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.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Voodoo Economics

Away from York Road, finance or rather lack of it seems to be the prevailing theme in non league circles this season with a number of our Blue Square South rivals in reportedly serious difficulties. With some clubs in the Blue Square Premier also facing problems it already seems inevitable that relegation issues will yet again not be sorted out on the pitch.As with society as a whole football’s free market model of a super rich class trickling down their wealth to the supporters seems to be conforming to George H. W. Bush’s label of “voodoo economics”. Undoubtedly the next season or two will see a bit of a sorting out as clubs find their financial equilibrium. Will this lead to an era of fiscal sanity? Well I’m not holding my breath but as the amateurs of Fisher showed on Saturday who needs money!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Walter Tull

Growing up in England as a football fan in the 70s, one of the most exciting developments of the time was the emergence of black players as a force in the game.
Ironically it was Ron Atkinson who blazed the trail by making Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis, Brendan Batson and Remi Moses an integral part of his attractive West Brom team. Viv Anderson and George Berry became the first black players to represent England and Wales respectively with the likes of Luther Blissett, John Barnes and Mark Chamberlain not far behind. Beyond the top clubs the likes of Cec Podd, Bob Hazell, Tony Sealy and Terry Connor were real stalwarts whilst visitors to York Road will have been entertained by the Cordice brother Godfrey and Alan (still the Magpies' biggest transfer fee received at £5,000 from Norwich City), and of course Ben Laryea.
But do you know who the first black player for Tottenham was? Garth Crooks? Chris Hughton? In fact you have to go back almost 100 years to 1909 when Walter Tull signed for Spurs to become the second black professional footballer to play in the Football League first division following Arthur Wharton of Sheffield United in the 1890s. Incidentally Andrew Watson, an amateur, was the first black international when he played for Scotland in 1881.
Tull was born in Folkestone in 1888, but following the death of his parents he was brought up in an orphanage in Bethnal Green from the age of 10. He served an apprenticeship as a printer but found success playing amateur football for Isthmian League Clapton. Impressing in a team which won the FA Amateur Cup, Tull was signed by Tottenham in 1909. Tull only made seven first team appearances for Spurs and left White Hart Lane in October 1911 when Herbert Chapman signed him for Northampton Town for what was described as a substantial fee.
Tull flourished at the County Ground making 110 appearances for the Cobblers in the Southern League which was the equivalent of League One today. However when he was reportedly on the verge of a transfer to Glasgow Rangers World War One intervened. It is at this point that his story takes on a real Boys Own quality.
Tull abandoned his football career to join the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. His battalion arrived in France in November 1915. Taking part in such historic events as the Battle Of the Somme, Tull rose through the ranks to become the first black officer in the British Army. Receiving his commission in 1917 Lieutenant Tull was sent to the Italian front where he was mentioned in dispatches for his "gallantry and coolness" while leading his company of 26 men on a raiding party, to cross the fast-flowing rapids of the River Piave into enemy territory. For bringing his men back unharmed Tull was recommended for a Military Cross.
He was then sent back to France in 1918 where, at the age of 29, he was shot leading his men on an attack on the German trenches at Favreuil. Such was his popularity, several of his men made valiant efforts under heavy fire from German machine-guns to bring him back to the British trenches. These attempts were sadly all in vain and he is remembered at The Arras Memorial, Bay 7, for those who have no known grave.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Modern Football Is Rubbish

Visitors to Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena last April were greeted to the sight of a huge banner on the Sudkurve proclaiming "Gegen den modernen Fussball”, literally “Against modern football”. The banner represents the frame of mind of a significant and growing minority of football supporters expressing disenchantment with the bright and shiny world of 21st century football.
This mood is wonderfully captured in a new book by Nick Davidson and Shaun Hunt, suitably titled “Modern Football Is Rubbish - An A-Z of all that is wrong with the beautiful game”.
They have tapped into the feeling that modern football at the highest level, rather like a McDonalds takeaway, although looking and feeling good initially, often leaves you feeling sick and not a little hollow afterwards.
Put simply the dizzying progress in the development of the game has been at the expense of football’s essential spirit, the baby being cast out with the bathwater.
Yet this is not some hectoring tome lusting after times past, more a joyous romp through the features of the game which inspired a lifelong devotion in the thirty something authors.
As such it will provide an ideal Christmas present for any fan over 30, allowing them to while away the festive period in the fuzzy haze of nostalgia.
This is perfectly encapsulated in the frequent entries relating to Roy of the Rovers and his comic book associates such as Johnny “The Hard Man” Dexter and Mike’s Mini Men. The authors wax lyrical about a simplistic childhood mindset when the most gallant players were always victorious although not without few scrapes along the way and I’m sure there is no one here today who is not transported back to the playground by the phrase “Got, Got, Swap” which we are reminded of in the entry about Figurune Panini.
Magpies fans will particularly benefit from Davidson’s background as a stalwart player with the Maidenhead Nomads which lends itself to a few local references such as the problems of playing football at the other mudbound Upton Park in Slough.
As the book wends it way through the alphabet though the sheer weight of the evidence pleading in support of the verity of the title becomes overbearing. We learn of the key moments from the period 1989-92, such as the “Tears of a clown” at Italia 90, and the real legacy of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch which ultimately led to Murdoch’s “Year Zero” with the introduction of the Premiership in 1992 with its “Stupid O’Clock Kick Offs”.
The book ends with a Frenchman, Zinedine Zidane, but it is left to his countryman Michel Platini to sum up what we have a lost: “Football - It is a game before a product, a sport before a market, a show before a business.” Fortunately he’s now in a position to recover it. Let’s hope he does so.