Hats off to Nev!!!!!

20 11 2017

North Wales is one of Britain’s backwaters. It’s the sort of place that only appears on the news when something really bad happens or there’s a quirky little human interest story about animals.

It’s the sort of place that people move away from when stardom or employment beckons, the sort of place to which you return once a year or once stardom wanes. You can’t help where you’re born can you?

What’s that?

You had a lovely month one night in north Wales. Very good, I’m sorry you’ll have to speak up……..What’s that?

North Wales is the kind of place that grows on you? ……..Like mould?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, very funny. I bow to your comedic ability……..What’s that?……..

Oh aye, oh aye, I know you’re only joking, I know it’s lovely, blah blah blah blah.

Mate, mate maaaaaaate I don’t care what you think because I like living in north Wales. I don’t care if there’s a bright centre to the galaxy and north Wales is the furthest point from it, I’ve got books and I like the rain.

Anyway Neville Southall was different, he stayed in north Wales. Even after he won all of those medals as one of the best goalkeepers in Europe he continued to live in the town where he grew up.

Nev, son of Llandudno, has garnered much recent attention with his twitter output of skeleton related whimsy and scathing assessments of the government policy.

It’s been an unexpurgated joy to read the social media output that if it were a stick of rock sold from a kiosk on Llandudno Pier would have “I Think Like This Because I’m From Llandudno” running through the middle of it. It was clear that the ex-goalkeeper had his finger firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist so naturally blog articles followed.

It was nice to see articles but some of us knew they were lacking that certain je ne sais quoi. Well I say that but we knew exactly what they lacked, a sense of Llandudno. It was quite obvious that none of the authors had actually lived upon the mean streets of the Queen of Welsh resorts, or walked upon Ysgol John Bright’s waxed parquet flooring, or stood upon Llandudno’s West Shore and watched the sun set behind Anglesey, or personally encountered Nev.

I encountered him on two occasions, the first was when he presented the Llandudno under 12s with our runner up medal in the league cup. I may have been a non-playing reserve but it remains my one piece of football silverware, my one piece of football glory. I treasure the silver plastic and marble effect base. I like to think that the North Wales Coast FA were ahead of their time by awarding an entire squad with medals. As an added memento Nev autographed the back of my commemorative team photo.

The second encounter happened on the afternoon I nearly pushed my bike into him as he came out of our local post office. His sportswear told me that he was in a post-training mood. I was slightly star struck so I only managed to say was “Sorry!!”. On the way home I realised that I may have been the only person that had interacted with a world class sportsman at that precise time on planet Earth.

There are plenty of reasons to respect Nev. Firstly his famous job, he was a bone fide famous name in my Shoot and Match influenced milleu. He wasn’t just part of teams that were relatively successful, Everton during one of their most successful periods and a Wales side that was doing alright without actually qualifying, he was the last goalkeeper to be awarded the title Footballer Of The Year.

Whenever I think of Nev I see someone holding the Cup Winners’ Cup in red le coq sportif, or someone poised in Everton’s 1989 dark green umbro, or someone standing resolute in the shiny polyester of Wales, either light blue hummel or green umbro. Sometimes he’s holding a ball and sometimes he isn’t.

His feats for Wales were as clear as the azure blue of deepest summer. Without his skill we may not have beaten Germany in 1991 but one of his finest performance was during the 7-1 away defeat in Holland, if he hadn’t have played so well Wales could have conceded another 5 goals, I type that without a hint of hyperbole. Aside from Hagi’s long range effort I struggle to remember any mistakes but the perfectionist called Nev would remember every footstep or glove out of place.

Goalkeeping is a difficult skill to master and unless you’ve played in goal you can’t really appreciate just how difficult it is to play in goal. It took me a sixteen year apprenticeship as a mistake rectifying defender recreational / six-a-side league football to graduate to the position of goalkeeper.

As a fellow goalkeeper I can appreciate just how fantastically skilled Nev and most other professional goalkeepers are. Quite a few people, even me, can score screamers if they and a football connect properly but not everybody can make a reaction save or get their hands to a ball that’s heading to the top corner.

