting and Howard Webb’s refereeing kit from the 2010 world cup final. It was wonderful to be so close to so many significant artefacts from football’s history. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it was humbling to be near there such things but it did make you stop and think.

I know some people will scoff when they hear of a national football museum, I know that elitist wankers will wonder why our society needs musuems dedicated to facile subjects. We shouldn’t listen to these wanky snobs. A museum is there to preserve culture and social history is as worthy of preservation as anything else. Football may not have been part of civilisation’s high-brow culture since the late 19th century but it’s still a valid part of British social history.

I’d go further by arguing that the artefacts in the National Football Museum have more significance for people than some of the artefacts in more famous, or more worthy, museums.  For example the British Musuem may have a priceless “Pair of vases painted in the encaustic technique”  and the Victoria and Albert Musuem may house “the greatest and most comprehensive collection of Ceramics in the world” but this is the banal side of history, anyone with enough money could have owned the ceramic objects on display in either museum. Even the Roman artefacts in the British Musuem are mostly everyday items.

On the other hand most of the artefacts in the National Football Musuem were owned or worn by people who did significant things in football matches and those matches could have been watched simultaneously by 100s of millions of people. It would have been impossible for a sizeable percentage of the earth’s population to view most of the artefacts in the worthier museums simultaneously. You know, what’s so great about the Rosetta Stone anyway?




One response

10 01 2013

Should have kept it in Preston though.

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