Sunday, 19 June 2011
A Few Days of Ska: On My Radio / And fitba (2)
The Selecter on TOTP, and the same, live:
Little to say, just driven high spirits, same social and musical source as The Specials, driving ploughs over the cut worms of racism and white supremacy. Things were better after this.
In the summer, when there is no major international competition, the time is taken up by transfer rumours. Fans of every team are on tenterhooks about who will arrive and who will leave. Having formal transfer windows has only intensified the hubbub. The press have a wonderful time starting one rumour one week, another the next. Fans of rich clubs want big money signings almost as a sign of virility, to prove they can attract superstars by virtue of their status. Rich clubs might buy simply so that rivals shouldn't. Chelsea operated like this for a few years as did, notably, Real Madrid (known by United fans as 'the virus' or, for historical reasons, as 'the fascists'). It's a short term philosophy because big transfers are not happy to be sitting on the bench and their unhappiness spreads through the team. But then most business is short term, as are the enthusiasms and hatreds of most supporters.
There are two or three teams I have grown fond of over the years. One is the local team, Norwich City, who are back up in the Premier League this year, having sunk as low as the third tier. They have now been promoted two years in a row, which is wonderful but dangerous because a team that has risen on spirit - such as Blackpool last year - often finds it harder to grind out a season among better equipped teams. A good start is followed by a slump, if not the first year then the second. Norwich play attractive football and have clearly got an outstanding manager (another Scot - all the best managers seem to be Scottish). It's romantic to see a team like Norwich at the top, and all the more so when it's the local team. Impossible to get season tickets this year. All sold.
Stoke City have also found a place in my heart. That is partly through friends who are Stokies, and partly by admiring the sheer determination of the team as it rose and clung. They could not afford pretty football and were a traditional Route One team at the start, but as they established a hold in the league, have grown a little more tolerant of grace. They have earned it. They have some skilful players now, and a trademark card in Rory Delap who can throw the ball so far and so fast it seems almost unnatural.
And AFC Wimbledon, back from the dead after a remarkably fast recovery. More soft spots for Wigan, Everton, and, for my dad's sake, Tottenham. And Blackpool whose bright brief moment may have come and gone. And QPR, the nearest team when I lived in London.
Players shuffle between unglamorous teams, sometimes appearing only for two or three games before disappearing, sometimes doing the circuit of the obscure, still hanging in in their mid-thirties. No big names. Hardly names at all, just people good enough to be kicking a ball at this level, making a living.
I know these are in some ways childish things, symbolic romances, the interest itself a form of playing. But I rate play very highly. It is precisely what is beyond bare necessity that proves the spirit. Playground patches. The ball lost in the dusk as it bounces back off the brick wall. The mud churned up in the goalmouth. The heraldic colours spread across the pitch. A sub-class of poetry.
In the meantime there is cricket, but it's not the same.