Tories are humans, don’t you know

31 08 2017

Last week a Labour MP made the grave mistake of saying that the Tories were enemies.

“You can’t say that!” they said. “That’s not the way to do it!” they said. “Tories are humans too!” they said. “We need to work with them.” they said. “By using “Enemies” and “Evil” you’re using the language of dictatorships” they said.

Thatcher may have once labelled the Miners as “The Enemy Within”  but “That’s by the by” they say. “That’s totally different from the point I’m trying to make, that’s not the point OK!” they say.

“You’re deliberately misunderstanding the point that I’m trying to make” they say. “Communism is worse than the other thing” they say. “When you’re left-wing you’re naturally against freedom.” they say. “Come now you must realise that the freedom to employ someone for no pay is very important in our society.” they hint.

Yesterday there was this article from The Times with a really lovely twitter headline; “Leftwingers boasting that they’d never kiss a Tory are blind to the intolerance of their own ideology.” said the headline. The pithy putdown within the tweet’s screenshot really sold it to me; “The Misunderstanding, that Tories are like Mr. Burns out of the Simpsons, is quite frustrating” I looked forward to many more philosophical highlights. This is just the job to that save my soul thought I.

Alas, alas, alas, the paywall prevented self-re-education. There was me ready to let the article to educate myself out being critical of the Tory point of view when the paywall prevented me. Capitalism ruining education, oh dear, how sad. Mr. Burns would never act like that! I’m sure there’s an ironic quality to my situation but I can’t be arsed to search for it.

I suspect the subtext is “I KNOW WE LOOK INTOLERANT, BUT YOU’RE JUST AS INTOLERANT SO THERE.” It would seem that Leftwingers are too busy protesting about governments making deals with the governments that allow dictators and concentration camps to notice that they actually really like dictators and concentration camps after all, and that’s just the ones I know!

The strangest thing is that both Labour people and Conservative people seem to value a decent health service, secure employment opportunities and good quality roads, and that’s just the one I know!

Anyway to return to the main thrust of this post, when it comes down to it, in the final analysis, at the end of the day, not to put too fine a point on it, how can you not look down on the Tories? They have chosen to plump for a heartless outlook on life, the one that puts their own interests ahead of everyone else’s.

I’ve found that there are only two possible responses when you’re confronted with a Tory; pity them and wonder how life has made someone so bitter or pity them and wonder how life has made someone so heartless.

No offence, I’m just saying it like it is. That’s what gets you a media profile these days. It’s just banter, or something. I’m just a bitter banter bandit.

Here are some reasons why we should look down on Tories.

1. Their Outlook

Let’s call it”Selfish Misanthropic Pettiness”. They’re always moaning about something as if they’re personally inconvenienced.

“You can’t build that here!”

“Who’s paying for these so-called refugees to use MY municipal sports facilities?”

“When are we getting rid of the NHS? I’m sick of paying for Communism.”

“How can you trust a pacifist with his hands on the Nuclear trigger?”

“You’re objecting to Zero Hours contracts? What about students, single mums and fraudulent benefit claimants?”

“You can’t tell me there aren’t Fraudulent Benefit Claimants. I know hundreds. You see them all with their yellow three wheeled vans, solid gold cuff links and investment portfolios on the Future Market.”

Mention “solidarity” to them and you’ll hear contempt, rephrase the idea as “people sticking up for themselves and their fellow workers” and you’ll hear disdain. Mention “Labour” and you’ll here the word tax. Mention “tax” and you’ll hear about asylum seekers. Mention “unions” and you’d hear the fevered imaginings of Reggie Perrin’s brother in law verbatim. Mention “the environment” and you’ll hear about hoaxes. There’s a pat answer for everything.

If you press Tories they never seem able to fully explain why it’s fine that we should live in a society that seems not to care about its citizens. “That’s the way things are, what can I do?” they’ll say. You can almost hear the moral justification “It’s not me, I’m nice. I don’t hate other people. I only vote Tory for blah blah blah.” The moral triumph of selfishness has absolutely nothing to do with them and their decision to vote for a party with selfishness at its core. Who can argue with that?

2. Their Smugness

This tends to afflict the politicians rather than the supporters.

We’ve all seen the Tories on TV with their Tory faces. If you’re not sure who I mean they’ll be the ones refusing to answer questions with a Tory face. They’ll be the ones diverting attention to opponents with a Tory Face. They’ll be the ones with smiling lips on a Tory face, a smile with all the self-assurance that a human can humanly display.

Even when they’re delivering a policy that’s patently bad or inhumane they’ll be smiling that Tory smile from a Tory face. Forget the words, forget the clear implication of the policy you have just heard just look at that self-assured Tory smile from a self-assured Tory face, dig those soothing  waves of self-belief! They simply couldn’t be wrong.

The Brexit shambles is the ultimate example of self-assuredness. A vote meant to heal a rift in the Tory party, one side saying “It’ll be fine, we’ll just save money for the NHS”. the other not really caring because they had other jobs on the horizon. Now “everything is fine” they say.”We’ll get what we want” they say. “There’s absolutely nothing complicated in the process whatever” they say.

You don’t need to be Jeff Stelling to see that this process will be the biggest self-inflicted political mess in modern British history. “It’ll be worth when we have those blue passports” they say with self-assurance, even if you and I won’t be able to afford to use one in the future.

Tories continually find new ways justifications for their noxious outpourings, Labour have a Momentum so the Tories have decided to get themselves an Activate. Imagine those cool cats at Tory HQ; “Let’s make selfishness hip for squares daddio!!! Let’s start with cultural re-education camps for council tenants.”

If you manage to press these people they never seem able to fully explain why it’s fine that we should live in a society that seems not to care about its citizens. “That’s the way things are, what can I do?” they’ll say. You can almost hear the moral justification “It’s not me, I’m nice. I don’t hate other people. I’m only a Tory politician because blah blah blah.” The moral triumph of selfishness has absolutely nothing to do with them and their decision to stand for a party with selfishness at its core. Who can argue with that?

3. They imposed the market economy upon us.

Forty years ago Tories decided that Hayek had all the answers because the Unions had ALL the power in Britain. Pinochet had shown the way. “Such a lovely chap, doing a first rate job with his economy dear boy.” they said.

Twenty five years ago Francis Fukuyama pronounced The End of History. There’s no debate. “The Market Economy Is King!” they said.

Today we have Austerity.

The thread linking all three periods is Gordon Gekko’s bastardised ideology; “Greed Is Good, Who cares if people have to re-apply for their jobs.” 

“We simply cannot challenge this state of affairs.” they say.

“There’s the trickle down goodness.” they say.

I felt my first splashes on a summer job about 17 years ago, when our boss came splashing around one clear morning. The factory had been taken over since my previous summer of service, the family owned business was now part of a corporate family.

