Funny what a win will do and ‘Ours: Football’
A 1-0 win and the world seemed a better place even though it did feel like Siberia. After the three defeats on the spin and situated just three points above the twilight zone, you could be forgiven for feeling a bit gloomy.
‘Do you really want to go today?’ I said to Mrs T at 11 o clock as the roads were awash, the rain and sleet was bucketing, Mytholmroyd would be the usual crawl to get through the roadworks, and there was the prospect of having to endure Andy Carroll’s elbows for 90 minutes. And you could be reasonably sure that Steve Bruce would find something to moan about. He didn’t let us down.
But the news was through that Barnes and Westwood were back and stats show that when Barnes and Wood are together, we win games. They have been sorely missed. Wood went on to play like he has twinkle in his toes and Westwood was back to his lung-busting best. Cork had his best game for ages. McNeil was sparkling like the lights on a Christmas tree. Well, not ours chez moi, the outside electric socket with the lid is jammed up. Mrs T is most frustrated desperate to get the outside lights shining brightly. We shall bask in the glow of the neighbour’s whose lights you can see from space.
Anyway: I thought ‘ang on a mo, you’re a footie fan and a Burnley fan, what on earth are you thinking, wondering if you should go or not. Shift yourself. Football is about emotions, and shifting emotions at that, up one minute, down the next, you can’t just decide you’re not going just cos the weather is down from the Arctic, and I thought that’s what Lee Ingham’s little book is all about as well, OURS: FOOTBALL.
It’s just 140 pages, pocket sized and it is simply about football belonging to ‘us’ the fans.
‘This book is about me and my world of omnipresent football. It is about my team, my Dad, my mates. However, it could easily be about you, because the game is ‘ours’. The book holds up a mirror to football and asks whether or not football still belongs to us and what can we do to keep it ‘ours.’
It’s a fair question as we see the good ship Premier football sailing away to the horizon, awash with money, corporate, business-like, owned by billionaires, the working man slowly being priced out. And in any case what is the working man these days, does he still exist. Is it PC to use the term? What has certainly gone is the image of streams of flat capped blokes from the mines and mills heading down to the Turf on a matchday to escape the low paid drudgery they endured, for just one afternoon.
How close are we to our footie heroes these days? Answer: in the Prem a million miles away, although we maybe like to think there is still a touch of ordinariness about our lads at Turf Moor, as long as Sean D keeps them grounded so they don’t arrive at the ground wearing those ridiculous head-set things that mean don’t talk to me, I’m a millionaire footballer.
Anyway: Lee’s book goes through all the things that we ourselves have experienced, and thought, and felt about the game; our dads for a start because how many of us made the first steps to Turf Moor with our dad. I know I did, what seems like a hundred years ago, chugging to the game in a little Ford Prefect with just three gears from Todmorden and up through the Cliviger Valley, which incidentally has barely changed in 60 years. Back then there was never a problem parking in the side streets. Most of us probably played the game ourselves at our own fumbling levels, either the school team, or in the back yard, or Sunday morning stuff in the park local leagues. Lee certainly did and his first section in the book is called Playing Our Game.
Watching Our Game comes next, what was the first game you watched, who was the best player you saw, watching on TV, listening to the radio and so on. What yesterday showed against Newcastle certainly is that we can still freeze to death even though the game has never been so stuffed with money and seated comfort. Unless of course you were inside having a meal, slurping red wine, or nibbling at cheese and biscuits. And that in itself is a snapshot of football today, the haves and the have nots, are you a real fan if you sit indoors warm and dry toddling back and forth to the well-stocked bar. But even Accy Stanley offer fine dining, and Accy Stanley is still the embodiment of the little, friendly, homely club that is bound to its fans.
Lee doesn’t ask who is the most thuggish player you have seen. Hah, we saw that player yesterday. Andy Carroll was at his usual worst, the most well used elbows in football currently. Ben Mee was nearly de-capitated. He received a yellow card and it could easily have been a red. Did my ears deceive me or was he Newcastle’s captain?
