Saturday, 11 October 2008
I collect stuff.... Perhaps not the worlds most shocking revelation. But I've always done it, things like books, records (remember them?), CDs, gig tickets, films (video and TV) etc. These things provide an additional set of memories to my life. Whatever has grabbed my attention for a period of time has been hoarded and cherished, until eventually getting discarded in favour of the next thing that my attention alights on. They normally lie about cluttering up shelf space, then get relegated to cupboard, wardrobe or some other hidden storage area, Eventually I pluck up the courage to chuck out the offending clutter.
In terms of football memorabilia I've got tickets (oddly enough in a large biscuit tin, I'm sure there is something deep and meaningful to that) stretching back to the mid 1990's (when I moved to Manchester and started going to away games in earnest) and I've got loads of programmes. The programmes are like a guilty addiction for me. I go to a game, think "ah.... there is no point what will I learn from them" and then find myself gravitating to a bloke in a fluorescent jacket, standing in a plexiglassed hut selling glossy magazines. I then usually shell out anything between £2 to £5 for an anodyne description of the club that Newcastle are going to be beaten by. I think that when I first started going I used to get the programme to see who was in the team... But now that so much depends on printing deadlines and squad sizes that this is meaningless as well. However, it doesn't seem to stop me seeking out a programme seller and parting slavishly with my hard-earned cash.
The other thing that often happens is that I tend to read these in accordance with how well/badly Newcastle have played. If the game is a good one (i.e. Newcastle actually win an away game) then the programme is devoured on the day of the game. If a poor result, then it usually lies on the kitchen table for a few days and might be studied after the pre-requisite period of grief has elapsed.
The Everton programme was midway between those two in terms of time. A typical corporate production, with lots of stories about how much the club cares for its fans and what upstanding fellows all the players are, a few words from the manager and captain and a smattering about Newcastle. This copy had a "Guest Appearance" by Sid Waddell, a darts commentator, expert quipper and semi-professional Geordie. The article was about Waddell's career and the state of darts in general (as an aside, how on earth can darts be considered a sport??) and some comments about the North East in general and Newcastle in particular. I then stumbled across this quote :-
"Newcastle United are not a football team; they are a crusade. They were the best of the tribe; these were our Geronimo, our best warriors. They came out of the pits and the shipyards... How the Toon did affected the whole society. People's mood in the pubs and clubs would be affected for the whole weekend"
This made me stop and think for loads of reasons - interesting use of the past tense; are the current players really our best warriors?; when did this all change?; how many are really still employed in the pits and the shipyards?; why is football so important that it can alter the mood of a region depending on what 22 men kicking an inflated pigs bladder around do?
Waddell's view is undoubtedly harking back to a glorious past seen through rose-tinted glasses, but perhaps the first sentence is the most telling for me. And perhaps if Mike Ashley had understood his customers a bit better, then perhaps he'd have a few more million quid on the table for his most recent declining investment.