The upbeat chap was a head honcho type that had deigned to pop down and speak to us;

“We’re all in this together” he said.

Needless to say we were still waiting for the pay rise to management levels by the time I left in the September. I’m quite sure the noble thought was definitely there however.

It might be obvious that unfettered capitalism is not useful for societal happiness because it’s only useful for helping one sector of society screw the rest over, but what does that matter? Some Tories may concede that universal happiness under capitalism is impossible because it’s not designed for everybody to “strike it rich” but what does that matter?

“Market Capitalism is the bestest system for us.” they say.”Don’t worry Market Capitalism is still the bestest system for developing an equal society” they say. “Market Capitalism is simply amazing” they say. “Marx has nothing to say” they say.

Marx should be silenced even though his 170 year old criticisms of capitalism still hold water. Market capitalism still hasn’t solved the issues linked to the disparity of wealth. But then what does that matter?

In the 1980s we were told to take up cycling to help the economy. There were problems but they were all our fault, and riding a bike would help profoundly. “It’s your fault that businesses are laying people off” they said. “It’s all due to YOUR lack of competitiveness” they said. “It’s all due to YOUR lack of productivity” they said. “It’s all due to YOUR Union Barons” they said. “Go and ride a bike, it’s the best, most helpful thing you can do, to help yourself out of the hole your fecklessness has made” they said.

It wasn’t the bosses, the rich, the Bourgeoisie at all. There wasn’t anyone trying to take advantage of the situation to earn a profit. It was our fault, all our fault. We just had to get to take up cycling and sort it out.

I remember that they didn’t like people fighting for their jobs, “That’s evil militancy” they said. “There’s nothing worse than fighting for your right to work in a job that you want to work in” they said. “It’s much better to ride a bike to another unspecified job.” they said. It was easier to make people redundant and moan about feckless shirkers being unemployed than try and do something different, they hinted.

They privatised the inefficient nationalised industries, which were then streamlined because they were overmanned. This was the code that made people like my Dad redundant.

I fear that I may have given the wrong impression about the decade. It wasn’t bad for everyone. The bike riding advice didn’t apply to government ministers. Years after he demanded that people take up cycling Norman “Cycling Proficiency For Unemployed Scumbags” Tebbitt was offered a directorship of the privatised industry that made my Dad redundant.

There was nothing fishy in the fact he became a director of the privatised industry that had been created by his government, nothing fishy at all. “It’s just the time we live in.” they said, “Yes but this is all ancient history now, it’s not relevant now!” they say.

They have a point, the attitudes of the 1980s are no longer relevant, the attitudes have massively changed, they’re hugely different, so bigly different you can’t believe. Recently Norman “Cycling Proficiency For Unemployed Scumbags” Tebbitt said  Make young unemployed pull up ragwort for benefits”.

The unemployed are already forced into using every spare nanosecond looking for work, visiting potential employers and distributing CVs, Yes without the threat of benefit sanctions the feckless wasters would never try and end the dispiriting situation they detest under their own steam, they hint. Never mind, let’s make them do unpaid labour on top. That’s the only way to encourage a sense of dignity, that is.

Today the Tories label their awful ideology with the softness of the word austerity. Needless to stay, it’s the same old rubbish. It would be bad enough if it was more of the same but they appear to be going further. There are so many examples that we could use to condemn Austerity but let us limit criticism to two facts; it’s forced hundreds of thousands into penury and it’s been used as an excuse to hollow out the remaining vestiges of our Post-WW2 settlement.

“I, Daniel Blake is just Marxist propaganda that Pravda would be ashamed to use!” they said. “I, Daniel Blake doesn’t ring true.” they said. Anyone would think that people didn’t like having a spotlight thrown on the logical outcome of our government’s dehumanising policies.

I suppose if you were being charitable you could say that the government is only motivating people, and who doesn’t need that little bit of extra motivation to accept precious zero hours jobs. “What’s wrong with Zero Hours Jobs? You’re just anti-working class you are.” they’ll say. “See you, yes you, the working classes, zero hours jobs are all you lot deserve, and what’s wrong with that, it’s called progress.” they’ll say.

The creators of austerity never seem able to fully explain why it’s fine that we should live in a society that seems not to care about its citizens. “That’s the way things are, what can I do?” they’ll say. You can almost hear the moral justification “It’s not me, I’m nice. I don’t hate other people. I only formulate Tory policy for blah blah blah.” The moral triumph of selfishness has absolutely nothing to do with them and their decision to formulate policy for a party with selfishness at its core. Who can argue with that?

The “Centrists” eh! “You can’t look down on a Tory you’ve got to help them to help us.” they say. “You can’t nationalise the railways!” they say. It’s fine to be a centrist when there’s a left-oriented consensus, as in 1945-’79, but we’ve had a right-oriented consensus for the last 40 years. How do they suggest that we meet Austerity halfway? Capitulation to the market economy isn’t a noble position.

“Centrists” don’t mind stuff, except when people say “nasty wasty fings” about the effect of Conservative policy, or the Conservatives that enacted such disgusting policies. Mind you they never seem able to fully explain why it’s fine that we should live in a society that seems not to care about its citizens. “That’s the way things are, what can I do?” they’ll say. You can almost hear the moral justification “It’s not me, I’m nice. I don’t hate other people. I only tolerate the Tories for blah blah blah.” The continuing moral triumph of selfishness has absolutely nothing to do with them and their decision to tolerate a party with selfishness at its core. Who can argue with that?

We cannot meet market capitalism halfway and hope for a better outcome, it will always win. The market is not an abstraction, it is a living breathing collection of individuals making calculated decisions based on self-interest. Those decisions could be focused towards people but they’re not, their focused towards the pursuit of profit.

The best way to improve matters would be to change the economic system for something more humane. We can control the economy, the economy doesn’t have to control us. The last move from a less humane economic system (laissez-faire) to a more humane economic system (Keynesianism) required the trigger factor of the Second World War’s death and destruction. What will it take to achieve change this time?

Change is not impossible, we only need humans to think of the greater good and make some decisions. That’s not as fanciful, or wishy washy, as it seems. People continually make decisions throughout a day. If people decided to change our society’s priorities after World War Two we can make a similar choice today.

Please don’t ask me to sweep what Tories think, and their abhorrent policy outcomes, under my emotional carpet. It’s amoral to reduce humans to the level of consumerist slugs. Surely our society can do better than their putrid outlook.

PS, I’ve spent a life weighing things up politically. I choose to be left wing. I know that being left wing has its drawbacks, and there are inconsistencies, and there are irritating fellow-travellers but I’d still rather perceive the world as I do. No amount of point scoring whataboutery will change my view. If I didn’t want to think it, I wouldn’t think it.

