About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Special K

The return of Kevin Keegan to Newcastle has predictably been greeted by a media feeding frenzy, and why not? I believe when the football historians come to writing the English story of this period, Special K will emerge as a pivotal figure linking old and new football. A prescient character who foreshadowed much of today’s planet football, whilst at the same time providing a reminder of times past.

For those of you born in the 80s onward, imagine a player who embodied the style icon qualities of Beckham, the sheer joyous exuberant talent of Rooney, and the wholesomeness of Owen. A man loved by millions who continually rewrote the rule book on the path a player’s career should take.For sure he was mocked by the more knowing pundits who took up Duncan McKenzie’s line that Keegan was the “Julie Andrews of football”, but this was to miss the point of the bepermed footballing Janus who on one side embodied the roots of the game with his earnest hardworking performances loved by supporters for playing for the badge whilst at the same time always looking after number one. Yes Kev was the archetype of New Labour when the old variety was in power, touching the heart strings of those yearning for a strong community whilst ensuring his market value was at a premium.
His rise to glory with Liverpool via Scunthorpe United is well documented, but it was at his highest point with the Reds, a man of the match performance in the 1977 European Cup Final that project Keegan kicked in, as he jumped ship and like the Beatles before him headed for Hamburg.
At a time when the England national team was at a real low (a twelve year period with no World Cup Final qualification), Keegan illustrated that this was in spite of his talent as he won consecutive European Player of the Year Awards with his German club, fitting in another European Cup Final appearance for good measure.He didn’t only rely on England appearances to keep his profile up in the motherland, as he was a regular on all kinds of TV programmes including a Green Cross Code spot. Perhaps the most notorious appearance was in the Brut advert where Little Kev shared one of the most homo erotic scenes this side of Brokeback mountain with heavyweight boxer Enery Cooper.

Next up was an appearance on Top of the Pops singing Head Over Heels, a top 30 hit. The cover showed Keegan’s main contribution to style, the shaggy perm.
All this while guiding England back to some sort of respectability whilst shocking the football world with a return to England at Southampton then dropping a division to take the mantle of messiah by guiding Newcastle back to the top flight as a player. This ended his career (leaving St James Park by helicopter at his final game) until he returned to management with the Magpies, but that was a mere postcript to his role in creating the commercial beast that is football today, with its nouveau riche celebrity footballers, who are often criticised for lacking Keeganesque commitment thanks to an upbringing in the brave new individualist world Keegan helped to create.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Escape To Victory

World War Two was to become a well spring which fed the film world a steady stream of inspiration. As the event itself faded further into history, so too did the cinema’s link to truth, with heroic tales such as the Great Escape and A Bridge Too Far giving way to star vehicles such as Where Eagles Dare in the 60s.
By the time the 80s arrived even fictional ideas were starting to run dry and so the screenwriters turned to football to create the film Escape to Victory.
Escape to Victory was in fact inspired by the 1961 Hungarian film "Half Time To Hell" which played fast and loose with the heroic true story of the Dynamo Kiev team which was forced to play the occupying Nazis.
Escape to Victory transferred the story to a German prison camp where a team of Allied prisoners is gathered to play the Nazis. One link with the original film is kept with the main action being filmed in the Stadion Hidegkuti Nador in Budapest.
Presided over by Oscar winning Director John Huston, the key attraction of the film was the presence of a galaxy of football stars to complement lead actors Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow. Lending them authenticity were Pele, Bobby Moore, Ossie Ardiles, Kazi Deyna and the Ipswich Town squad. Before you start sniggering remember that under Bobby Robson Town were then one of the best teams in Europe and would end up winning the UEFA Cup in the year of the film's release.
Having agreed to play an exhibition match the Allied team are shocked to learn that instead they would be taking part in a Nazi propaganda rally in Paris against the finest German team of the era. Determined to scupper the Nazi plans the team aim to escape during the half time interval.
This means the team has to change to get the best escapees involved leading to the sickening moment when Town reserve keeper Kevin O'Callaghan has his arm broken to allow Stallone to join the team.
The match itself initially went to the plan as with the help of the referee the dastardly Huns took a 4-1 lead at the break. No matter the Allies were soon off down a very different kind of tunnel, but with escape in sight it fell to Russell Osman to utter the immortal line "Come on lads we can still win this" stopping his teammates in their tracks and after a surprisingly brief discussion heading back from whence they came to play the second half.

Inspired by Pele the Allies pull it back to 4-4 when Germany are awarded a last minute penalty. Needless to say the hitherto hapless Stallone pulls off a blinding save and releases the ball straight to the by now maimed Pele. With his bandaged arm switching between shots, Pele runs the length of the pitch to score only for a linesman's flag to rule out what would have been the greatest goal of all time.
Enraged, the watching Parisians begin to shout "Victoire", the stadium swiftly erupting with the chant with even Camp Commandant Von Sydow smiling and joining in. Soon some people are on the pitch despite the armed guards surrounding it and the spectators sweep the Allied footballers off to freedom without a hint of dissent from their captors. Isn't war great on the silver screen?

Watch it: Escape to Victory is often screened on TV, usually at Christmas. The DVD is still available from Amazon and your local video emporium.