It’s not rocket science to say we talk about football. With your dad, your son, (I am presuming here that Lee doesn’t have a daughter), we talk in the pub, at breakfast with the Mrs in our house, and of course with other supporters. Talking about the game has gone on since the game was first invented; maybe today it is via twitter and FB and UTC more than face to face as pubs disappear.
There were certainly enough talking points in the Newcastle game to keep us busy for a few days. Was Burnley’s goal controversial? Steve Bruce thought so. He saw a foul that no-one else saw. TV showed no foul. Shearer said no foul. But Bruce whinged on and on about it that his player was pushed. But the referee changing his mind from goal kick to corner was fortuitous, and MOTD pointed out how from controversial decisions so often a goal comes- and lo and behold it did as Wood head home the prefect corner.
The game needed a goal said the commentary. It certainly did, the first half was drudgery, but the second half eventful to say the least in the bitter conditions. I was shivering in places I didn’t even know I had.
Is football still ‘our’ game Lee asks. Does it still belong to the ordinary fan? Or is it now just the rich man’s plaything? Do we at Burnley still feel in touch with players and directors. I doubt they do at City, or Arsenal, or United. Is Leicester City really the club for its people? Does homeliness only exist in the lower leagues or non-league where clubs cannot afford to alienate fans. If there is a waiting list of thousands for season tickets at the top clubs, what need have they to really show true respect for their fans.
Chapter 27: Lee thinks we should ‘Stanleyise’ the game. So, if you wonder what that means, go into the club shop and buy the book. It all makes sense. The chairman there says this is how football should be run, a club is a club in the proper sense of the word where everyone is a member. It belongs to the town and community. It is not a cash cow for owners in the distant USA. The owners do not live in the UAE.
Are there any answers? Is the game today far too corporate? Is it all about making money to feed the wages of players? Lee suggests one or two solutions. Don’t subscribe to SKY or BT Sport he perhaps. Cut off the money at source. Make clubs beholden to supporters not the TV companies. Fat chance.
Corbyn included football in his manifesto but he is now yesterday’s man, in denial, said our number one fan Al Campbell. The problem today at the top levels is that football no longer needs the fans does it? It has so much money coming in that turnstile money is almost irrelevant at the very top clubs. Will the day come when some games will be in an empty stadium and the game played solely for TV and armchair fans? A daft idea? I remember when in comics 60 years ago they had imaginary flat screen TVs fastened to the wall and you plugged your car into the electric, and we thought, gerraway how impossible is that?
Could even Burnley, assuming there will be another Prem year to come, afford to let fans in for nothing for a season? In theory they could. But will they? Of course not. There isn’t even hot water in the upper James Hargreaves concourses. But I bet there is in the corporate areas. Which again begs the question; who are the real fans, the thousands who wash hands in cold water, or the hundreds who have the hot water? It’s just a small detail of what is grandly called ‘the matchday experience.’ I seem to remember that expression was coined at Burnley by Dave whatsisnmame, when it really needed its fans because it was skint and we had bucket collections.
Burnley won so we all went home happy; but Lee’s book asks questions that make us think a bit, the big question being are we really happy with what’s on offer. I was certainly made doubly happy by the Christmas Dinner on the way home at the Hare and Hounds in Todmorden. A roaring coal fire to warm us up and thaw us out did the trick beautifully. Incidentally, mince pies were not on offer in the James Hargreaves dining areas I am informed.
Burnley ended the day a healthy six points above the graveyard but were last on MOTD. Some things never change. It confirmed there was no foul involved in the Burnley goal. Steve Bruce had no grounds to grumble. But Sean Dyche did pose the question tactfully that Andy Carroll was lucky to stay on the pitch.
Is it just me, but is Ian Wright getting more and more grumpy, by the way?
And Accy won 4-1 I was pleased to see.Share this page :