It’s the 4th of July here tomorrow — actually, it’s that date everywhere but it’s also Independence Day in America. Sadly we won’t be getting an England-USA game this weekend for a chance for us to rewrite history and teach those colonials a lesson. As I’m sure you know, England broke our hearts again, going out of a World Cup in a way that was even more gutting than a penalty shoot-out. Now we have to play the bloody Germans again. That never goes well either.
“Peter Marinello has just been signed to Arsenal for the fantastic fee of £100,000!” Sadly Peter has fallen far from the glamour of giving out prizes to dolly birds on TOTP.
This clip is just great from start to finish. With the goofy charm of Tony Blackburn, the summery pop stylings of Edison Lighthouse, and the groovy dancing dollies during the credits, the TOTP studio looks like the happiest place on earth.
I wasn’t very good at football when I was a kid. I played in my Primary School team but I don’t think any of my teammates can have been that great either because we only won one game all year. The only thing I remember about that victory is when it was announced in morning assembly the whole school cheered as if we’d just beaten Germany 10-0 in the World Cup Final. They meant it too, Primary School kids are too young for sarcasm.
I was put in defence which was a big mistake as I was too much of a wimp to tackle anyone and would back away when a forward approached with the ball. I can still hear our teacher/coach Mr. Grant shouting “Get to him! TO HIM!” at me from the sidelines which was the only instruction I remember him ever giving anyone — in typical English fashion his coaching philosophy was all about getting stuck in physically instead of fancy ball skills. He switched me to midfield for a while (less of a liability there, I think) and I wasn’t quite as bad, or so I thought. I could run a bit with the ball, was a decent crosser, and fancied myself to be a “tricky winger” type player. I was probably still useless but at least I remember enjoying those few games, the rest were miserable experiences: Saturday mornings standing on some cold, muddy pitch in my cheap Woolworth’s football boots hoping I wouldn’t have to tackle someone.
I still liked football, but having a casual kickabout in the street or the park with my mates was more my idea of fun. A “real” game on a pitch with proper goals and boots only rubbed in how rubbish I was, but playing a game of three-and-in or rush goalie it was easy to pretend I was better than that. Every goal scored was the FA Cup winner at Wembley or was greeted with a triumphant shout of “Rivelino!” — even if you were only playing with a tennis ball. Sometimes by some fluke you actually would do something skillful which you’d remember with pride for days or even longer (seriously, I can still remember one particular goal I scored in a game on my estate when I was about 13). The worst thing you’d have to deal with was getting the ball back from some old ladies garden or an argument over whose turn in goal it was.
I ended up playing hockey in Secondary School along with all the other “picked last” losers who were no good at football or not tough enough for rugby — though you felt plenty tough when you got a hockey stick in the balls — but luckily it wasn’t the sort of school where team sports were a big deal. I don’t even know if we had a school football team, I assume there was one but I had no idea who played for them or how they good they were. Thankfully there were no “Jocks” at the school unlike in American High Schools, the sociopathic bullies and sadistic PE teachers were bad enough for a four-eyed weed who was crap at games to deal with without there also being some golden-boy centre forward who was incredibly popular and got all the pretty girls to hate too.
Thank God I had pop music and comics.
Download: The Stars Of Track And Field — Belle and Sebastian (mp3)
I’ve made no secret of my negative feelings about Brazil in the past, but in my (or anyone’s!) wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined them taking a thumping like the one on Tuesday. It even made wanting Germany to win a football game less painful.
All together now: “Eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs, sieben…”
Download: Numbers – Kraftwerk (mp3)
I shall be supporting Germany in the final too, but only because I want a European team to finally win a World Cup in South America. Hopefully that will the last time I find myself in the position of wanting them to win something.
Well, that didn’t last long did it? England were barely in the World Cup long enough for you to read your special issue of the Radio Times.