It is incredibly difficult to pull off flying saves. You have to co-ordinate your range of movement, strength and agility to spring through the air to meet a fast moving target with split second timing. Top goalkeepers make this look easy but when was the last time you tried to jump for anything let alone do so acrobatically?

The next time you’re in a room with windows try to imagine diving from one side of the window to the other and still be in control of your moment, remain aware of your surroundings and land safely. Do you think that you would be able to react quickly if you had to attempt a similar feat within seconds? There too many occasions to mention when Nev performed highly skilled goalkeeping heroics of this nature.

I also like his style of rugged individualism. Sometimes he wore two shirts, he was one of the first keepers I saw in padded shorts (unless my memory is playing tricks and it was Mark Crossley). I remember the time he left the half time dressing room early to crouching against the post until the rest of his Everton teammates returned to the pitch. He was the only player that’s provided a pre-Cup Final interview whilst sitting on the Orme. I remember the swell of pride as I realised where he was.

I liked the way Nev came straight back to Llandudno after the 1995 FA Cup Final, he was a man after my own heart. No flannel, no unnecessary pandering. Who doesn’t secretly yearn to be their own person? To be dependable yet aloof, to be the someone that everyone knows will get the job done when required. Not everybody wants to be the life and soul of the party, anybody can tell a joke and YAP YAP YAP but can they be relied upon?

I sense I would like Nev’s sense of humour. I can see Llandudno in Nev’s withering putdowns he once directed at Michael Owen when Owen sought to ridicule a young goalkeeper in front of television cameras. The Llandudno that I grew up in taught people to remain humble rather than show off, there’s a lot to be said for bluff sarcasm as a tool for mental development. I’m sure other places were similar at the time, there was no such thing as a you tuber when I had the world at my feet.

The best piece of evidence that suggests we should respect Nev is a career path less travelled by professional sportsmen. As we all know Nev once worked for the council but he now works in a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU).

If you’ve never heard of PRUs they are the sector of the education system that deals with the learners that have trouble adjusting to mainstream education. Wikipedia describes such learners like this; They have “Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, (feel) exasperated by unsettled domestic situations, (with) a propensity towards criminal behaviour, bullying, or (conversely) having been the victim of bullying.”

As you can imagine the working conditions in a PRU can be quite challenging in comparison to mainstream schools, but they can also be very rewarding as you attempt to help young people negotiate their way through life. No child deserves to be written off. It’s fantastic that Nev has chosen to work in a place like that.

Therefore when Nev tweets about the pernicious effects of Tory party policy he is not applying the reedy voice of a lefty snowflake but the cold analytical eye of personal experience. Three cheers for Neville Southall.

VIVA NEV!

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Some Summer Photos

5 09 2017

I’ve been to some matches this summer.





Yet more of the photos what I’ve taken

25 12 2016

This is the final part of a five part festive trilogy.

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The one that When Saturday Comes didn’t like – 2016 Edition.

13 06 2016

Last month I entered the WSC competition for football articles written by amateur writters, needless to say I didn’t win again.

Here’s the rubbish what I wrote this time, now with added photos!

La Dolce Vita

How a hopeful email led to an unexpected reconnection with happiness via the fulfilment of a long forgotten ambition in an Italian port.

The banter bus and the rapacious exploitation of football had reduced me to the annoyed cynical husk of a football fan by the start of February 2016. A few days into the month I was briefly freed from world weary prejudgement by the fulfilment of my long forgotten ambition of visiting Serie A.

The undeniable exotica of Italian football has long exerted a pull on me. A potent mixture of World Soccer team groups, Simon Inglis’ Football Grounds of Europe, Italia ’90 and S4C’s Sgorio stirred my imagination and the apparent jet set world of Channel 4’s James Richardson inspired me to go out there. I longed to see the cubic terracotta lines of Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris at first hand.

I finally made it to Italy when Wales played in Milan in 2003. When I saw the mythical San Siro through our coach windows I could barely contain myself. When we set foot outside the ground I was presented with an area pockmarked by crumbling tramlines and a pervading atmosphere of menace. There was fascist graffiti in the toilets, the home fans threw stuff at us and Wales lost 4-0. It was a deflating and dispiriting experience.