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Groundspotting from the windows of trains

29 08 2017

It’s about time I refreshed the pastime I like to call “Groundspotting from the windows of trains”.

If you fancy joining in, there’s noting to it. The rules are very simple; If you see any part of a football ground, no matter how small that part may be, from the windows of a moving train you can add that ground to your list.

I understand that the esteemed writer Daniel Gray, has written something similar in “Saturday, 3pm”. All I’ll say is that this mediocre mind had the same thought as a great one. It’s amazing what you think about when you look around.

Anyway, so far I’ve seen the following football grounds from the windows of moving trains

Aberystwyth Town,
Ajax,
Aston Villa,
Bangor City,
Birmingham City,
Caersws,
Cardiff City (Ninian Park and Cardiff City Stadium),
Carlisle City,
Cefn Druids,
Celtic,
Clermont Foot,
Clyde,
Conwy Borough,
Charlton Athletic,
Chester FC,
Connah’s Quay,
Crewe Alexandra,
Derby County,
Dumbarton,
Flint Town United,
Greenock Morton,
Helsinki Olympic Stadium,
Heysel Stadium,
Huddersfield Town,
Inter Cardiff,
Lancaster City,
Lansdowne Road,
Leeds United,
Liverpool FC,
Llandudno Junction,
Llandudno Town,
Llanfairfechan Town,
Llanrwst United,
Macclesfield Town,
Manchester City,
Manchester United,
Millenium Stadium,
Millwall,
Motherwell,
Murrayfiled,
Neath Athletic,
Newtown,
Notts County,
Nottingham Forest,
Parc-Y-Scarlets,
Penmaenmawr Phoenix,
Pisa,
Pollok FC,
Prestatyn Town,
Preston North End,
Rangers,
Rhyl,
Sampdoria / Genoa
Shrewsbury Town (Gay Meadow and New Meadow)
St. Mirren.
Stade de France,
Stalybridge Celtic,
Stockport County,
Swansea City,
Walsall,
Warrington Wolves,
Watford,
Wembley,
West Bromwich Albion,
Wigan Athletic,
Wolves,
Wrexham,
York City




I hadn’t even realised you weren’t there!

27 08 2017

I’ll start with the first of three realisations. I don’t know whether I should continue to chain myself to the tradition of going to a match every week.

This mental journey began with a couple of connected recollections about David Elleray, the once famous referee, and Nick Hornby. I once read that Elleray turned down the chance to officiate at the 1994 World Cup because he had a job interview at his school. Hornby missed the replay of the 1993 FA Cup Final because he attended an award ceremony in which Fever Pitch was nominated.

I remember having a similar reaction to both events; “Imagine that happening! How awful would it be to miss your side winning a cup? How could you call yourself a true fan? I’ll never be like that! I’ll never let work come between me and an important match!” 

Needless to say I’ve missed matches for work-related reasons since those thoughts came to me. I’ve missed every Wales match for six and half years for work-related reasons.

In the mid ’90s I’d envisaged some nebulous “bad things” happening but all I’ve “suffered” is a growing sense of acceptance. I suspect that I’ll never watch Wales again. I don’t even check the dates of matches anymore, too many people are after tickets and I’m so far down the pecking order I’m in 2008.

While international football has become something that happens to other people normal football and work-related reasons had never coexisted in my life until that Saturday in May, when I missed Bangor’s European Play-Off Final.

My younger self would have been incredulous but my present self took life as it came, albeit with pangs of wishful regret. I had had enough time to get to the match because my work related business had finished earlier than I had envisaged.

If only I had had a car ready to go, but I didn’t have a car ready to go, so I sat on my sofa waiting for 5:15pm in the company of thoughts  “I could’ve gone, I could’ve gone. With better organisation I could’ve gone!” Sod it, I wasn’t going. I was going to miss the joyous moment that European football returned to Bangor, if it came, but who cares. “Calm bordering on sanguine” was my middle name.

Then the game kicked off. It was an odd sensation when I saw the players, I’d only ever seen them up close and personal but now they were on telly with bigger faces. It felt even stranger when I saw my fellow fans in the crowd. The thought that I should have been there never left, but I was obviously not there. The glory that I could’ve ended up enjoying felt like it was merely a whiff of a dilution of the glory I’d feel in the ground. On the other hand I knew two great things, I didn’t have a journey home and I had less time to wait for Eurovision.

When the European matches arrived I missed both of them, including the first European home match I’d missed since 1985, thanks to work-related reasons.

As you may guessed from the fact you’re reading these words nothing untoward happened in the universe because I missed the matches. Everyone carried on as normal. All three matches still took place.

There were no half time tannoy appeals about poor little me, there were no appeals on social media either, nobody commented. Nobody decided to give the next match a miss because I hadn’t gone. At most a few people noticed I wasn’t there.

The wider world spoke with cold indifference, it didn’t care that I had missed some football matches. It’s a stark moment when you realise that the world doesn’t care about you but what does one do? The world is a cold, harsh, disinterested place.

Before May’s European play-off match typical premonitions of jovial conversation within the glow of victory had caused regretful impulses yet I felt few post-match regrets. On a cosmic level the absence of my negligible presence barely registered, Bangor still qualified for Europe. On a personal level, what had I actually missed? Apart from the irreplaceable joyful conversations and glorious memories of drinks enjoyed I’d missed a match that had been televised, that was all.

I was clearly more able to cope with missing important football matches than I thought. Over the last few years there have been some recent weekends when I didn’t even bother with a match so I daresay I’d undergone an understated process of desensitisation.

When I coupled the fact that I wasn’t really missed with my lack of real regret enlightenment wasn’t far behind…….. I am insignificant.

It’s very illuminating to be reminded that you’re insignificant in the big scheme. It’s fantastic to be reminded that your petty choices and whims only really matter within the confines of your own head, that your petty desires are no more important than anyone else’s, that you are not more important than other people. Be like me, embrace liberation!

I remember reading that one of the Super Furry Animals claimed “Don’t be a C**t” as his motto. It’s an outlook that captures the beautiful simplicity of a decent world. It’s better to set aside ego-driven impulses for the simple fact that we will always need the help of other people. A co-operative society is always preferable to the alternatives.

Let us return to the first couple of lines. My enlightenment led to three realisations. Firstly, and already noted, I’m not sure I should continue to chain myself to the tradition of attending matches every week. Secondly, it doesn’t matter whether I turn up or not because my presence determines nothing, results happen anyway. Thirdly I should probably use a little more discernment when choosing which football matches I attend.

There are two enormous elephants in the room. The first is the fact that logic and football aren’t happy bedfellows. Football has manifest observable problems yet the idea of “football” still appeals and I still like going to matches.

