Philosophy Football

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Philosophy Football ‘Eleven Great Thinkers Play it Deep’.

Written by Mark Perryman:   Published by Penguin Books 1997

Yet another Oxfam Book buy (£1.80) that has sat on my bookshelf for some time.

A small sized book with only 131 pages I thought would be a quick read. Nothing of the sort, this book sets 11 great philosophers, thinkers, writers, musicians in Mark’s eleven a side football team. Mark reviews, extends and fits their life skills and what they have contributed to world development into their imagined position in the team.

This sounds deep and highbrow  but mark gets lots of light hearted writing even into some of the very serious team members.

For me it was not an easy book to read as I wanted reference to the individuals values that I did not know but it certainly was worthwhile. Mark Perryman is the Co founder of Philosophy Football which as the book states “is a self styled sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction”. www,philosophyfootball,com

Mark has written other books and writes regularly on different topics as well as football.

One recent article ‘Null and Void’ points out that in this pandemic top flight football has shown up to be in the main just another business that is scrambling to keep the money-spinning show on the road. I fully sympathise with his article and will look out for more in the future.

Just look up ‘Null and Void’ Mark Perryman and it will come up first on the google list.

 

The phantom football season of 2019/20

Yes The Non-league season of 2019/20 should have ended yesterday with the final league games being played,  leaving only the play offs and Wembley finals to be concluded. There was no jubilation, celebration or despair as promotions, playoff spots and relegations were not decided. All games from step 3 and below have been deemed not to have taken place and the season became a mirage that certainly was there but disappeared in the world created by the Covid pandemic. There are still positions to be worked out in the National Leagues and perhaps some legal issues to be sorted on the way to a new season whenever that may start. Some mystics are predicting that Non-league games will not start until January 2021 but no one knows. My fear is that some teams will not survive the shutdown or the new normal to follow, a quote from John Betjeman seems apt: “It’s strange that those we miss the most/ Are those we took for granted.

However for me  the season was not a mirage and it gave me a great deal of fun, enjoyment, entertainment and chips.

It started for me on a very very wet Sunday afternoon in September at O N Chenecks in Northampton. The FA Cup qualifier was spoilt by the rain but it had the excitement and cut and thrust of this grand old competition.

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The stand out events of the season were:

Hearing two young men talking about their futures in the Athersley Recreation Club House eating my chips prior to an entertaining evening game.

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The excitement of the home supporters at Clay Cross as they sneaked a deserved cup win on a foggy November 5th. The fireworks were not just in the sky nearby.

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The A6 derby on Boxing day is always a goalfest and vocally supported. This is a Christmas highlight.

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Being warmly welcomed in the club house at Workington and seeing this club resurrecting itself from a disastrous few years.

My 70th Birthday celebrations that saw me visit Hellas Verona for a Serie A match on Sunday, Aston Villa’s league Cup semi-final win on Tuesday and finishing the week with a trip to Everton on the Saturday. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.

A trip to F.C. United (A must for all football fans) which really restored my faith in the future of Non-League football. They have so many ideas here that should be looked at by other clubs.

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But my best memory was a visit to Walthamstow FC where on a beautiful sunlit Saturday afternoon I was privileged to see a real community atmosphere of all sexes, ages and ethnicities enjoy their afternoons football. Keep it up Walthamstow I’m sure you will achieve your promotion next season.

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Of course I must mention the chips and that Shirebrook Town again won my chip league despite having a poor season on the pitch.

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I look forward to next season whenever it starts and have already started my list of must see games.

 

 

Footnote: The Lockdown has found many of us the time to tidy, computers, homes and gardens and I’m sure a few gems have been turned up. I have found the three bricks I was given by the demolition men as they tore down the old Holte End, an amazing reminder of some great times.

My son has some as well as some of the mosaic bricks from the old Lion emblem that used to adorn the stand that the Doug Ellis Stand replaced. I believe that the vandalism that wrecked the mosaic and the stained glass windows keeps haunting the Villa and they should be recreated in the new North Stand when it is finally built and the good times will then come back. I hope the current owners Mr Nassef Sawiris and Mr Wes Edens take note.

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Easter Renewal

Football at Christmas and New Year is always welcomed as a distraction from eating and other festivities but for me it is the Easter fixtures that I look forward to. Often promotion or relegation is decided over the long weekend and those teams that you have been watching in the Non League pyramid who have played many less games due to postponements for bad weather and or long cup runs catch some up and you see if their many fixtures are too much or they are good enough to climb into a promotion or out of a relegation battle. You also say farewell to the season and look forward to the new.

