Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why do I get a Season Ticket?

It can’t be to enjoy the football can it? That hardly ever happens these days.

So what is it that not only compels me to go but which also compels me to get a season ticket?

It works out as being quite cost-effective. Getting an ST probably lines up 5 or 6 free games compared to the total cost of paying on the day each time but that isn’t it either. To be honest the psychological wrench of handing over £400 is far greater than the drip drip drip of paying £24/match as you go. I know that there is the direct debit scheme being run by the club so I don’t actually see £400 disappearing from my bank account at any one time but you know what I mean.

It’s not the cosy, altruistic feel of contributing to the club in the Summer months either. I do get that feeling, of course, but it does not sway me one way or another when it comes down to it. I like feeling that I am “in the club”, as it were, and my ST (or membership as the club likes to refer to it) certainly makes me a member but it isn’t really that either no matter how positive that might be.

I get a discount in the club shop. Well that too is wonderful and that too makes almost no difference to me.

So there is a list of things, all of them good, which have minimal impact on my decision making process. So now you know what does not make me buy an ST but not yet what does!! Here goes:

I get an ST mostly because I cannot be bothered with getting a ticket in advance every week. If I did that then I might not be able to get a seat with my friends and if you can’t go with your mates then the social aspect of a day at the football has gone leaving behind only the game and we all know how unrewarding that tends to be!!

I also get one because I want to be as sure as I can that I will be able to get a ticket for the big games when they come along. We’ve not had many of them recently but the Arsenal cup-tie last year was a case in point and the 9000 tickets went to the ST holders with very few left over for anybody else.

And that is it really. I like saving money, helping the club, being a member and discount in the club shop and I am grateful for all of those things but I don’t really want or need them. What I do want and need is to be there and to be there with my mates with as little hassle as possible. That’s why I get an ST.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Michael Foot ~ An Appreciation

Michael Foot died recently and the nation’s media was packed with tributes to him. Quite right too. He has been a high profile politician for all of my life and has been universally acclaimed as a man of great wit, intelligence and integrity by colleague and adversary alike. You can look up the conventional obituaries in any of the likely sources for more detail.

I don’t want to give a résumé of his whole life. Others will have done that already. I just want to focus on a few ways that he has, even if only indirectly, affected me. So here I go in no particular order…

Years ago when I was far younger I simply did not have the money to get to many away games so when I did it was always something of a treat. On this particular occasion I went to Bournemouth for a game at Dean Court long before it was developed into what we know today. I don’t remember anything about the game. I don’t remember if we won or even if we scored. What I do remember was standing in the queue at the turnstile waiting for my turn pay and go in and Michael Foot being the person before me. I suppose it would have been around the time of him wearing the jacket that caused all the fuss at the memorial service at the Cenotaph. There was nothing controversial about his appearance on that day but I do remember him wearing a very, very trendy pair of shiny ankle boots which provoked a fair bit of good-natured ribbing from the travelling supporters. It was an indication of the depth and ordinariness of his support for Argyle that he stood on the terrace along with every other fan.

Another aspect of his devotion to the club came along when Messrs Foot, Jones, Stapleton, Warren and Gill got together to buy the club from Dan McCauley. These were desperately dark times for the club and the takeover came out of the blue. It was all a huge worry but Foot’s name added credibility to the new men and their intentions that no other name could have. Somehow we, as supporters. knew, at last, that everything was going to be alright and sure enough what followed was the greatest spell of success that Argyle has ever known.

My Mum knew him. Or met him at least. I didn’t know this and it was only on his passing that she ever mentioned it. This goes right back to post-war Plymouth and his first election campaign in which he was fighting to get elected to the seat of Plymouth Devonport and was running against “Churchill’s boy” (Mum’s words). She can’t speak highly enough of him and I don’t think that anybody of my generation, and especially not those much younger, can begin to understand the impact he had or the role he played in Plymouth’s phoenix-like rise from the Luftwaffe’s devastation.

Michael Foot was a man of great humility, huge integrity and no little passion. It was this that made him so popular across the country and, and this is no exaggeration, so very, very deeply loved by Argyle fans everywhere.

He was an atheist so “RIP” isn’t really an appropriate sign-off. Well he probably didn’t think much of reincarnation either and I would dearly love to hear him tell me why I shouldn’t end this piece with just two thoughts:

Thank you, Michael, and resurgam.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Campaign For Sensible Divisional Names

Is there one of these? If there isn’t then there should be.

The game needs to be reconnected to the supporters in all sorts of fundamental ways because it has become too distanced from them and the traditions on which the game has been built. We can start by getting back our proper divisional names.