Football charms with the promise of excitement and the potential of seeing something fantastic. There’s the aesthetic attraction of flowing moves and skill. Most importantly there’s the human interaction between like minded people. I still like to be in a crowd. The hubbub, the laughter and, wittingly or unwittingly, hearing a good story or two.

I don’t think I could live without the enjoyment of visiting a new town, or spending time with good friends. The so-called laws of probability tell me that I probably won’t see something fantastically memorable very often but the possibility is always present. Sometimes I just like to be lost in thoughts about the ghosts of football’s past and I see those ghosts everywhere. My love of my version of football is a feeling I can’t adequately explain.

Take my compulsion to watch Hibernian’s Scottish Cup triumph on you tube. I don’t support Hibs yet I still still feel compelled to watch the clips. Whenever I watch the last minute winner, the people lost in celebration and the fantastic Sunshine On Leith there’s a warmness in my brain, I know what it means for those involved and I can’t help getting wrapped in the emotion of the circumstances. Some things just cause a positive reaction and football has that effect in my head. That’s enough for me. I feel like I still need football.

The second elephant is the application of a discerning eye to football, you can do that but it isn’t always enough. I’ve tried to limit my football interactions to what I can stand – watching matches in a ground, refusing to buy anything connected to Murdoch, leaving the shiny corporate hagiographies that pass for magazine articles unread, ignoring the banter bus, putting a padlock on my twitter profile – but I’ve found that it’s impossible to insulate yourself from those you want to ignore.

I avoid pubs when they broadcast matches, I take an ambivalent attitude to Match of The Day and I block banter accounts. Yet this is still not enough, Murdoch era attitudes and opinions cannot be avoided. Especially if you choose to leave your house or use public transport.

You can’t legislate for the actions of other people, much as I’d like to become Prime Minister and pass laws. Opinion seeps around any social media dam. You can only avoid so many TV adverts based on the cliched excitement of sports broadcasting types.

“GET READY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GET SET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY IS BACK!!!!!!!

NOW STOP THINKING AND GIVE US ALL YOUR MONEY!!!!!!!”

Even the BBC broadcasts bloody football adverts of this type. Sentient fans know that football is often crap and boring rather than continually fantastic, dramatic and delightful.

Then you weaken, and give “THE FOOTY” on the telly another go for sentimental reasons. It’s alright until you’re realise that the craze of perpetual analysis still holds, football still has a self-imposed sense of importance it doesn’t warrant.

“I DON’T WANT TO SEE A RED THERE GARY!”

I don’t want hear in depth analysis that perpetuates this controversy driven football culture.

“HE’S ENTITLED TO GO DOWN THERE MARK!!!!!”

Not entirely, the word “entitlement” doesn’t appear within the foul play section of the laws of association football, I’ve checked.

“WE ALL LOVE THE TALKING POINTS™ DON’T WE!!!!!!! IT’S WHAT MAKES THE GAME WHAT IT IS, ISN’T IT CHRIS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!”

Talking Points™ are the currency of the damned, the angry phone-in callers and the bluffers.

If we’re going to analyse something why don’t we concentrate on the way “our” sport is governed and organised.

The miasma of inconsequential opinion seems to surround me wherever I go. Bluffers and loudmouths are on every train I catch with their Talking Points™. Preserve me from the words ejaculated by hectoring mouths and the opinion shaped nails upon my psyche’s blackboard. I just want some peace.

I can’t get away from the bluffers’ world. The craze of perpetual analysis has convinced bluffers that they know what they’re talking about. Bloody opinions are everywhere, as if a law prohibits a carefree attitude.

The other day short video clips of Jack Wilshire getting sent off in an Under 23s match were doing the rounds on twitter. It’s the sort of thing that rocks a bluffer’s world, the evidence they need to make another plagiarised knowing comment, another metaphorical nod and wink, another easy dismissal of a professional player. “You can’t trust him when the pressure’s on.”, “He’s a nutter”,”He’s a fraud”.

Why does a short clip of Jack Wilshire getting sent off in an Under 23s match need to exist? The continual externalisation of football opinion is an extremely pointless act. Mate, mate, mate I know what I know, my opinion is only my opinion. Bluffers appear to believe that their opinion is the loud gospel that needs to be expressed everywhere mate.

Football minutiae – facts like winning runs, goal scoring feats and odd scorelines – used to be briefly diverting little quirks. When the minutiae started to appear on the twitter the bluffers were awarded with a ready made knowledge mine that enabled them to appear like experts without effort. “Mate, mate, mate I can’t believe your twitter feed mate. You’re a real football nut you are mate!!!” 

I don’t know why some people are happy to limit their experience of football to the perpetual hype juggernaut of Murdoch’s football culture. I don’t understand how people stomach the hyper-commercialisation. Why is there a dearth of imagination? How can people not yearn for a bit more integrity? Why is the shiny seen as more appealing than the authentic?

In moments of weakness I sometimes wonder whether I’m judging these bluffers too harshly. They’re not doing anyone any real harm, they’re only watching the footy aren’t they?

“Yeah couldn’t you go to another train carriage or something and stop moaning you effete pseud?” 

Well I suppose I could, less of the effete please, it’s called “having standards“.

I know the bluffers are only fellow human beings combating the alienation of the capitalist mode of production by developing an interest in something………..

BUT

…… they’re using their free will to submit to the Murdoch version of football.

The bluffers couldn’t care less that people like me have emotional ties to football, they’re content to offer the forces that are slowly turning football into a joyless economic equation their connivance. They could decide not to be part of the cynically created market that exploits both themselves and football but they don’t.

They love it when their own interchangeable hero from the super club carousel kisses the heat applied trademarked badge upon their polyester clad chest. Some have even been known to look up from their pool table, shout “GET IN!!!” and slap their own polyester clad chest.

The situation is very frustrating. If people knew that I liked football the bluffers and I would appear to be the same. I find that if you have a conversation with someone that gets football their interest usually comes out gradually in the middle of an interesting conversation about something else, they don’t bludgeon you with“look at me I’m a proper fan just like you!!” overcompensation buffoonery to prove they’re in tune with the zeitgeist.

Some recent highlights from my fascinating life show my problem. The days followed the usual pattern; I interacted with football in my own way (Undertaking mental journeys to beautiful possibilities) until something polluted my headspace.

Two Saturdays ago I read When Saturday Comes on the way to FC United v Kidderminster and started to think about going to Southport v FC United on the way home. We’d only made a couple of stops after leaving Manchester when the confident young men sauntered through the automatic doors of my carriage. They were ostentatiously carrying “The Banter”.