This year we cannot look forward as we wait to see how and when this terrible pandemic leaves us. Already there are some teams who have disbanded and others will follow not able to financially survive. Are local football teams going the way of the local pub, post office, store and church, hopefully not and communities will realise their worth in providing, exercise, entertainment, competition, hope and dreams.

The new season when it arrives will surely be the toughest yet, not on the field but in the committee and boardrooms trying to balance the books with diminished sponsorship, advertising and maybe volunteers.

All is now dependant on the Premier League as to when or if they restart and finish this season and how they conduct themselves. Wrong moves could dent footballs place in our sporting psyche. Having pops at young footballers to give up 30% of their income seems cheap when as Gary Lineker said they are not asking this of all high earners. But the League and Clubs must conduct themselves with dignity and with a conscience if it is not to be perceived that everything was actioned for greed.

I hope next Easter that the message of renewal will once again be in our thoughts and also for a new football season.

How Steeple SinderbyWanderers won the F.A. Cup

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How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers won the F.A,Cup.

Written by J.L.Carr   v   First Published in 1975    This reprint 2005 by The Quince Tree Press-Bury St Edmunds

 

If you look at lists of Football books to read this invariably comes up. Unfortunately not true but a glorious way to indulge in football fantasy that you wished were true.

Todays F.A. Cup does not have the same cache of when the book was written, gone are the endless replays, the top teams not puting out full squads,  not being too upset when they go out in an early round and there seems fewer small team giant killing stories. Games are now clinically decide sometimes on penalties.

The glamour and fun have been taken away from the competition but it is there in full technicolour in this book. It is definitely a comedy novel but still almost believable.

From playing local football the team enter the F.A. Cup and progress through the many rounds to a final with Glasgow Rangers.

It’s the characters who are the stars, Alex Slingsby, Sid ‘the Shooting Star’ Swift, Monkey Tonk (son of a trapeze artist) the milkman turned goalkeeper, Mr Fangloss, Dr Kossuth, head teacher of the local school who is from Hungary and more. The interactions and the intricacies and depth of local village relationships are carefully woven into the story.

A quick read of 124 pages it will lift spirits at such an uncertain time.

 

They think It’s all over

The F A have confirmed that all step three and below league results for the 2019/20 season have been expunged.

This followed a lot of media quotes from league and club officials who could not see a way to finish the season within time and financial constraints and the ethical position of the need to put all resources and time in fighting the pandemic. This is sad for teams like South Liverpool, Vauxhall Motors, Jersey Bulls, South Shields and others but these are difficult times.

I feel that this week the National League will also take the lead and agree to end their hopes of finishing the season. Many League Chairman have expressed a need to do this and clubs have closed down their operations to preserve money, maintain their existence and direct effort elsewhere. There are those that have deeper pockets and wish to complete the season and gain promotion but that looks unlikely with the Government posturing that we are in for a long haul.

With one place available for promotion with Bury’s demise it feels appropriate that Barrow (League leaders) should take that place. Regional diversity would be enhanced and it would be a welcome return since they were voted out in 1972.

This will anger some clubs but this is where the English Football League should be bold and demote clubs who have failed to pay players, the tax man and ignore their fans. They could then elect a club(s) to replace them. 

The EFL and the Premier League will have to take a decision soon too and people such as Rio Ferdinand are suggesting that the season should be scrapped if there is a further delay.

It does the Premier League harm if in the public’s eyes it is seen as being all about their TV deals, surely if landlords can accept non payment of rent for an increase in the lease term then this type of compromise can be achieved with the broadcasters. They could also be brave and take up the innovative idea put forward by Karen Brady ( who I have rarely agreed with in the past) and suspend relegation but allow some clubs to be promoted from the Championship and have more teams relegated over the next few seasons until the current league number is again reached. Ideas like this will give a new dimension to a league that is becoming dull. Perhaps there are others that they could explore.

I think we have come to the point where ‘They think it’s all over’ will soon become ‘It is now’.

The Gerry Hitchens Story

‘From Mine to Milan’ – The Gerry Hitchens Story written by Simon Goodyear and published by The Breedon Publishing Company 2010.

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I found this book in a charity shop in Bridgnorth in the heart of the area where Gerry grew up and made his first steps in senior football with Kidderminster Harriers in 1953 after initially playing for the local village team.

The book is sympathetically written by Simon Goodyear who along with his Dad were lifelong Aston Villa fans. The book is a tribute to Gerry and his character shines through. He was a hard working, likeable, committed, unassuming, team player who was talented too and often found the back of the net.

His progress in football would be unusual today in that there was no academy development but an initial mining career and a progression through local to English League, Italian and International teams. Like John Charles he was a trailblazer for British players to go overseas to further their career which have not been a success for many, it is all too common for players from overseas to come to England and develop and delight our game.