It would take fate over a decade to present me with another calcio opportunity in the shape of February’s work-related trip to La Spezia. Just after Andy and I arrived in the charming northern Italian port we realised two things; our free evening coincided with Sampdoria’s home match with Torino and Genoa was only around the metaphorical corner. After years of unconscious suppression my long forgotten desire bubbled to the surface. I sent an email to Sampdoria’s ticket office without the expectation of receiving a reply.

I received a personal reply, written in English, within twelve hours and my well-worn cynicism started to crack. It turned out that buying tickets in Italy was easy. We could just turn up at the ground and buy one or buy one from the betting shop / bar near our hotel. We only needed our passports rather than ticket accounts, passwords or buying histories.

The simple act of going to buy tickets also put a spring in my step. Andy, Serdal and I strolled across La Spezia’s sun-dappled piazzas and along its orange tree lined streets towards the crowded betting shop / bar. I was persuaded out of buying the cheaper terrace tickets so we bought seated tickets for the equivalent of £22 instead. I was now going to a Serie A match and I was beyond elated.

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The train journey to Genoa was also soul-affirming. My coastal train journeys always involve a cheerful reverie but this was even better, everything outside our windows was a sun-enhanced vista of breathtaking beauty. It was clear why Cinque Terre and Liguria had influenced Shelley and Byron.

When we arrived I was adrift in a sea of giddiness. I already felt the excitement of an impending match in a new ground but now we were also surrounded by evocative architecture and fantastic public art like the Christopher Columbus monument near Principe Station.

As we walked I enjoyed our immersion in a viscerally intoxicating culture of hidden ornate chapels, political graffiti battles and an evident eventful history. Not even the joy deadening opinions of Alan Green or Robbie Savage could have blunted the joie de vivre that was coursing through me.

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The tourist information office confirmed that we were meandering in the right direction and that we’d be able to catch the post-match train from Brignole, Genoa’s other main station. They furnished us with a map and directions. We had to turn left at a big fountain and walk towards Brignole via a long street with ornate archways. I’m the kind of guy that loves to take everything in when they’re on an unhurried stroll past neon signs that remind you of famous films.

We were enveloped by the familiar football throng near Brignole. In the under station subway the political graffiti battle had cross-fertilised with football thanks to Genoa’s anti-fascist fans. It took about ten minutes of excited shuffling before we saw the ground’s floodlight haze and cubic outline from across the dry river.

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A short break seemed very apt so we stopped for a coffee and a chat. The bar was very civilised, a family owned place filled by families of Sampdoria fans. I basked in the warmth of it all. People seemed to sense we were visitors in search of a memorable evening and we left for the ground with “Grazie” in surround sound.

The trip was turning out exactly as I hoped. Groups of friends crowded tiny bars, young fans carried giant banners around and scooters were everywhere. The fans had a certain way of carrying themselves with a certain attitude and a certain way of wearing scarves. After I bought one of those scarves we headed towards our seats via two ticket and passport checks.

I excitedly approached the entrance to the terrace and the inimitable moment that a football lover waits for; the first view of the pitch in a ground they’ve never visited. What a glorious sight! That fact I was standing in the location where Scotland beat Sweden and Ireland beat Romania a quarter of a century earlier probably wouldn’t mean anything to most people but it meant something to me.

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They say that the anticipation is often better than the event but it wasn’t true today. Our seats appeared to be in the family section but this wasn’t a bad thing. We had a great view from the fourth row and we were surrounded by the most charming Genovese you could ever hope to meet. They not only helped us negotiate our way to our seats they wiped them before we sat down.

Our new friends were particularly taken with Serdal’s new Bangor City scarf (a present from me). “Ah Galles…….Bale!” they said approvingly. I didn’t know what I was hearing during the match, it could have been the same generic drivel I normally hear, but I didn’t care. It sounded charming and I was in a ground I’d always wanted to visit.

