19/07/2013 Falling Out Of Love With Football – Now The Big Business, Not Big Match
OF the 999 TV channels now lazer-beamed into Chateau Boucher, I can live without all of them except one…
ITV4 regularly delves into the sock drawer to show epic football games from the early Eighties, called The Big Match Revisited.
I’d forgotten how top flight football used to be.
Wiry men in short shorts on rutted cow fields with refs in their seventies. Jumpers for goalposts, just about.
There were no triple somersaults after hitting the net – scorers just shook hands.
At the final whistle, urchins flooded on to the pitch from crumbling wooden terraces to pat the backs of their heroes.
Not a luminous boot, pair of gloves, shin pad or Alice band in sight.
Not a single snarling narcissist sliding on his knees towards a camera to celebrate his God-bestowed brilliance.
Humility is something today’s Hollyoaks players with their Holly Willoughby girlfriends and a garage-full of Hollywood motors could do with learning.
Because despite all the hype, most games today fail to live with the drama of that era.
The Lowryesque 55,000 fans jammed in at Old Trafford for an FA Cup tie against Everton in 1983 made ten times the noise 75,000 do today.
Why? Because 30 years ago football was still a game not a business. Every team had a win-or-die mentality.
The attitude was ‘attack attack attack’ and if they lost, well, at least they tried.
Even the commentators knew their place. Dubious decisions were mentioned once then forgotten.
There’s no doubt that in terms of athleticism, today’s pasta-eating, Lucozade-guzzling pros would outpower yesteryear’s whippersnappers.
But what modern players gained in technical and tactical know how – they lost in passion and excitement.
Managers fretful of relegation ironed out the mistakes which used to make the game so entertaining.
In its place, this highly tactical, strategic chess game set in, where well-drilled teams are far more boringly cautious, often sitting back to save energy for the next moneyspinner.
It’s why following England now is such a yawn – they’re too scared to lose so won’t go all out to win.