It was my misfortune that the opposite table was empty. It started as soon as they sat down. Banter. Facebook, Banter, “LEGEND!!!” this, “CLASSIC!!!” that. The football analysis had the conviction and polish of true expertise;

“Let me tell you who’s in City’s line up”…………“He’s awful.”……………“He’s not as bad as Monreal” …………“Can you believe Kyle Walker is worth £50 million? That’s like saying he’s twice as good as blah blah blah.”…………“What you need from a wing back is technical skill, that’s why blah blah blah is much better than blah blah blah”.

They were only on the train for about 10 minutes.

A full 612 seconds of equilibrium shattering.

They got on the train with a clear conscience, did “The Banter” with a clear conscience and a gleam in the eye, and alighted with a clear conscience.

Their six ton granite lump of premium footy banter had transformed my erstwhile serene mental lake of human joy into a choppy grey mass of water.

How are you supposed to enjoy football when people are allowed to use the banter and analysis in such a wantonly cavalier fashion? Loud football opinions are like human posteriors, every person has one but it’soften  impolite to let others hear them.

Listening leads to the continual fight against delivering a coup de grace;

“Maaaaaate, mate, mate I don’t care why you think what you think about Ozil.

No offence mate, it’s just my opinion but I just don’t care about your opinion to be honest mate.

Maaaaaate mate mate how would you like thousands of critics to analysing your work days on twitter? “Look at him, taking too long to go to the photocopier again!! What a fraud!!”

Call yourself a football fan, you’re nothing like me.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe mate, eaten chips on a boulder outside Hampden Park mate, I’ve watched non-authorised merchandise glitter in the dark near the Shankly Gates mate.

All those moments will be lost, in time, like tears in rain mate.

Recant the banter life, Recant!

Follow me, for I will save your soul!”

Needless to say, I’ll have had the last laugh. If only I had the confidence!

The same sort of thing happened last Saturday. Once again I had engaged with football on my level. Nine hours of reasonably enjoyable time with Nottingham Forest v Middlesborugh at the centre and train reading material provided by Irvine Welsh, Daniel Gray’s Stramash and the When Skies Are Grey Summer Special.

We’d reached Chester on the way home. Two Liverpool fans were amiably chatting away about the day’s events when apropos of nothing some bloke decided to insert himself into the conversation with a bronze droplet of football wisdom;“Try supporting Villa!”. It was yet another “Look at me, I’m part of the zeitgeist!!!” moment.

It was delivered like an appeal for sympathy.  Why on earth does someone need sympathy for a making a decision with a clear head, a decision that doesn’t really matter in the cosmic sens? He told the carriage that he hadn’t been to Villa’s match…………….

“That’s the thing about football mate, they’re your club and they’ll always be your club.

You can change your politics, your wife, your pets and your underpants but you can’t change your club.

Am I right? ‘course I am Chief!

………… If the social pressure to conform with the zeitgeist is the only thing making people maintain an interest why do they still bother? It’s surely simpler not to bother at all. Nobody would judge you if you just gave up, nobody would care. Do the world a favour, give us peace.

I’m torn. I find it difficult to retain an interest in football because there appears to be little for the likes of me in Murdoch’s football culture yet I manage to retain an interest. Irritating processes continually encroach upon my limited interactions with football yet I still find a serene football world I can deal with.

I fear that one day I won’t care enough to look for serene moments but I may feel differently when that day comes. I should probably start moving to other train carriages with the other effete pseuds and snowflakes until then.





Engels was a Bangor fan

21 08 2017

The co-author of The Communist Manifesto joins the pantheon of famous Bangor City fans.





Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief

20 08 2017

I may not attend rugby matches in a sparkly cowboy hat but I am still of “The Welsh”, this much I know. I base it on the fact that I was born in Wales. Being of “The Welsh“, as the wise man on facebook once said, feels like this;

To be born in Wales, is to be born in Wales, in the rain, in a hospital that’s now a Matalan, accepting an inheritance of a sparkly cowboy hat from Tesco, Neil Hamilton’s shameless disdain, a bootleg copy of Only Men Aloud’s first album and a Wales v Czech Republic ticket stub from June 2007.

I say I’m of “The Welsh” but am I? My birthplace may have been in Wales and I may have always lived in Wales, apart from my salad days in august academia, but can I claim to be of “The Welsh“?

What defines “Welshness”? What brings “The Welsh” together? Is is watching rugby in a pub, voting Tory and loving Brexit? Is it going to watch the football side’s away matches and voting for humane parties? Is it the well known third option?

Is “Welshness” defined by “The Welsh”? Well of course it is. If people didn’t define themselves as “The Welsh” there would be no such thing. Is that enough?

No.

Is “Welshness” defined by the landscape? Well, Wales has lovely scenery and I once loved cycling to work with the sight of Snowdonia as a backdrop. However I feel I can state with some certainty that Wales isn’t the only place in the world with beautiful scenery. Similarly Wales has poor people like the rest of the world. Wales has idiots like the rest of the world. It rains in Wales like the rest of the world, only more often.

Is  “Welshness” defined by a political element? Is it the non-conformity? “The Welsh” likes nothing better a twitter discussion with their politicians they do. They loves the intellectual cut, thrust and parry with others of “The Welsh”, the sort that can wholeheartedly support the black hearted cynicism of Westminster’s austerity whilst they criticise Y Senedd (Cymraeg for The Welsh Assembly) for failing to deal with the problems created by Westminster’s austere black heart.

They say “The Welsh” don’t vote Tory but some of the good people of my home town Llandudno have yet to receive the memo. Some people vote Tory and love Brexit at the same time as they feel dead proud to be of “The Welsh”, yeah I know.

There’s probably a sporting element to “Welshness”. I knew I was part of “The Welsh” when I used to watch Wales but I haven’t been to a Welsh football international for six years. But I didn’t even go to France but Wales v Belgium is one of the most joyous football experiences I’ve had. I felt real open mouthed joy. I felt of “The Welsh” then.

Hundreds of thousands felt proud to be of “The Welsh” when Hal Robson, Hal Robson Kanu hoodwinked the entire Belgian defence. We all felt so proud that we made a film about it even though Wales suffered a pathetic failure like England did at Italia ’90, and then made a film made about it. Yes I know but that’s “The Welsh” for you, always with the chip on the shoulder.

A year after these heights the followers of the big red clubs have returned to the world’s worst metaphorical tennis match on social media.

The Facebook serve comes;

“Mickey Mouse Cup”

The forehand return!

“Yeah whatever, it’s a cup isn’t it!”

The backhand RETURN!!!

“It ain’t Champions League is it, calm down!!”

Another MASTERFUL BACKHAND!!!!!!

“We’re back!!!”

A DEEP LOB!!!!!!!

“Thursday nights! Thursday nights! Thursday nights!”

A TOP SPIN RETURN WITH ADDED ZING!!!!!!!!!

“Come back when you’ve won a European trophy!”

