Bet now with totesport - Free £25 bet!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Nostalgia - by Tom Clare


Without doubt, because of their achievements over the last few seasons or so, both Chelsea and Arsenal should be congratulated - if it were United that had happened upon their achievements, then I'm sure everybody here would be crowing from the top of the rooftops. However, what does get up my nose are the plaudits that emanate from the media, and especially this fixation that this current Chelsea team "are the greatest ever." The words "immortal" and "invincible" are being bandied about so freely. I read the UK newspapers on a daily basis and cannot believe some of the tosh that has been penned over the last few months - it just proves to me how little these idiots actually know about football, nor of the game's past history. Martin Sammels' articles are so typical to highlight. He once actually wrote that going through the season unbeaten was on a par with "doubles" and even "trebles." Well I have news for him; ask any genuine football fan about that, and he will certainly get a different view. I'm also certain that most genuine football fans do not believe that this Chelsea team is "the greatest ever" as a lot of people in London, and the media, keep on ramming down our throats. A very, very, good team - yes, certainly. A great team? Debatable to the extreme - if you measure greatness in trophies won, then they don't even compare. How can this team be called great when they have consistently underachieved in the top European competition? Domestically, are they as good as the United teams of the 90's? Are they as good as the great Liverpool teams of the late 60's 70's and 80's? Do they compare with Cloughie's team that won titles and European Cups? Even Villa boast a European Cup! Are they comparable with the 'Spurs double winning team of the early 60's or the Arsenal double winning team of the early 70's? Do they compare with United's team of the 60's? In European competition can they be compared to the great Real Madrid side of the late 50's early 60's? And how do they compare to the Benfica team of the 60's, the Bayern and Ajax teams of the 70's, and I haven't even said anything about the Italian giants of Juve, and the Milan Clubs. Logic and statistics will tell you that this Chelsea team are far from being "the greatest team ever."

Back in May I was back at Old Trafford, the cradle of all my nostalgia. Over the years, Old Trafford has changed much, especially since my first visit in the very early 1950's. As I took in the magnificence that surrounded me, I couldn't help but remember the places where I stood as a boy, and a youth. These places are now sadly covered with seating. The South Stand (main stand) is much loftier than it used to be, when in those dear days gone by, the steam from the trains pulling up outside the main entrance, would sweep over the top of the stand, and then engulf the ground as if a fog had descended upon it. Virtually opposite where I was sat with a few friends, was the old player's tunnel as we used to call it. Again, I could not help myself thinking of the truly great players, who over the years, I have seen emerge from that tunnel. Players who notwithstanding today's inflated standards, would make the majority of today's crop of so called "world beaters" - look like selling platers.

There I go again! Nostalgia is football's version of mad cow disease. It is brought about by close contact with the main product, and unfortunately, as you approach my age, there is no known cure! Or is it genetic, like madness, or even going bald? My dear old Grandad was a lifelong nostalgic. He settled any argument about football by saying "He wasn't as good as Joe." Joe was Joe Spence, a centre forward of some eccentric nature who played for United throughout the 20's. In the current climate, nostalgia seems to be a dirty word. This televiseon era with it's Year Zero approach to football doesn't seem to have much time for it. TV has had a little time for nostalgia, but I suspect that is from a fascination with promoting the "greatness" and “immortality” of the modern day player, rather than any deep desire to learn from the history of the game and our clubs.

To be honest, after reading all the drivel that I have done in recent months, it really is time for football to remember where it came from. Unfortunately, since the advent of the Premiership, the game has changed more dramatically than at any other time in history, and with that change has come uncertainty, and a lot of confusion. Looking back, it was once possible to plot the development of football for ten years ahead, and not to be made to look foolish. Only some kind of madman would endeavour to draw up a blueprint for the next decade, except to say (hopefully!) that I will still be stopping conversations with, "if you think he can play football you never saw Duncan Edwards." Or, "Don't talk to me about hard men. What about Tommy Banks?"

Football grounds are the vaults of our memories. As I sat in that North Stand looking down at the pitch, the images of my past came together, faded, and reassembled like patterns in a kaleidescope. I could see little Eddie Colman floating the ball into the path of Johnny Berry, who would then turn the full back inside out, before putting in an inch perfect cross for Tommy Taylor, who in full stride, was more or less unstoppable. Tommy in full stride was a sight, and a joy to behold. To think that Sir Matt paid less than 30K for him - not even a week's wages for the majority of today's overpaid, over pampered, egotistical so called "greats." Without doubt, Tommy is the finest centre forward that I have ever seen - he had it all, pace, he was two footed, the best header of a ball for me, that the game has ever seen. He was a great athlete, and had the charm and good looks also, but none of this ever went to his head. He never earned more than 17 quid a week - supposedly big money in those days - today he would be priceless.

It was interesting as I sat talking with Paddy Crerand in the hotel, just prior to the George Best 60 Night, the other week. Another "great" player who has never ever forgotten where he came from. Here was a man that achieved virtually everything in the game, yet was so modest, so unassuming, and a delight to be in the company of. Can I honestly believe that the likes of Wenger, Mourinho, Henry, Pires, Lehman, Drogba, Lampard, Robben, etc will be as modest and charming in years to come?

Nostalgia might dwell on things past, but it makes them seem as next-door neighbours, rather than visitors from a distant land. There's much to be said for it. And the wondrous quality of nostalgia is that it is unchallengeable - like beauty - it rests in the eye of the beholder!

Keep taking the pills Thomas!

by Tom Clare - and you can read some exclusive articles by Tom in forthcoming Red News' next season.


Post a Comment

<< Home