Gerry played for Kidderminster Harriers, Cardiff City, Aston Villa, Inter Milan, Torino, Atlanta (Bergamo), Cagliari, Worcester City and Merthyr Tydfil before retiring in 1972.

His most successful time was at Villa where he scored 96 goals in four seasons, 42 in his last season. Of his 7 games for England he scored five goals.

The book shows the depth of good feeling to Gerry through quotes by fans and fellow professionals, Jimmy Greaves, Jimmy Armfield, Bobby Charlton and many more.

The book is very well written in that it gives you a real sense of how Gerry coped with moving to new clubs and cultures as well as being able to keep and enjoy a family life.

His death in 1983 on a football pitch cut short a magnificent life.

The end of the season?

With the pandemic Covid-19 shutting down much of the world I decided to take a trip to see Shirebrook Town. This was to give last years Chip League Winners a chance to defend their trophy (more of that later).

Arriving at the ground the car park was full and there was a large number of cars parked on the grass in front of the stadium. I thought that many of the local supporters who had been denied their EFL and Premier League games had gone to Shirebrook instead. I was wrong although the 178 who did turn up (a good proportion from Eastwood) was a great crowd and some needed revenue for the home club. One of the reasons for the cars and vans was that the field is used for whippet racing in the summer and the organisers had turned up to have a trials/practice/test before their next meeting on Mothers Day.

The game I went to see was Shirebrook Town V Eastwood Community in the East Midland Counties Football League. Eastwood third and hoping for promotion while Shirebrook sit second from bottom, having played more games than rivals, with the prospect of another demotion having been relegated from the Toolstation Northern Counties East League Division One last Year. Where either team ends up is open to conjecture with both the Northern Counties East league and the West Midlands League subject to major change at the end of the season.

I have written about Shirebrooks history before but Eastwoods is short only being in existence for six years. However they are developing a very good community club at their 3G stadium and their aspirations can be summed up by this quote from their Chairman – Jamie Bennett “We’re a club like any other that want to progress through the Leagues but we also pride ourselves on our rapidly expanding football development plan where we aim to bring the community together at all ages and abilities.We hope you will join us in our exciting football adventure.”

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The teams came on to “The boys are back in town” to a backdrop of grey skies and a biting wind. The grey was diminished by Eastwoods dayglow yellow kit and they chose to kick with the slope in the first half on the well worn pitch. They were competing with two other impromptu games of under tens at the back of a goal.

Both teams started competitively and it was Shirebrook who took the lead on 11 minutes when Kurtis Morley harried the Eastwood defence and controlled the ball to run past the goalkeepers right and squeeze the ball at an acute angle past two scrabbling defenders.

Eastwood came storming back and on 28 minutes Carl Westcarr was left on his own and he hit a ball from 10 yards that squirmed under the goalkeepers bending body.

So at half time at 1-1 honours were all square but within a minute of the restart  Eastwood were in front when Ben Gowring leapt above the defence at the far post following a curled corner.

Eastwoods dominance was rewarded when they doubled their lead on 57 minutes through Kieren Watson who ran on to a great through ball to sweep it in the net.

It should then have been all over but Shirebrook seemed to find their best play for the last third of the game and were denied by goalkeeper Jack Andrews who made two blank range saves in quick succession and at the death Shirebrooks man of the match number 2 hit the crossbar with a long range dipping shot.

An enjoyable game that belied the difference in league positions.

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Finally the chips, they were served by a mother and daughter combo, with the mother having taken over the food hut at the ground, that also serves the Whippet Racing, after the death of her husband last year. I have to say they were as good, infact better than last year and their score was one point (86) better than last year and now top the league. They were hot, fresh, cooked right through, golden, crispy on the ends and delicious. The ladies even promised me home cooked chips from real potatoes for next season, I can’t wait. With all games now postponed until further notice and the chances of finishing the football season fading with every day it looks likely that Shirebrook will again be crowned champions.

 

Payonthegate 2019/20 Chip League
Teams Points
Shirebrook Town 86
Workington Town 85
Matlock Town 80
Clay Cross town 76
Staveley Miners Welfare 75
Ollerton Town 74
Cleethorpes Town 72
Aston Villa 68
Athersley Recreation 68
Gresley 68
Worksop Town 68
Worsborough Mill 62
South Normanton 60
Halifax Town 56
Handsworth 50
Bakewell 0
Darlington 0
Everton 0
Hellas Verona 0
Mickleover Sports 0
Northampton ON Chenecks 0
Scunthorpe United 0
Swallownest 0
Walthamstow 0