I WENT TO THE DELL ONCE – HOW I HAVE FALLEN OUT WITH MODERN FOOTBALL

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As Wigan Athletic are playing Southampton this weekend and the “against modern football” movement/thought policy has been in the news recently this may be apt…

I went to the Dell once. Just the once. It was an FA Cup game and it rained. I was wearing a red Armani jacket, grey Woodhouse cashmere scarf, maroon trousers and patent shoes. It was “the eighties”, I was a dick we lost the game…
By what score I’m not sure.
The second time I went to Southampton was on the way back from Portsmouth. We found a supermarket, stocked up on the beers and got back on a train. I was wearing a Barbour jacket, nondescript cords and Trickers brogues. It was “the noughties”, I was less of a dick but we still lost the game…
By what score I’m not sure.
And thinking about going to Southampton made me realise that I really don’t care that much about football. Even though I’ve spent most of my Saturdays on a terrace or sat in a seat it wasn’t really about the football was it/is it? Sure I know what’s happening out on the pitch, I understand tactics, I even want my team to win but really I’m not arsed…
It wasn’t always like this I’m sure. Those halcyon fucking days when we played football on the back fields all winter. When we all wanted to be Georgie Best and Geoff Hurst. From eight years old until I discovered David Bowie, girls and Consulate cigarettes football meant everything. Those five years it really did mean everything. Absolutely everything but since it’s been a long slow steady path to meaning absolutely nothing.
The paradox of all this is that although football now means nothing to me I now attend more games per season than I ever have. Watching football from the Premier League to the Sunday League. Watching a player for somebody or writing a report for a few pennies on some nondescript non-league game while wearing a pair of nondescript cords. Yet I just can’t be arsed about it. Those days when it meant everything, when you were with all your mates and talked about it from dawn to dusk all wrapped up in lager and bitter. Day trips to London and to all points north, east, west and south. Checking league tables and fixture lists, time tables and goal difference. Predicting scores and planning trips.
But slowly all that has gone and frankly my dear I don’t give a damn!
Growing old is part of the reason but not it all… I’ve changed. We’ve changed. But not as much as football has changed. From the working class ballet to a sub-Hollyoaks soap opera in the time you can say “Sky Sports” or “Doing the Poznan” if we’re stretching it a bit longer.
Money money money. Get relegated and it will cost so much or even your club where in the past it cost you your pride.
Football is now the Dallas of the the twenty-tens. A world populated by the JR Ewing comedy villains. The Rooneys v The Terrys. The Arab Owners v The Gimps. Dodgy “Huyton-based Businessmen” v …
All the way from the top to the bottom, the game is populated by whoppers and wannabes that in any other industry or walk of life you’d walk a million miles away from. It has undoubtedly been the same since the Victorian mill owners allowed their minions to have a bit of fun on a Saturday afternoon.
And of course footballers have always been knobs since time immemorial and will be until the world ends for good (probably via penalty shoot-outs and just after an advert for wonga.com). It’s just that everthing about football is knobbish and is surrounded by knobs. Before when I was smoking menthol cigarettes and snogging teenage girls football was where we went on a Saturday. Where we became embroiled in football culture. The songs, the terraces, the trips, the scraps, the pride in your team, the pride in your town. The friendships forged following football that remain to this day.
But… but as I think back it was all about that. It was never about the actual football out on the pitch but still we went. I never really enjoyed that but now it’s all about the football and the footballers. The owners and the WAGS. The pundits and the phone-ins. The slo-mo replays and referees that think they are Bruce Forsyth. Millions of pounds in wages for ill-educated dickheads and to an ex-punk rocker – that still carries a punk attitude to this day – none of this is right. And I’m sure it isn’t just the punk rockers that are drifting away. I talk to people my age and they have either given up or completely disiilusioned with the game. Like most, they were at the football for many other reasons than the eleven that took the pitch but back then at least the eleven that took the pitch looked like they gave a fuck! They also earned roughly the same as you and me back then.
We were probably lucky that we saw the game when we did. Sure we put up with dangerous grounds, hooligans, muddy pitches and ten-bob millionaires running our clubs but compared to Colin Murray, Gary Neville, Meerkats, Jamie Redknapp and clueless ted fans I know which I would choose.
And of course Southampton are doing well again and who knows I may go there again as they have a new ground (and of course we all want to “do the 92”) but you’re probably more likely to find me in Southport. I was over that way the other week. It was unseasonably warm and I wore a London Fog G4 jacket, tailored trousers and suede boots. Without looking at my notes I can’t recall the score…

Article first appeared in the excellent Stockport County fanzine Clear Blue Skies

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