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, 20 August 2008

Green Street

The post 1990 football publishing boom has led to an industry boasting branches into every perspective on the game and its subcultures.
One of the most profitable of these avenues is the hooligan memoir. Although with the subsequent decline in terrace violence you could be forgiven for thinking this is a passing phenomenon, the groaning shelf devoted to the genre in your local bookshop tells its own tale.
Beginning with virtual home made affairs from the likes of Jay Allan and Colin Ward, the major publishers soon jumped on the bandwagon and soon it seemed all the major clubs had at least one account devoted to tales from the terraces in the 70s and 80s. One of the most prolific authors is Dougie Brimson. Professing himself to be anti violence, Brimson has written thirteen books on the subject, earning himself the dubious title of "Yob Laureate".
Beyond the written word, Brimson was responsible for the screenplay for the film Green Street, a fictional tale of clashes between West Ham and Millwall fans.
The film title refers to the gang of West Ham fans who are the film's main focus, the Green Street Elite, which although reflective of a real East End location has no basis in fact.
This last sentiment can be applied to much of the film, a vehicle for Elijah Wood, fresh from defeating the forces of darkness in the Shire, to try and establish himself as a serious actor with normal feet.
The set up sees Wood expelled from his journalism course at Harvard, after being found with drugs planted by his roommate. Unwilling to face his father, he flees to England to stay with his sister and her West Ham supporting husband.
Anxious to live life on the edge, Wood readily accompanies his sister's brother in law to Upton Park to watch the Hammers play Birmingham (although the footage used in the film is of Gillingham), and soon becomes initiated in the world of the GSE.
There then follows a pretty predictable turn of events as we see the GSE cause havoc up and down the country, led by Pete who is keen to live up to the legendary reputation of his predecessor "The Major".
The main theme develops of Wood, the American outsider, edging aside Bovver from Pete's affections to the extent that Bovver crosses the water to offer Millwall fans the opportunity to avenge the death of their leader Tommy's son. Helped by an FA Cup tie between the two clubs the film reaches it's inevitably bloody climax as all involved descend into an orgy of violence with a heavy handed twist or two along the way.
Despite the evidence of a big budget (in Wood's fee if nothing else), to the British eye there are too many obvious errors to give the film the authenticity it would need to bolster a paper thin script.
For example although based in East London, many of the main locations such as the local pub are in West London. Presumably this would not matter to the foreign viewer; neither would they worry about the most obvious bloomer when Bovver goes to meet the Millwall fans. This is signified by him driving past a sign saying "Welcome to Millwall" despite this actual location being north of the river, well away from the Den.
Ultimately the film's final fight scene sums it up. With the director opting for balletic Peckinpahesque slow motion violence to a tear jerking orchestral soundtrack it becomes clear that what we are being presented with is more akin to pornography than social realism.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Cricketing Footballers

The return to our screens of the game show Superstars, in which sportsmen and women from differing backgrounds compete in a range of disciplines, brings to mind a different age when it was possible to play more than one sport at the highest level.Cricket and football provided the ideal opportunity to do this with until relatively recently there being little overlap between the seasons.

Supporters may recall that the likes of Dave Harrison, Steve Croxford and Andy Morley had a twelve month presence in the local sports pages thanks to their performances for local cricket teams, but did you know that up and until the 80s it was not uncommon for players to pursue a career playing professional football and cricket. There is even a select group of individuals who played for England at both sports.

Appropriately enough the double internationals number twelve. They are headed by the Edwardian superstar CB Fry (pictured right). Fry excelled in the summer game scoring over 30,000 runs for Sussex, and captained the England team. His record of eight consecutive centuries still stands. His football career was somewhat shorter but nevertheless in 1902 he led Southampton to the FA Cup Final and was selected for the England team. He also found time to equal the world long jump record, and following retirement sought a solution for world peace by trying to teach the Nazis how to play cricket! It’s hardly surprising that the Albanians asked him to become their King.

Fry was slightly outdone by one of his peers Tip Foster (Corinthians and Worcestershire) who is the only man to captain England at both football and cricket.

The other double internationals, a club to which I guess membership is now closed, were Andy Ducat (Surrey and Arsenal), John Arnold (Hampshire and Southampton), Leslie Gay (Somerset and Corinithians), Billy Gunn (Nottinghamshire and Notts County), Wally Hardinge (Kent and Sheffield United), Alfred Lyttleton (Middlesex and Old Etonians), Harry Makepeace (Lancashire and Everton), Jack Sharp (Lancashire and Everton), Willie Watson (Yorkshire and Sunderland, and Arthur Milton (Gloucestershire and Arsenal).