A FOREHAND FROM THE NET!!!!!!!!!!!

“Yeah come back when you’ve won the league in colour!!!”

ANOTHER SEARCHING FOREHAND RETURN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Yeah come back when you’ve won 8 Europa Leagues!!!”

THE CROWD GASPS AS ANOTHER LOB SAILS HIGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Yeah, come back when you’ve queued in the rain for 4 days to get the new shirt from Sports Direct”…….

THE PASSING STROKE IS LASHED BACK WITH THE FORCE OF THREE PLAYERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Okay then, here’s the supreme cultural authority of a google image that includes  words from the past that somebody else had already expressed.

THE CROWD ACKNOWLEDGE THE UNSTOPPABLE WINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My painstaking research has shown we must look beyond landscape, politics and sport for the hook upon which we can hang our coat. At this juncture and apropos of nothing I must enquire “Whose coat is this jacket?” 

There is something that we can use to define “Welshness”; Cymraeg, the language of “The Welsh”.

Even though I cannot speak Cymraeg fluently I still feel it’s effect. My wife, and her entire family, are fluent. I’ve tried to order food yn Gymraeg, I can understand half of a Sgorio commentary and discern the tone of conversations at Bangor matches.

Cymraeg has several qualities that I love. It exists as a means of communication, the sound of its syllables and there’s my second favorite quality; the unfavourable reaction it elicits.

It’s the UNDOUBTEDLY TRUE stories true that I love to hear.

“You can walk around Cardiff and no one not never speeka da Welsh. It’s the Monty Python’s Parrot of Languages. Honest guv!”

“I went to a cafe and ordered stuff in English but they just looked at me with cold hard Welsh eye of the deepest hatred, and spoke that gibberish of the Welsh to each other.”

“I heard Welsh when I went to Wales once and I’m petrified about returning in case it happens again.”

“I once went to a Pitbull gig, I was a bit late. As soon as I arrived Mr. Worldwide stopped singing in English so he could sing in Welsh.”

In some senses I have sympathy with these UNDOUBTEDLY TRUE stories, I once ordered some food in a cafe.

I had even more sympathy after another visit to a different cafe. I placed my order clearly using the Queen’s English, yes you read that correctly, the QUEEN’S English, but the cafe owner and customers deliberately started speaking Welsh to each other. I remember my thoughts at the time; “This feels a little strange, we’re in Hamburg”.

It’s a shame that people never recount the correct story;

“I once went to this Welsh cafe and the owner briefly ceased his conversation in Welsh to take my order in English because he’s a nice guy.”

Within Llandudno’s infamously fickle Cultural Quarter I am still well known as an attentive wee person in social situations so you can treat the next point with all the deference it deserves;

I’ve noticed that Welsh speakers are not only BILINGUAL they are WILLING TO SPEAK ENGLISH with people that are obviously unable to communicate fluently in Welsh out of a sense of POLITENESS.

You may take from that what you will. I’ll bet that you’re champing at the bit to hear about my favourite quality of Cymraeg.

For me the best thing about Cymraeg is the sole reason that it continues to survive in the 20th century, namely Cymraeg’s ability to deprive Brexit voters of tax. Methods of communication are all fine and well these days but we have to factor in economic value.

DON’T EVEN DOUBT THE VERACITY OF THIS IDEA. SOME TELEVISUAL ATTENTION SEEKERS HAVE CATEGORICALLY STATED THAT CYMRAEG, THAT GIBBERISH OF A DEAD LANGUAGE, DEPRIVES US ALL OF SQUILLIONS IN TAX. SO THERE,

It was a truly beautiful moment when I realised that the people I know had the ability to be a drain upon the economic health of yer hard working Brexit voting payers of tax merely by speaking this Gibberish of a dead language.

After my epiphany I refused to allow logic to sully the beautiful feeling that coursed through me  – I mean how would a reasonably sized government suffer bankruptcy because they employed bilingual staff, bought a bit more paper and added a few more letters to road signs? – I wanted to bask in the beautiful situation. I didn’t even need to research whether Welsh road signs were bigger anyway, I just had to luxuriate.

This beautiful situation allows one to fulminate in the knowledge that one is now more able to deal with our market-driven times. Now I can monetise my family’s ability to speak this Gibberish of a dead language!

Yes, yes, yes!!!!!

In fact my wife and I have been rendered ecstatic by the clear indication that we can now monetise her ability to speak Cymraeg thanks to a grant from Y Senedd’s“Waste of Public Money Fund“.

It’s difficult to take in but my wife isn’t just speaking Gibberish of a dead language any longer she, indeed we, now have a license to print money via a license from the The Nanny State. Result! Cry Huzzah and Hurrah for the Nanny State and Political Correctness!

After a bit of research we have now realised that things are even better. It appears that Y Senedd also offers a massive amount of taxpayer funded largesse from its “The Taxpayer Funded Largesse for Prolonging Dead Languages Fund“. All we need to do is open a rural language school in order to help others monetise their Welsh by passing on the ancient Welsh wisdom of depriving the Nanny State of Public subsidy and Tory voters of their tax.

I’m happy to say that the good news doesn’t stop there. It turns out that we’re also entitled to backdated payments from 1999.

Result!, or  as we say near Rhyl; “Mae Rijkaard wedi Sgorio gol wych hebio Zenga!!”

We must be careful. Firstly we must avoid the logical path – That some people cost British society £150 million a year because they find Welsh to be their easiest method of communication – to let the golden words of televisual attention seekers guide us. Secondly the process of taxpayer funded dead language preservation is a rather tricky business.

It’s such a tricky business that without the right kind of guidance one can lose heart. For example, at some point last week the golden words of a televisual attention seeker on an edition of Newsnight convinced my wife to recant her ability to speak Welsh.

“Dwi ddim yn Heretic!” she said proudly!

I told her not to give up so easily. “Come on baby, don’t give so easily. Be proud that you’re a drain on public finances! Hwyl!”

My Wife realised I was right so she said; Syt gallai I siarad iaith heb Z? Mae’r dyn enlightened ar y teledu yn gywir!

You’ve just heard 15 Welsh words, that’ll be £15.50 please!!!” 

“That’s the spirit”” I said. “Never forget that you and your mates personally cost Brexit voters £150 Million a year! Cofiwch Lille!”

The monetising mission is so seductive that I, a non-Cymraeg speaker, can be at it. Here goes. I have typed “Dwi ddim yn Siarad Cymraeg!” and you have read it so that’s £4.50 that you and all the other hard working Daily Mail payers of tax personally owe me.

Now I have typed “T’yn Hoffi Pel Droed?” and you have also read that. So that’s another £4.70 that you and the rest of the hard working taxpaying Daily Mail payers of tax personally owe me.