This of course will mean the abolition of the Premier League; in name at least. I’d like to see them go the whole hog actually but that won’t happen so just 86ing the name will do for now.

For too long we have had to tie ourselves in linguistic knots using terms like “second tier” and “top flight” when trying to contextualise the modern game. It was all so much simpler when we had the old Divisions 1 through to 4. I’m not a Luddite though and I am not adverse to progress but it has to be meaningful, relevant and in tune with the rich historical tapestry which makes English football what it is.

That said I would quite like to see the Blue Square Conference (now that is also a silly name) renamed as “Division 5” because with automatic promotion and relegation between the BSC and the 4th tier means that that is what it is.

I can’t help but think back to the Greatest Book I Ever Owned which was a Purnell’s Encyclopaedia Of Association Football. It was a very big (or was it just that I was very small which made it seem like that?) hardback book which covered just about every aspect of world football. It was packed with interesting articles, reports of important historical matches, great photographs and, this is the clincher, reams and reams of stats: all the teams ever promoted and relegated, cup winners, league tables and so on. I spent hours and hours poring over the lists packed with strange team names Middlesbrough Ironopolis, Accrington Stanley (who have resurrected themselves since then), Blackburn Olympic, Old Carthusians and, of course, Plymouth Argyle. My point being that the deeds of all teams were instantly comparable. The “Division 1” won by the Preston North End (there’s another one) in 1890 when they became the only team ever to go through a season undefeated in League and Cup would be confused with the 3rd tier (grrrr) now.

It is all just too confusing and completely unnecessary. It was initially brought about by the resignations of Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Everton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchesters City and United, Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Oldham Athletic, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield United and Wednesday, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and Wimbledon (Arsenal, Forest, Palace, Spurs, Wednesday, QPR and Villa all also have wonderfully rich nomenclature!!) from the Football League to set up the Premier League in an act of naked self-interest which 17 years later has seen Wimbledon disappear completely, Palace teetering on the brink of bankruptcy at the moment and various financial catastrophes beset Ipswich, Leeds, Wednesday and Southampton and which also sees Manchester United and Liverpool straining under the weight of outrageous debt levels running into hundreds of mi££ions. If they thought that they were setting themselves up for long term success then only 9 of the 22 are still in the top flight so it didn’t work for most of them, did it? Serves ‘em jolly well right too!!

Anyway let’s see a return to Divs 1, 2, 3 & 4 (and maybe even add a 5) and let’s lose the stupidity that is the “Premier League” and “Coca Cola Championship”; let’s reclaim a little of our game even if it is only the usage of the labels attached to it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chester City

Chester City FC ceases to exist.

There you have the story of the death of a football club. It is a sorry tale with no “they lived happily ever after” at the end of it.

I am not especially familiar with the full story of their protracted demise but after reading that BBC report it seems to me that even their own fans had turned their backs on a club that had ceased to represent its constituency and the players had given up any hope of ever being paid.

Maybe the wider truth here is that no club which can only hope to attract a crowd numbered in the region of a couple of thousand fans can operate on a professional basis in the modern era?

Whatever their bigger picture I do hope that a phoenix club can rise from the flames of their financial pyre and given that the ground is still there then maybe the CFU option can give Chester’s football fans, no matter how few there may be of them, a team to follow at some level.

HMRC’s action which has killed them off for the paltry, in footballing terms, sum of around £26k seems harsh but I don’t suppose that HMRC is the only body owed money and if it was not them then it would have been somebody else. It has also been obvious for some time that HMRC has been keen to flex their muscles and make the point that their bills must be paid and here they have done just that.

That this should happen in a world where many a second tier player can expect that sum as a weekly wage shows just how desperately skewed the distribution of wealth is in English football and that just cannot be right.

There must be many other clubs such as Cardiff, Pompey, Palace, Darlington, Stockport and Bournemouth who are looking nervously over their shoulders now.

I don’t want to see any football fan lose his team but something has to change because teams at every level of the game are struggling to keep going and it is about time that somebody, somewhere did something to protect the clubs, even if it is quite possibly from themselves, or else the pyramidal structure of the English game itself is under threat.

Monday, March 08, 2010 …

…is a blog that considers various topical footballing issues as they pertain to the second tier (as they describe it ~ I wonder if they’ve read my “campaign for sensible division names” piece? Actually they can’t have because I have not written it yet!!) of English football.

I met one of the contributors to it recently and it is well worth a few moments of your time and I have added it to my links on the right hand side.