Milton was the last double international, and was a teammate of Denis Compton at Highbury. Compton, a member of the 1950 FA Cup winning side and the Kevin Pietersen of his day, was only denied double international status by World War Two which deemed his England football caps unofficial.

Following Milton, cricketing footballers tended to fall into the category of solid professionals rather than international stars. Notable names of the 60s and 70s included Jimmy Cumbes (Lancashire and Tranmere Rovers), Phil Neale (Worcestershire and Lincoln City), Chris Balderstone (Leicestershire and Carlisle United) and Ted Hemsley (Worcestershire and Sheffield United).

The odd superstar did mix his sports though, Geoff Hurst played the odd game for Essex, whilst Ian Botham gave rise to the perennial 80s quiz question “Name three England captains who have played for Scunthorpe” when he played a handful of games for the Iron. Viv Richards even played in the 1974 World Cup qualifiers for Antigua before he focused on becoming the best batsman in the world.In latter years cricketers have often trained with football clubs to maintain fitness in the close season, Graham Gooch and Steve Harmison being two famous examples.

The last word however falls to referee Martin Bodenham who has this season graduated as a first class umpire.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The Birth of the Football Fanzine

When the football historians come to assess the latter decades of the twentieth century, the role of the fanzine will be judged to have played a significant part in the evolution of the administration and culture of the sport.
Their heyday was a brief one, lasting from the mid eighties to the end of the century, but their impact in inspiring a generation of football supporters to take a more active role and influence the game they love will surely be felt for many a year to come.This alternative press has led to a consideration of the supporters' viewpoint becoming compulsory with many clubs now giving a seat in the boardroom to a supporters' representative, and some clubs even being wholly run by supporters.
This locates the fanzine in a political setting, and the use of a do it yourself press to agitate for reform is a fine British one, dating back to the early nineteenth century when publications such as the Black Dwarf scurrilously challenged the established order. This tradition re-emerged in that great liberal decade, the 1960s, when the likes of Private Eye, IT and Oz finally began to demolish Victorian values with daring humour.
At this time football was run by autocrats such as Alan Hardaker, at a national level and club level, with players and spectators expected to shut up and be grateful. Jimmy Hill and the players' trade union the PFA took the first step in the players gaining their freedom, by successfully campaigning for the overturning of the maximum wage, but there was no equivalent for the supporters who found themselves expected to pay ever increasing admission in shoddy stadia. With the established press dominated at all levels by tabloid hackery, a gap existed to articulate an alternative supporters' eye view. In the mid 70s a publication called Foul tried to fill this gap but proved to be a lone voice perhaps because of its origins at Cambridge University, a world away from football's working class support base.
Instead it was left to the Punk revolution in the word of music to spark a publishing boom. This movement was spread by a plethora of home made fanzines such as Sniffin' Glue, and the ease with which these bedroom operations spurned a vibrant and entertaining alternative press led by the beginning of the 80s to the conclusion that many young men decided to produce a football version.
Usually club based, the likes of City Gent (Bradford City) and Talk of the Town End (Enfield) had spurned hundreds of imitators by the end of the decade.With the lot of the football supporter becoming an ever more arduous one thanks to grounds which were downright dangerous, not helped by the over zealous attentions of the police, many were inspired to put pen to paper, and with all the publications laced with a healthy dose of humour there was a hungry readership desperate for material more entertaining than the somnolent match programme.
Non club issues also came out such as Off the Ball, The Absolute Game (Scotland), Hit The Bar (North West - a personal favourite) and When Saturday Comes. The latter, originally produced by Juma who now print this programme, assumed a kind of leadership by devoting pages of each issue to a directory of all available fanzines.The movement was spurred on by evidently hitting a nerve as livid officials countrywide tried to stamp it out, the ultimate treatment being meted out to Wealdstone's The Elmslie Ender when it was banned from every ground in the non league pyramid for daring to complain about a last minute penalty!
Naturally Maidenhead United was not immune to this cultural explosion and over the course of this season this programme will look at each issue of the twenty that were produced, starting with Issue One of The Shagging Magpies.