Now I have typed “Dwi’n hoffi coffi!!!” and you have read that as well so that’s another £3.60 that you and the rest of you hard working Daily Mail payers of tax personally owe me.

That’ll be £12.90 altogether chief. No cheques or contactless I’m afraid.

To re cap, that’s £14 (Adjusted to include “The Taffy Is A Thief Stealth Tax“) that you and the rest of the hard working Daily Mail payers of tax personally owe me.

“The Welsh” may have to scrape by without a word for entrepreneur but my business acumen and genetic Welsh appetite for public subsidy, means that the hard working Daily Mail reading  payers of tax have to pay me £15 (Adjusted to include Welsh V.A.T) for five minutes work.

From a personal point of view knowing that some people become annoyed when others have the temerity to communicate in an language other than English is a great comfort to me. It reminds me that my sense of Welshness, when allied to my left wing viewpoint, allows me to stand comfortably downwind of Farage et al.

Don’t worry about “The Welsh”, we wear the evident utter disdain of yer Daily Mail’s hard working payers of taxes as a fabulous cape of honour.





The one that When Saturday Comes actually published.

7 07 2017

So I entered the When Saturday Comes Writers’ competition again, but this time I’ve somehow ended up within the pages of the august publication as a runner up. To say this was unexpected is one of the largest understatements I have ever expressed.

Here is the article in its original form.

Sticking Together

At first glance the phrase “Sticker spotting” could transmit the vibes of an anti-social niche activity but it’s amazing just how much fun you can have when you’re spotting football stickers as you walk the streets.

If I were to say “I’m fascinated by football stickers” I’m sure that most people would assume that I was talking about Panini stickers. The enticing possibility of finally seeing Welsh internationals in Panini packets may have proved too difficult to resist last summer but that was only a passing infatuation. My fascination lies with the kind of football stickers that fans apply to street furniture.

If you can’t quite picture “football stickers on street furniture” you’ve walked past them without noticing. If you had looked more closely you would have seen the unmistakable signs; a splodge of colour on a lamppost, a forlorn piece of faded paper on a drainpipe, the remnants of adhesive on the back of a road sign. The stickers are definitely there because I’ve lost count of the clubs I’ve seen represented.

I saw my first on a bus timetable at the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet in 2006. It involved a Polish “Band of Brothers”, I forget which sides were involved. Within a decade stickers appeared to be everywhere. A hobby with artistic pretensions came to mind so I started to photograph them.

I started a Tumblr site and briefly considered an aspirational biography; “Stickers on Street Furniture. Mixed Media. This continuous work takes the juxtaposition created when the radical self exists within commodified public space and projects it onto the mind of the viewer. The viewer is then forced to question 21st Century assumptions”. I opted for “The exciting world of stickers on street furniture!” instead.

I scan as I walk so I can spot the right sort of small coloured shape at thirty paces. It doesn’t matter whether I see an exquisitely designed creation or a weather-faded expression of club loyalty they all count. New discoveries can cause sudden halts so audible tutting is often my companion.

It’s funny what you see when you have the inclination to look around. I’ve seen a Preston sticker on a Munich airport sign, a Doncaster Rovers sticker on a Ljubljana drainpipe, an IFK Gothenburg sticker on a Bangor postbox and a Honved sticker outside the Colosseum. From an anthropological angle the stickers are obviously territorial markings, from a social geography angle it’s interesting to see which fans have visited a place.

The environs of football grounds obviously feature stickers and cities are generally well laden, with London, Manchester and Glasgow offering good selections. Perhaps unsurprisingly London offers the best opportunities of the three. There are so many monuments and iconic destinations, and indeed streets, that each trip offers a cornucopia of new stickers. The weeks after European matches are a boon as city centres have usually been decorated by a host of new stickers. I once assumed that transport hubs would offer rich pickings but stickers seem to be removed swiftly, although you may see some.

The most common stickers seem to be British, German and Polish. There must be websites that provide supplies because certain generic designs are popular at given times, at the moment it’s the coupling of the adidas stripes with “(Insert club name) On Tour”. The most fertile location has been Werder Bremen’s solar panel encrusted stadium and the location with the most cosmopolitan collection was Boudicca’s corner near Big Ben.

After a few months of sticker hunting I thought I’d noticed a profound contrast between European artistry and mundane British bombast but then I realised that my predilection for exotic mystery had guided me. In reality mythical glamour often obscures mundane reality. For example I assumed that there was absolutely no connection between European football aristocracy and fitted kitchens until I noticed that our kitchen sink had been manufactured by Teka, an erstwhile sponsor of Real Madrid. I suspect that all stickers express common sentiments like “Come On Boys!!!!” or “We’re The Best!!”.

My interest is sustained by the thoughtful representations of fan culture. Notable examples I’ve encountered include a Clapton’s Warhol pastiche in York, the stylised head of a Sampdoria ultra outside Dagenham & Redbridge’s ground, Millwall’s Only Fool and Horses inspired logo in Manchester and Preston’s reworking of the Public Image Limited logo near Euston.

My heart swells when I see irony like Manchester United’s “Ralph Milne Ultras” or progressive politics from the likes of St. Pauli, Rayo Vallecano or Livorno. I’ve seen rivalries graphically represented by the application of one sticker over another and felt intrigued by surprising connections like Tranmere and Eindhoven FC.

The most bewildering example was a CSKA Moscow sticker that I saw in Manchester. It featured goose-stepping legions and other fascist iconography. When you consider two points, CSKA were once part of a Red Army that fought a bitter war against the Nazis and ultras generally have a fierce attachment to their club’s history, the sticker was an extremely odd juxtaposition. I wasn’t quite so bewildered after I had googled “Russian fan culture”.

There are several upsides to this hobby. Another layer has been added to my interest in football. By discovering the nuances of fan culture I have discovered more about a sport I thought I already knew. Take the CSKA example or the occasion I saw a “Westphalia On Tour” sticker. I assumed that German fans had left it but the internet informed me that it belonged to Olympiacos fans.

Stickers are often removed so I often feel that I’m capturing the brief moment of social history that occurred when fans visited somewhere, like the time Borussia Monchengladbach fans covered a Manchester bus stop with stickers or the time AIK Stockholm fans visited the pubs of Rhyl. Admittedly it’s not documenting the Russian Revolution but there are times when I prefer a wistful reverie to cold hard reality.

On a simpler level my fug of cynicism has slightly dissipated. I have taken almost as much pleasure from seeing stickers in a city centre as I ever did from the anticipation of opening fresh Panini packets. I now have another reason to enjoy travelling, whether to matches or in general, as every destination is now an opportunity. I can look forward to wandering around Glasgow, Bremen or Macclesfield with a zesty gait and a greater appreciation of our urban environment.

