Football Nostalgia seems to be the Way Forward.
Given the unique circumstances in which we all find ourselves, confined to our homes except for the essential activities of shopping for provisions and exercising; it seems wrong to bemoan the lack of football given the hardships and restrictions we are all facing for the greater good. That doesn’t of course mean that we can’t miss it desperately and want it to come back as soon as possible, not just for the escapism for us as football fans but more importantly because that might mean that we are on the way back to some form of ‘normality’, whatever that might look like.
Last week we saw the Premier League and EFL extend the original and seemingly absurdly optimistic aspiration that football in England would resume on the 3rd of April; with the statement that: “English football will be suspended until at least 30 April because of the continued spread of Coronavirus”. Even that would seem wildly hopeful for everyone but the Leader of the Free World who has assured us that this will all be over by Easter (yeah right Donald!), given that according to the scientists we are still weeks, if not months, away from the peak of the pandemic in most countries around the world.
Listening to the assembled football journalists on Sky Sports’ Sunday Supplement last weekend it would seem more realistic to think that we are looking at a hiatus of (at least) several months until we see the return of the game we all love so much. Even then there will still need to be some form of mini pre-season preparation period to get players, who won’t have been able to train properly for such a significant period of time and who are in all likelihood going to be tasked with completing the season in a condensed timeframe, fully back up to speed.
Of course there has been an element of the football authorities trying to keep people’s morale up and to give us hope, football is after all in the words of Carlo Ancelloti which were echoed by Jürgen Klopp recently, “the most important of the less important things in the world”. The game of course does not exist in isolation and we all know that whenever this crisis subsides, the world, let alone sport and football, will look very different. However the emotional uplift when we do get our football back is going to be quite something to experience, something almost akin to the return of football proper at the end of the World Wars. In many ways it will be the signal that the normality and routine that our love for the game gives us is restored.
Before that glorious day however we face an undefined period in which we will have to entertain ourselves with football on hold. This last weekend, the first that I can actually remember during the season without a programme of matches to immerse myself in, I settled for watching the BBC’s Classic FA Cup Quarter Finals featuring such memorable sides as: Graham Taylor’s Watford, who he led from the depths of the Fourth Division to runner-up to (inevitably) Liverpool in the First Division in just five years, beating George Graham’s Arsenal in 1987; Howard Kendall’s wonderful Everton side that won the FA Cup, 2 League titles and the European Cup Winners Cup in a four year span in the mid-eighties; and “Old Big ‘Ead” himself, Brian Clough’s majestic Nottingham Forest that won not only the League title but almost surreally consecutive European Cups in 1979 and 1980.
Beyond the enjoyment of actually watching some football (albeit not live) and even cheering Ian Allinson’s (any Arsenal fan of a certain vintage will remember that name!) opening goal after 11 minutes despite knowing full well the outcome of the game; seeing the state of the pitches, the stadiums the way they used to be, the packed boisterous terraces and the non-uniformly box-shaped goal nets and actual floodlight towers (two for the truly football nostalgia obsessives there!) sparked a nostalgic fire within me. A comforting reminiscence for the way the game used to be and why I fell so hopelessly and utterly in love it all those years ago.
It wasn’t just about fondly remembering the past but more to do with a realisation that the space created by the absence of the football’s ongoing soap opera would give time that we don’t normally get to delve back into the archives, to study, reminisce, analyse and/ or learn about the game’s rich and bountiful history.
I wrote on this page last week that, as much for my own sanity as anything, I was intending to try to stick to my routine of weekly blog posts but I wasn’t at the time 100% sure of the direction that was going to take me. Watching those two TV shows last weekend lit the path for me, next week I will be looking back at the English First Division in the Eighties, those wonderful sides I mentioned earlier and of course Ron Saunders’ Aston Villa, and inescapably the all-conquering Liverpool machine that won six league titles and two European Cups in that decade.
As I stated last week anyone looking for an outlet / football fix is of course more than welcome to join me, Football Nerd has always been intended to be an open church with all contributions welcome, so if you find yourself climbing the walls over the coming weeks deprived of our beloved game submit your contributions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Right I am off to scour Youtube and other archives ahead of next week’s post or as I describe it to my line manager “working from home”!
Stay safe and stay at home!