Despite the early exit I’m not as depressed as I was during the last World Cup where we got past the group stage but were so dismal it was almost a relief when we got knocked out. This time we actually showed glimmers of playing decent, attacking football. Not much to cling to, granted, but I’ll take it.
I’ll still be keenly watching the rest of the tournament of course and there are a few other teams I’d be happy to see to do well, but if it’s a Brazil v Germany final I may find myself overwhelmed by indifference.
But while we might be rubbish at football not many other countries can make records as great as this. No small consolation, that.
Download: Say Hello, Wave Goodbye (12″ version)- Soft Cell (mp3)
If you think I’m going to be writing blog posts when I could be watching the World Cup you’re out of your tiny mind, especially when the tournament has gotten off to such a great start. Despite England’s loss Saturday it was the best World Cup performance from them in years so I’m optimistic about their chances too. So for the next few weeks don’t be surprised or upset if I only communicate via photos and videos.
If you look at any footage or photos of the 1966 World Cup (like the above) you’ll see that nearly all the England fans are waving Union Jacks instead of the Cross of St. George, but now the situation is reversed with the latter being flown almost exclusively. Euro ’96 was the first time I really noticed the change and I’m wondering if someone took England fans aside and informed them than the Union Jack was the wrong flag or are there cultural and political reasons for it. There’s probably a very good blog post to be written about that and I’d have a go at it myself if, you know, I wasn’t too busy watching football.
Something Brazilian is probably appropriate right now, a sweet swinging number by the great Elis Regina that should have you doing more stepovers than Ronaldo.
Download: Bicho Do Mato – Elis Regina (mp3)
I was very sad to hear about the death of former Chelsea manager Dave Sexton who will always be the real “special one” to Chelsea fans my age. Before the club became the plaything of a Russian gazillionaire and started racking up the trophies, the “glory years” had been way back in the early 70s when Sexton was manager and the team contained names — nay, legends! — like Osgood, Bonetti, Harris, Cooke, and Hudson.
Chelsea and Fulham were my two local sides growing up but the latter seemed like the team of Brylcreemed old men going on about Johnny Haynes — the first player to make £100 a week! — while Chelsea were all King’s Road flash, sideburns, and Raquel Welch. No contest really, especially when they won the FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup (beating the mighty Leeds and Real Madrid in the process) which made them all heroes in my young eyes. Little was I to know they wouldn’t win another trophy for nearly 30 years.
Like those kids in the picture above I used to hang around outside Stamford Bridge waiting for the players to come out from training in the hopes of getting an autograph. A lot of them would just walk out of the ground on foot so it was easy to get an autograph, these days they’d probably zoom right past in their Bentleys and Ferraris, knocking over old ladies on their way to shag a Page Three girl or meet with their accountant. But player’s lives were less opulent then, I used to see Chelsea players in local pubs and our silky winger Charlie Cooke lived down the road from us in a regular terraced house. When they retired a player’s biggest dream was to have enough money saved to buy a pub.
The one autograph I still have is of Ray “Butch” Wilkins who was the golden boy of the team at the time, having been made captain when he was only 18 and being a bit of a handsome pin-up star (hard to believe when you see him now), so it was a real thrill getting him to sign my 1975-76 Fixture Card, like being a teenybopper and having David Cassidy sign your boob.
Thrilled though I was, I remember being a little disappointed that he signed his name Ray and not Butch which was his nickname back then. Who was this Ray fella? No one called him that!
1975 was a crap year for Chelsea (and there were many more crap years to come), Sexton had been sacked the season before and we were in the Second Division. Sexton’s replacement Eddie McCreadie eventually quit himself because the Chairman wouldn’t get him a company car (this after he had got Chelsea back to the First Division) so it seems like our owners have always been arseholes. But whenever friends talk to me now about how the money we have is destroying the game, the bad behaviour of our players, our owner changing managers like socks etc. etc., I always reply “Sure, it’s terrible. But what am I supposed to do, start supporting another club?”
Download: Pass, Shoot, Goal! – Gracie Fields (mp3)