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.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Pre Season Training

It seems to be the style these days to visit South East Asia to prepare for the start of the season so always one to  keep up with the latest trend I decided to avoid three weeks of friendlies in England in exchange for a holiday in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
This trend was proved when I met the Burnley squad checking in at Heathrow (pictured).  Well to be honest I saw a group of sportsmen alighting from a coach as I emerged from the Underground and then spent ten minutes trying to work out who they might be.  As I reached the front of the queue I spied manager Brian Laws which gave the answer.  This caused me to reflect upon the fact that when faced with a large group of footballers who played in the Premier League last year I recognised no one.  Is this down to old age? As a schoolboy Panini stickers meant I could spot a Birmingham City right back at twenty paces but although I could tell you Burnley's star player last season was Chris Eagles and they had a veteran right back in Graham Alexander I couldn't pick them out if they nutmegged me with their luggage.  All this in spite of the fact that I watched them on Match of the Day every weekend last season.  I guess all footballers look the same these days.
As my wife and I wandered through security and headed for the boarding gate it suddenly clicked - Clarke Carlisle plays for Burnley.  Not that I knew what he looked like but he used to be in my wife Ewa's A Level Maths class!    Sure enough when we boarded the plane Clarke was sitting a few rows behind (in economy naturally following their demotion to the Football League) so Ewa tapped him on the shoulder.  I guess its not uncommon for a professional footballer to be approached by a member of the public but it must have been unusual to find that its unrelated to football.
We met up again on touching down in Singapore when queuing up for immigration.  Clarke told us they were due to play three games in a week and were concerned about the effect that the humidity would have on their performance.  A look at the Burnley website means I think Brian Jensen and Chris Iwelumo were with us in the queue too.  All associated with the club were good ambassadors for the game flying in the face of the stupid lout image which the media are keen to bestow on anybody with the ability to kick a football.
After they collected an array of kit of the luggage carousel that would have had Jon Urry weeping in envy they disappeared without a trace.  The only mention of football on Singapore TV was of local league results and friendlies being played all over the world by Europe's biggest clubs.
Indeed throughout my stay in the far east only five club shirts were worn: Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.  Roughly Liverpool seemed most popular in Singapore itself, then Arsenal in Kuala Lumpur, Chelsea in Penang and Manchester United in Phuket.  More Spanish national shirts were in evidence as July turned into August, proof I suppose that everyone loves a winner.
What was puzzling though was why this oligopoly existed albeit for a large part in dodgy counterfeit merchandise.  Yes these four clubs have been dominant for about a decade but why no evidence of Tottenham, Everton and Aston Villa or any of the other bona fide big clubs?  If the Premier League is to extend its stranglehold on the attentions of supporters in countries with a weak domestic league surely its in their interest to market all twenty clubs as the NFL do?  Perhaps this is a view of a future when the united negotiating stance for TV rights is broken and clubs sell their footage individually?  This would follow the neo liberal economic trend beloved by those who run both Premier clubs and competition but would only lead to a few monolithic organisations controlling the game at the expense of creativity and diversity.

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