not quite fever pitch

Today is Cup Final day, Ian’s first: Chelsea v Liverpool. He is 19 days younger than I was when I watched my first, in 1971: Liverpool 1 Arsenal 2, with Steve Heighway, in flaming red, scoring from near the corner flag, and Charlie George flat on his back in his sunny yellow shirt in the Wembley sunshine after hitting the winner, thus completing Arsenal’s League and Cup double (at that time the fourth double in 72 seasons, though since then it has been won seven times in 41 seasons – testament to the growing power of money in the game).

I remember watching this in bright colour on our fourth day in our newly bought suburban Wimpey home (ten months after my mother walked out of my parents’ house, two months after I lost him for good, and two months before their divorce became absolute, itself two months short of 25 years of marriage) even though for the first few years we only had a black and white TV. I also clearly remember Heighway scoring from the right, though in fact he did so from the left…

In the Yorkshire circumstances of the day I was bound to follow Leeds United – I had missed their Cup Final replay loss to Chelsea the year before (although my mate Simon Webb, himself a Leeds fan, was not slow to point out that his namesake had scored the winning goal), but in 1972 I was sat on the floor among a crowd of boys gaping at the neighbour’s big colour screen as Sniffer Clarke thumped the winning header past Geoff Barnett, and Mick Jones limped up in agony to collect his winner’s medal after dislocating his shoulder in the final minutes.

Two days after that Leeds went to Wolves needing a point to win the double themselves; in those days they didn’t broadcast league games in full, and I watched in dismay the brief report on the late-night Yorkshire news as Derek Dougan (of the massive sideboards) sank my exhausted heroes 2-1.

That was in black and white all right – doubly awful as it meant Derby County, and the bitterly hated Brian Clough, winning their first title.

I was a Leeds fan for 19 years, until the aura of racism and violence that dogged the club got to be too much. The final straw came in May 1990, when Leeds beat Bournemouth on the final day of the season to ensure that they won the second division championship while Bournemouth were relegated to Division 3. These things happen in football, but what came afterwards didn’t have to: the thugs of Yorkshire smashed Bournemouth town centre to pieces. That disgraceful performance was enough for me; since then I’ve been strictly neutral.

Ian’s not; he’s a Liverpool fan. So far from a local context, I’m not sure what that means, but he has his kit and all (more than I ever did; my mother’s paltry income wouldn’t stretch to such indulgences back in the early ‘70s). So we’ll be on the sofa tonight at 8.15 (for some reason the game is no longer the traditional  3.00 kick-off, but 5.15, plus three hours for the time difference). Will he stay awake?

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5 Responses to not quite fever pitch

  1. Andrew Lloyd says:

    Mark,

    I have seen on your FB page that Ian wasn’t to traumatised by Liverpool losing. Wasn’t a great game.

    My first FA Cup final was Spurs vs Chelsea in 1967.

    I don’t know if that link will appear as loaded when you see it. I remember wanting Chelsea to win and being disappointed. I was eight. We watched it in black and white. We didn’t have a colour telly until ’73, though my dad’s gold club did, so we saw all the final from ’68 to ’72 in colour. I don’t recall doing any drawings of the Battle of Bosworth.

    I think I’ve seen every FA Cup Final since, though in the 90s, that sometimes meant waiting until the following Christmas, where either my sister or parents had taped it. Arsenal vs Sheffield Wednesday 20 years ago was not a good watch.

    I know what you mean about money taking over football too. I hear people, keen football fans say they don’t bother with the premiership anymore. I would say that the Man U era looks to be on the wane. I wondered it might be when they lost to Barcelona last May. Ferguson won’t enjoy being second fiddle. Newcastle have been the real breath of fresh air this year, from the car crash of Keegan leaving and then being relegated, then sacking Chris Hughton when he got them promoted, they’ve really turned the club around.

    It will be interesting to see how Hodgson does at the Euros.

    Andrew

  2. markrossiter says:

    Andrew, thanks for the link. These severely truncated Argentine highlights of English cup finals seem to be all over YouTube, but I found a colour version too – I didn’t even know who had won the 1967 cup! I suppose in those days England were World Champions and it all seemed terribly significant….

    I’ve seen far from every final since 1971 – that tradition of yours I apply to World Cup finals, the first being 1970 (that was the tournament that got me really interested in footie – I was too young for 1966, unfortunately, because I don’t expect to see England win it again in my lifetime, though they might qualify for Brazil through the playoffs with Roy Hodgson in charge)

    You think the Man U era is on the wane? I thought that in about 2004, when Arsenal were on full song and then Mourinho arrived at the Bridge. I suppose it’s true that their dependence on Scholes this season, and Giggs’ age, gives the sense that an era is ending, but there was a similar zeitgeist when Roy Keane was on the way out. I’m not sure AF is ready to turn cuddly just yet – and if they lost to Barcelona last year, well the Barcelona carousel was unplayably dizzying then. I wonder if even Ajax 1971 could have sorted them. And last night they came within a minute of the title all over again. But maybe you are right and Ferguson’s gotterdammerung is approaching, though I will only believe it when he drops dead – it really will be a different world then…

  3. Andrew Lloyd says:

    I would agree that the sense of wane can be overstated and they did nearly win the title as you say (Some would say they threw it away having been 8 poiints clear after 32 games). However, I do think it is the case. I also think City’s spending power will tell in time. You mention Giggs and Scholes: where United have spent very little on midfield in recent years, City have splashed quite a lot on Silva, Toure and Nasri, not to mention Aguero and Balotelli.

    But anyway, here’s a little pub quiz question for you. It’s now 20 years since the famous United youth team won the FA Youth Cup. Seven of that team went on to become full internationals, which is rare for a youth team. Can you name any of them? The answer is in this article:
    http://articles.squarefootball.net/squarefootball/2010/07/whatver-happened-tomanchester-united-youth-cup-winners-1992.html

    It also mentions what happened to the others in that team who had less illustrious careers. Intersting to note that the core of Barcelona’s current team have also come up through their youth and academy system.

    Andrew

    • markrossiter says:

      yes I saw that United were top of the injury league in the season just ended, which speaks of an aging squad, for sure. But then they still have relatively deep pockets, a canny manager and some good young players – even if winning the title two years out of three will no longer be such a regular occurrence.

      The seven, I would guess: Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, the Neville Brothers, Savage..I can’t think of the seventh. I’ll go and check when I’ve posted this.

      • markrossiter says:

        so, four out of seven. I didn’t realise that Scholes and Phil Neville were younger. Butt I should have thought of – Gillespie and Davies I would never have got. Funny how players who are almost at adulthood can have such different trajectories – you would think that they would all be successful, it’s mysterious why some go on to the highest levels and others (relatively speaking) fail..

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