Monday 29 October 2012

The Past Is Dead... And It's Not Coming Back

It's with a heavy heart and sore head that I write this post for I had an epiphany at the weekend, realised through the fug of a low level migraine, made worse by the spectacle that unfolded before me.

The Football Attic is a nostalgia blog, therefore it would kind of follow logically that we both view olden days football as better than the modern game, but that's not neccessarily true. I can't speak for Chris, but I am a rather optimistic person - I have tickets to watch Coventry play Arlesey Town in the 1st round of the FA Cup on Saturday. This is the first time since 1963 that CCFC will have played in 2 different FA Cup competitions in the same calendar year (I'm ignoring that time in the early 2000s when the whole 3rd round got moved to December as it's an exception and it also ruins my point), but I'm looking forward to it. It could be another Sutton United, we could score a hatful or we could scrape through unconvincingly. Either way, I will be there and start the game with positivity and optimism. That optimism has been stretched to breaking point at the weekend.

A week or so ago, Ian from A United View posted on twitter that he is just not feeling the love for the game anymore, despite Sheffield United doing well. A general dislike of the game as it is was cited. I replied that I understood, but never thought that I would be in the same place just a week later. Furthermore, this excellent piece from @Sofalife on why modern football is rubbish crystallised some thoughts floating around in my head. Similarly to Ian, however, it has nothing to do with my own club. Following Coventry, one gets used to disappointment and failure so the success rate of them has very little effect on my view of football in general.

So what has caused this sudden change of heart?  Well, for a start it's not sudden, it's been coming for a while. Some might say since 1992, but that would be far too simplistic and personally I think it's naive to blame the inception of the EPL for all that's unpleasant about today's game. Yes it's played its part, but other seeds were already sown by then.

The final straw for me was the several controversial issues in yesterdays matches between Chelsea & Man U and Everton & Liverpool. Suarez was not offside and Hernandez was. 2 mistakes that changed the result of the games they occurred in. The key word there is mistake, for that is what they were. Costly mistakes for sure, especially in the Chelsea game where both teams are contenders for the title. But mistakes are what they were. No more, no less. No conspiracy, no cover up, but a mistake. And do you know what the thing about mistakes is? They happen. sorry to disappoint the baying masses, but it doesn't matter how much you pay someone, they will still make mistakes because they are humans and football tends to happen at a very fast pace. I challenge anyone who has moaned about an offside, penalty claim etc etc etc to put themselves in that position and look anyone in the eye and swear they will get every call absolutely spot on. Well you can't expect EVERY call to be correct can you?  No, obviously not, but this is where we are. A ref / linesman makes a mistake and his head is called for. Forget the countless times they do get something right. Now, I'm not naive here, I know that it matters more that the important decisions are correct, but again, this misses the nature of a mistake. No ref intentionally gets calls wrong or decides that they're going to get 95% of calls right, but allow themselves one big call to go astray.

So this is where the technology debate kicks in. My personal feelings on this whole issue are mixed. Replays have been adapted into other sports such as Tennis and Rugby with no real problems, but the arguments go that they are stop start sports unlike the flowing nature of football. Playing Devil's advocate here I'd counter that football is not as flowing as we like to pretend. How many times does time tick by as decisions are disputed etc?  Could that time not be spent consulting a 4th official with video replays? I don't have the answer, but what depresses me is that we have to have this debate every single week. Maybe instead of going down the 'we must achieve perfection!!!' route, why don't we all just grow up and accept that mistakes happen and just move on? Or is that too rational to counter the hysteria that surrounds the game these days?

So that was the straw, but what else has been burdening my metaphorical tolerance camel?

Safe Standing Campaign - woah there, I hear many of you cry...what the hell? Right, let me get this straight right from the off.  I think the Safe Standing campaign is a great thing and back it completely. What makes me sad however is that I can't help thinking it's already too late. I don't mean that no MP would ever back it due to the fear of being the person responsible should another disaster ever occur.  What I mean is I can't help but feel that the powers that run football don't want it and not for safety reasons, but just because they don't want 'that sort of fan' attending their precious, sanitised game anymore.  Football nowadays is all nicely controlled, they know where everyone is, how much they've spent and on what. The last thing they want is a bunch of annonymous people in a general space making noise and generally sounding a bit uncouth and not at all like the good sheeple we all should be.

