Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Three Lions on a Shirt........Shivers Down my Spine

by Sheilagh Dyson

Call me a sentimental, idealistic, over-optimistic, unrealistic fool, but there’s a song that sends shivers down my spine. It did at the time and it still does now. Three Lions, the magnificent opus created by the Lightning Seeds, Baddiel and Skinner in anticipation of Euro ’96, when football was coming home to England. It fades in, rising to a crescendo – ‘It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, …..football’s coming home.’ This time was going to be different. Thirty years of hurt never stopped me dreaming. All the bitter disappointments, the ignominy of non-qualification, the Hand of God – all would be swept away this time in a glorious climax at Wembley, when England would at last reclaim the mantle of champions, the three lions passant would again tower imperiously over the football world. Football was coming home to our country, where it all began. Nothing could stop us this time. (Germany, on penalties, in the semi-final, actually. They could.)

            It is in the nature of a football supporter to be a blinkered, romantic who has an unshakeable conviction that it will be better next time – a triumph of hope over experience, if ever there was one. This is applicable to all levels of football, but most of all to England, whose long suffering supporters face each tournament with renewed certainty that this time……Meanwhile, the over-hyped, overpaid, mercenary primadonnas who carry all our hopes and dreams once more flatter to deceive, let us down and another two years of national navel-gazing, anger and resentment beckon – but only till next time, when the hopelessly misplaced optimism ramps up again.

All that I know surely about morality and the obligations of man, I owe to football.’ Albert Camus said. What would he have made of today’s game, with its gangster chairmen, culture of celebrity, grotesque unaffordable wages, the diving, the cynicism and the bloated agents calling all the shots? It’s still a beautiful game though, for all that, but sadly one that is now far removed from its grass roots. For anyone interested, please try Gary Imlach’s excellent book ‘My Father and Other Working-Class Football Heroes’ which tells the story of his father’s experiences as a professional footballer in the 1950s and early 1960s, when footballers received the wages of a worker and lived in the same streets as their supporters. Compare and contrast!

I will finish with two poems. The first is a haiku I wrote in anger about Blackpool FC’s relegation from the Premier League. The second is a commentary on the game today and is by Ivan Donn Carswell.

Lament for Blackpool FC

The tangerine dream-
Smashed by a dark juggernaut
The Premier League

To win a game

by Ivan Donn Carswell

How do you win a football game? Not by skill alone or clever plays,
in modern days the game has changed and subterfuge and actors
ways will pave the path to glory. Fitness pays a fair reward to keep
a fleetness in the feet, a clearness in the head, and special food
and clever drinks recharge the cells when batteries are low or dead.
But referees are certain keys to all the famous victories.
Linguistic tricks of lunatics in soccer strip are even matched by
hieroglyphs from coaches dressed in two piece suits, with
hearts on sleeves, grieving for the chances missed, pleading
with the referee for plays he did or didn’t see, for ploys that failed
to turn his head, for verdicts made and judgements dread.
And referees are equal keys to infamy or certain fame.
Then there’s the crowd, a seething throng of attitude and energy,
baying for their chosen team, living in a plastic dream of cinematic
death or glory; dressed in kind and cheering on, drinking, singing,
chanting long and loud the songs expressing hopes and fears of masses
pressed in servitude, praying for a famous win, praying to the soccer rood.
But referees are willing keys to all the prayers and eulogies.
How do you win? Why do you care? Theatrics grimace everywhere,
a game so crafted for the stage with pathos, bathos, great despair,
actors playing parts and reading scripts with human traits, protagonists,
antagonists, depicting gallant characters with artful flair,
it’s all encompassed there, entwined in referee maturity, so grin
and bear it friend, you see, it looks so good on home TV.
© I.D. Carswell



Ashley R Lister said...


Eloquent and absorbing as ever - and I don't really have any interest in football!


vicky ellis said...

I second what Ash said. I can't believe a post on football had me engaged from start to finish. Scary :)

Christo Heyworth said...

Terrific, "She Who Lives Here" as your PPC poster had it.

Having worked for BFC between 2001 and 2007 (Youth Department Administrator) I can tell you that the professional game is quite as hateful as you suspect it is, but keep on supporting "our lads".

And you are right about certain martial music casting aside all our refusals to be infected with town, club or country nationalism - Land of Hope & Glory affects me the same way at Last Night of the Proms, though I think that's more about nostalgia for my childhood.

Thanks for a super read.