Wear it: The Allies kit including Stallone’s goallkeeper jersey in available to buy from TOFFS www.toffs.com/icat/escapetovictory

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Football Programmes Post-war to Premiership

You can divide football supporters into two camps: those who buy a programme and those who don’t. For the former it is an essential souvenir of the game, a useful reminder in years to come of what happened, and an historical artefact. For the latter it’s just so much flotsam and jetsam, a item of floccinaucinihilipilificatiousness* whose presence adds nothing the central spectacle.
With a background in History I naturally fall into the programme buying wing and have shoeboxes full of evidence under my bed to prove it.
Bob Stanley of top 90s pop combo St Etienne is a fellow devotee, and in partnership with Paul Kelly has lovingly produced a compendium of programme covers from clubs at all levels in England and Wales.Almost all the programmes date from the period Stanley deems to be the golden age of the programme: 1945-1992.
Before 1945 programmes were little more than two sided sheets of printed paper with line ups and short comment from the home club. After 1992 and the advent of the Premiership, the Matchday Magazine came to the fore, glossy, in depth and thanks to modern printing techniques uniformly professional.
The period Post-war to Premiership was in Stanley's eyes an age of individualism and innovation, particularly in terms of the cover, something that I hope has come across in this programme's long running "Cover Story" series which ends today.In the book each league club from the period is allotted a page or two with a handful of copies on each in alphabetical order from Accrington Stanley to York City.
At the end in no mere postscript a smattering of non league clubs is given space (Altrincham to Yeovil Town). No room for the Magpies unfortunately, although Marlow, Slough and Wycombe make the cut, with the Chairboys cover featuring a picture of their old Loakes Park ground.
The only text is confined to the introduction. Guest Brian Glanville provides his usual fulsome commentary on his own programme favourites, whilst Stanley focuses on the, in his eyes artists, who created his favoured modernist masterpieces during the seventies.
Top of the tree in his opinion was the Midlands based Sportsgraphic agency run by John Elvin and Bernard Gallacher who produced design classics for Aston Villa, Coventry City and West Bromwich Albion.
Indeed the book cover itself (pictured above) is taken from the 1961-62 Aston Villa cover, the then uncovered Holte End steepling away at the top of the shot.The stadium provides just one option for the cover, other popular choices being a single or multiple photographic montage, a line drawing or sketch, the club badge or trophy up for grabs. The covers run the full gamut of typefaces and designs so be warned, if the cover of next season's Magpie looks a little outré or retro look no further than this book for the thinking behind the design!
Read on: Football Programmes: Post-war to Premiership is available from Amazon and all Booksellers of distinction.
Further education: educatedleftfoot.blogspot.com
* Pint of Guinness please Foz

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Frank Sidebottom

Many cities around the world can be associated with a particular band or musical movement. Liverpool suggests the Beatles, Detroit Motown and so on. You can't say the same for any villages with the possible exception of Timperley in Cheshire.Located on the outskirts of Altrincham, it is home to one man who is solely responsible for bringing to the world the Timperley sound.Based in a shed at the bottom of the garden which is home to his trusty Bontempi organ, Francis (he hates it when his mum calls him that) Sidebottom and his cardboard sidekick Little Frank (when he's not hanging out with Little Denise and Little Buzz Aldrin) have created a truly unique interpretation of the music of the popular era which often concerns the beautiful game.When he's not interpreting the likes of Queen and the Beatles Frank will often sing a football inspired ditty, and again is perhaps unique by focusing on non league football due to his devotion to Altrincham.Oh yes for Frank the Robins are most certainly not Bobbins and he is a regular at Moss Lane. His love for his local team was summed up in his seminal track "The Robbins Aren't Bobbins":

"On Saturday at five to three
There's only one place to be
Down at the Moss Lane football ground
The team come out, the crowd all roar
We come win lose or draw
The only team for me is Altrincham FC
Oh the Robins aren't Bobbins says me
The Alty!”

Over the years he has taken a role as mascot which meant when the Match of the Day cameras called on FA Cup day he was able to showcase his talents to a nationwide audience. This of course led to a song appropriately titled "Guess Who's Been On Match Of The Day". The answer to this question being “You have in your big shorts”.Of course it is in live performance that any musician proves his worth and Our Frank is no exception putting on shows that celebrate his career which now spans three decades.The aforementioned football based tracks are often segued into a "football medley" which are linked by some innovative football chants: "0-0",
"Wembley.. Its a big ground in London and they call it Wembley",
"One referee... two linesmen and four fantastic corner flags",
and "You're going home on a organised football coach".
All this to the scene of Sidebottom ripping off his trademark suit to reveal a full Altrincham kit.
Sidebottom has experienced a resurgence in popularity in the last year or so, with his work as an illustrator leading to an exhibition at Tate Britain. He continues to perform live at venues all over the country so make sure you catch him if you can.
You know you can, you really can.
Every way the wind blows.
I thank you.

Read on: http://www.franksworld.co.uk/ http://www.franksidebottom.co.uk/
Listen up: www.myspace.com/franksidebottom
The compilation Frank Sidebottom's ABC and D is available from Amazon and iTunes