I also think it won't achieve its ultimate aims of bringing back an atmosphere only those campaigning can remember. Things have gone too far and those days are gone. The new generation attending football now have only ever known the Premier League and Champions League and will never understand the way things were. It's like trying to get the iPod generation to understand the impact of rave culture. To some of us, it's like yesterday, but to those who weren't around it's a world away.

I do hope Safe Standing is given the respect and time it thoroughly deserves, but I also hope that if it comes to pass, it proves my theory drastically wrong and thrives.

What else?  I mentioned earlier that I don't think the EPL is to blame for everything and I stand by that. To me, what has done more damage to football is the Champions League. Did the EPL reduce the importance of the FA & League Cups? A little, but why is the EPL so important? Why is finishing in 4th place regarded as more important than actually winning a trophy?  The answer is the CL. The day they extended the places available was the day football started to die.  So far the all conquering Champions League has claimed the life of the European Cup Winners Cup (Man U's first European trophy since the 60s remember), the Uefa Cup, which used to mean something when it was for the runners up) and is slowly killing off the remaining domestic cup competitions. The FA Cup lost its shine when the ECWC went and now the top 4 places in the league are so coveted, any other competition is jettisoned in favour of that CL entry.

Of course this is all done in the name of my next bugbear...Money.

I'm not going to bang on about Sky TV etc here...that's been done by others in much greater detail and with far better analysis than I could hope to elsewhere. My sole question regarding money is this: Since when did every single club need a buy out from a millionaire just to survive? Sure, clubs used to get a sugar daddy and achieve things beyond their wildest dreams (looking at you Blackburn, Wigan and Reading), but nowadays, it seems you need a new one every week just to stop the club going out of business.  You know, that's not a healthy place to be. I know clubs have always gone bankrupt (Aldershot & Middlesbrough being 2 prominent cases of yesteryear), but there seems to be a permanent list of clubs that could die at any given moment and the list just gets longer.

This money fixation also seems to have taken the fun out of the game. I asked on twitter the other day about the TV show Fantasy Football and the response was positive, yet also tinged with a sense it was 'of its time', a sentiment I agree with. The EPL was a mere baby when it first broadcast and it still seemed acceptable to laugh at the game and its idiosyncrasies. Someone mentioned it being a forerunner for Soccer AM and in a way that's true, only I can't help but feel the latter is coming from a different place. FF's sense of laddish banter was borne out of genuine laddish banter, whereas one gets the distinct impression Soccer AM's humour has all been focus grouped and is referred to by producers as 'bantz'.

So, having got all this off my chest, what are my ideas to fix the mess, to right the wrongs?  The simple answer is, I don't have any answers and I sadly believe there are none. It may well just be my disenchantment with the game talking, but I think football as we knew and loved it is dead and all the magic sponges in the world are not going to bring it back.

I apologise...well I'll issue a statement through my solicitor later...for such a solemn post and please, prove me wrong...I'd welcome it, for right now, all I can say is:

RIP were great once.


One more thing...Being Liverpool.


  1. There is an answer. Since I wrote this piece about a disaffected day out at Bramall Lane I've been back no more than ten times and then only when the tickets were discounted. You know what I don't miss it one bit. I do however still get my live football fix. I regularly watch non-league football- predominantly in my local area but sometimes a little further afield. It's cheap, you feel welcomed, valued & it's a great day out. Professional football is stale, sanitised & over-priced - the only way the powers that be will consider changing things if crowds drop. So my call to all of you who have or are falling out of love with the professional game is to kick the habit & get down to your local non-league club.

    1. Thanks for the comments Karl. For a few years my mate introduced me to Solihull Borough and we used to go when he was in the area. It was great to see football for £6 and the kids (who got in free) enjoyed it as they could run around the perimeter if they got bored. It was often freezing, but it was fun. They then merged with Moor Green and became Solihull Moors, taking Moor Green's place in the league above Borough. At this point the prices went up (though they did freeze them for a while after I emailed the club stating how the price would more than triple) and it just didn't feel the same. Maybe it's just me that causes this sort of thing ;-)

  2. 1. What year was the 3rd round of the FA Cup played in december in the 2000s?

    2. Coates climbed over the Everton defender when he won the header that he assisted Suarez with so the goal was rightly disallowed.

    Ben B

    1. 1) 1999/2000 season (thought it was a few years later than that)