The hobby has also shown that you can always take something from life, no matter how inconsequential the activity. I feel that I can revel in the simple moment of standing in a different place. It doesn’t matter whether I’m surrounded by the majesty of the Cinque Terre or the lampposts of London I’m equally content.

If you’re ever walking down the street and you encounter a seemingly strange person that appears transfixed by a road sign please don’t judge them too harshly, they may be indulging in the slightly arty hobby of photographing football stickers.

The article is in the latest edition of the magazine (Number 366).

The  Tumblr site is called “Stickers & Street Furniture”





Baby I’m Bored

20 02 2017

A slightly different version of this post appeared in an Australian fanzine edited by a nice man called Geoff Briggs.

I’ll come out and say it at the beginning, I’ve gone off the Welsh Premier League.

I feel a little naughty for admitting this in public. When you’re even slightly involved in this league there’s unsubtle pressure to support the league through its thick and thin. You’ve got help put the league on the map and so on. I can’t live this lie any longer, I have reached the end of my tether with the competition. I’m not trying to be a clickbait contrarian, it’s just how I feel.

At the start of September a freelance journalist came to our north Walean hinterland to see if we’d felt any “bounce” from Euro 2016. Aside from the anecdotes poured over agog audiences there was absolutely no connection between Bangor City and Euro 2016.

The only possible connections between the Welsh Premier League (WPL) and Euro 2016 were the rules of football and the word “Wales“. The European Championships were a passing manifestation of divine brilliance and the WPL is a moribund entity that’s evaporated my enthusiasm for leaving the house on a Saturday afternoon, or Friday evening, or Sunday afternoon.

This feeling didn’t emerge overnight, I’ve experienced five seasons of ebbing joie de vivre, I lost the last few traces of it in the gap between the magnificent Euros and cold stark reality. A combination of three things – The WPL’s nature, brainwaves and the unforeseen effects of the club licensing process – have caused the joy drain.

Firstly, “the WPL” should be re-initialised as “the BIP” (Boredom In Perpetuity). We meet the same clubs and visit the same grounds so the same club can win the title. The WPL contained eighteen clubs until the advent of 2010’s “Super Twelve”, a competition that divides into hermetically sealed sections after twenty two matches. Now there’s a top half that ends with European play offs and a bottom half that may end in relegation. Every August I dread another existential slog.

Playing clubs at least four times during a season is bad enough but during a recent season cup matches and European play-offs meant that we played Rhyl, our fierce local rivals, seven times. Even the fiercest rivalries becomes anaemic through unrelenting contact.

A run of decent league results normally allows an unlikely side to challenge for a league title but the WPL provides erstwhile pacesetters with two extra matches to catch uppity interlopers. The clubs coasting along are merely saddled with bothersome pacesetters they can’t catch. Repetition has bred so much contempt that some clubs have welcomed relegation and others have denied themselves promotion.

I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum, success and near relegation, so I have experienced the full spectrum of boredom. The spectre of relegation is humiliating in any system but in the super twelve you stand to be punished by players that you’ve faced countless times on the WPL roundabout.

When you’re title challengers there’s no light relief. The relief of a win evaporates when you realise there’s another match next week and every defeat has two simultaneous effects; you miss out on points and any advantage you enjoyed is slightly eroded by the baying mob at your heels.

When you’re “enjoying success” there’s a horrible melange of stress, a flowchart of stress if you will; Expectation stress > spectating stress > defeat aftermath stress > realising that other sides have won stress > missing UEFA prize money stress > losing players that would bring you glory next season stress. Our championship winning season of 2010-’11 contained ten absolutely awful dread-stained weeks.

Club licensing has generally had a positive effect on the WPL in terms of facility development, rule application and ensuring that clubs are sustainable but it’s also inadvertently diluted the anticipation I used to feel.

Last summer Port Talbot Town, our friends in the south, were relegated and Caernarfon Town, our local rivals, were denied promotion. In both instances there were valid reasons for the decisions but the crumbs of comfort I doggedly put my faith in – the potential visits in a new season – had been hoovered up.

Lastly, the brainwaves. Aside from the Super Twelve, we’ve had the 3G pitch football community hubs and Sunday matches. The desire to create local community football hubs based around 3G pitches may sound laudable – an all-weather pitch that can be used by the local community – but what if an area already has a local council operated all weather pitch? Isn’t the competition risking local authority employment during our times of cynically manufactured austerity? Where’s the sense of community in that?

3G pitches aren’t without their problems either; recent research has shown that 3G pitches may have worrying health effects. There’s nothing wrong with a grass pitch if it’s looked after. The FAW could fund the annual salaries of highly qualified groundsmen for each club for less than the cost of one 3G pitch.

When they came up with Sunday matches last summer it was almost my final straw. Who in the UK prefers going to a football match on a Sunday? How are you meant to relax when Monday morning’s work is clearly visible on the horizon? What about the semi-pro players that work on Mondays? We all need a day off from football.

At the start of the season I scanned the fixture list in anticipation of away days to come and discovered that all of the away games that can involve a good day out – Rhyl, Newtown, Aberystwyth – were scheduled on days other than Saturdays. Then I noticed we were scheduled to visit Cardiff Met, the only ground I hadn’t visited, on a Sunday. Thankfully they’ve relented over Sunday matches but my enthusiasm remains comatose.

There are only two sensible options; return to an eighteen club league or change the course of the future with time travel. Based on the latest news –  the clubs seems unwilling to change the nature of the league – the latter option seems the one most likely to happen.

We could back to the 1880s and set Wales on the same process of development as Scotland; a league based around one area – the Glasgow – Edinburgh Central belt – that eventually spreads over the whole country.

We could go to 1992 instead. We could convince Cardiff, Wrexham and Swansea and the rest to do the decent thing and join the League of Wales. This isn’t fanciful, Dynamo Kiev joined the Ukrainian league, Dynamo Minsk joined the Belarussian league and Hajduk Split joined the Croatian League. If it’s good enough for Eastern Europe it’s good enough for Wales!

Even with the obvious caveats – the geography of Wales prevented the development of a proper national league and the prospect of Football League promotion was always too persuasive – the only realistic prospect of pleasant change is using Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

I once owned a Manic Streets Preachers’ t-shirt that was emblazoned with the legend; “Baby, I’m Bored”, it’s a shame that I lost it ages ago because it feels rather apt. I’m not asking for much, some enjoyment is all I want, they seem to have enjoyment in the Cymru Alliance.

I’m sure that every point in this post can be refuted but my boredom feels tangible. I know change won’t happen, I’ll just have to concentrate and enjoy those conversations about films and comedy instead. Going to local football because of an almost perverse sense of duty may be the way forward.

What’s enjoyment anyway? A fleeting glimpse of a good thing that warps reality by causing unrealistic expectations.








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