The ground wore a fantastic lived in look. The pitchside glass fences were one of the things I’d noticed in Italia ’90 and I worried that they’d be view obstructing but they weren’t. Legroom was at a premium but an empty row in front allowed us drape room, amazingly a steward didn’t threaten to chuck us out.

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There was a social feel to everything, unaccompanied children ran around and friends warmly greeted each other as they wandered. At no point did a steward intervene with curt directions. I could get used to a matchgoing experience like this!

When you consider stellar names like Mancini, Vialli, Pagluica, Gullit and Veron have played for Sampdoria I could’ve been disappointed that I only recognised three names in either squad – Sampdoria’s Quagliarella and Cassano, Torino’s Immobile – but I wasn’t. The past is a different country and other televisual markets are now more lucrative. This background knowledge didn’t alter my small taste of Serie A, I was enjoying myself too much.

The match was as expected anyway; the players displayed good touches and the defences were comfortable on the ball. Most of the play was down our touchline so I was able to see the pattern of play quite easily. We saw two goals before we left but neither were classics.

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The fans were good value. This may have been a run of the mill bottom half of the table contest on a warmish February evening but the teeth rattling fireworks of Sampdoria’s Ultras meant that it the first match where I literally felt the atmosphere. Perhaps it had been a good idea to avoid the terrace.

We left ten minutes before the final whistle to be sure about catching our train. After a few vague directions from the bloke on the gate we made it to the deserted yet scooter infested pavements. We heard a large roar that suggested a late Sampdoria winner and a second muffled roar that suggested something else; a disallowed goal? A bad foul? A Torino goal?

We made it to Brignole with about ten minutes to spare but our train was delayed anyway. I lamented our now misguided desire to leave the match early. Judging by the demeanour of the Sampdoria fans that arrived after us the muffled roar had been caused by a Torino equaliser. A bearded gentleman ranted at me but I smiled the international language of agreement and he left me alone.

As the train progressed towards La Spezia I felt an almost spiritual sense of well-being. Not only had I fulfilled an ambition, my cynicism had lessened and I knew that another way was possible. I had paid roughly £22 to watch a match whilst surrounded by decent people in an architecturally beautiful ground in one of Europe’s famous leagues. Why couldn’t football feel like this more often?

 





Stickers here, stickers there, stickers every blooming where.

5 03 2015

As already noted the Jet Set see a sticker album with loads of missing stickers where others see an urban landscape.

We’ve been abroad recently so there’s been a few updates of our sister site, updates like this one.

Feb 13 069Here’s a few of our favourites.

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The “Bag of programmes tombola style game” Part 2

25 08 2014

Whilst playing the “Bag of programmes tombola style game” you may also see some interesting front covers.

From a stylistic point of view you can see Kilcline looking fine or Leeds in short shorts……

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From an aerobic point of view you can see pictures of training sessions……

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From a starstruck point of view you can see celebrities……

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From another stylistic point of view you can see interesting attire……

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Cutting ties, that’ll be the Crazy Gang.

More discoveries to follow………….





It’s amazing what you find in the carrier bags left in club shops, part 2

31 10 2013

The week after I found the green carrier bags someone came in the club shop and handed me a bag of programmes. There were a couple of interesting Perestroika-tinged examples inside.

One featured an interesting juxtaposition of comradeship….

(Click on the photos to enlarge them)

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…the thoughts of Chairman Edwards….

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…adverts for Manchester United…

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…and a “Pre-Match Penalty Competition Involving 100 Schoolchildren”

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The other example was an Ipswich programme that made a more direct link between football and Perestroika;

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The girl in the picture grew up to be Britain’s number 1 female tennis player.

There was a commemorative reproduction of an FA Cup programme from 1939 in the middle. Back then things were more charming, the adverts were charming – Actually, baring in mind the second world war was eight months away the last advert feels slightly less charming -;

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and the stories about the empire were more charming;

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Incidentally, I found a charming thing in the modern part of the Ipswich; half a portrait of Gavin Johnson with an adidas Azteca. The image transported me back to happier childhood times.

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