Thursday, 15 December 2011

Frank Lampard and the rise of The Undroppables

There must be some glum faces in the Bleakley-Lampard household as we move towards Christmas.  First Christine gets dumped from Daybreak, along with Adrian ‘Happy’ Chiles. Then Frank gets hauled off after just 60 minutes of Chelsea’s match with Newcastle United and is relegated to the subs' bench for the next couple of games.

Having said that, Christine’s got a new show alongside Philip Schofield (becoming a modern-day Gordon the Gopher if you will) and good old Lamps got to come off the bench and score a penalty against Manchester City (I wonder if Christine told him to text Santa asking for a match-winning performance.)

That Lampard still has something to offer the Stamford Bridge club is, I think, pretty clear.  That he should be starting and finishing every game isn’t, although you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise from the way the Press is carrying on.

Frank prepares for life in the retirement home
A couple of Sundays ago following that match at St James’ Park (or whatever it’s called now) when Lampard was clearly not happy to have been substituted, the Sunday Express’ John Richardson was prompted to say on The Sunday Supplement: “If there’s something wrong with his head it means there’s something wrong with that football club because Frank is level-headed and wants to do the best for the club.  He’s one of the main stalwarts of the club.  Now, if you’re upsetting him you’re probably upsetting John Terry and other experienced players and that’s not good.”

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Gone But Not Forgotten - Elm Park, Reading

This week our host is Rob Langham (or Lanterne Rouge as you might know him) of The Two Unfortunates you can also follow him on Twitter @twounfortunates

In Simon Inglis’s seminal study of stadia, The Football Grounds of England and Wales (later republished as The Football Grounds of Britain), he describes Elm Park as perhaps the least interesting ground in the league. For sure, among fans who are forced to choose between the pluses and minuses of the new and the old, Royals supporters are perhaps less wistful for the olden days than many.

The move to the shiny Madejski Stadium provided the impetus for a decade of success unheralded in the experience of the club and if the latter years at Elm Park also witnessed occasional highs, few of the faithful would choose to return.

Gone but not forgotten
One aspect that links the two arenas is the way the nature of the old ground mirrors the new. Just as at Elm Park, the rowdier support station themselves along the touchline: at Elm Park, it was the South Bank; at the Mad Stad, the East Stand.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Goals on Film - Fever Pitch

What do they say?  The film’s never as good as the book?  Well, I present for the prosecution exhibit A: Fever Pitch - the story of one fan’s obsession with Arsenal.

Of course the very obvious differences in the two media mean that a book and the film-of-the-book will inevitably almost always be different but there are many films which are perfectly acceptable adaptations.  (For me, The Beach is one.  Both the book and film, while different, chime with my time in Thailand although, unfortunately, I didn’t find an idyllic hidden community but nor, fortunately, did I nearly get killed by local cannabis farm workers.)

Fever Pitch however doesn’t fall into the same category, which is strange because the screenplay is written by the book’s author Nick Hornby.  It’s probably over a decade or more since most people will have read what was the most famous title in the early Nineties wave of nouveau ‘intelligent’ football literature which also gave us the likes of All Played Out and Football Against The Enemy.

Perfect mis-match
It’s therefore easy to forget exactly what it is like.  Although it’s semi-autobiographical (early editions were sub-titled A Fan’s Life) and has a linear narrative starting in 1968 and running through to 1991 (the year before publication) there is, in a sense, no real story.  It is instead made up of a series of essays (if he wrote it today, it’d probably be a blog) each using as a starting point a particular game (not all, necessarily, featuring Arsenal).  Many of these are on the nature of fandom and Hornby’s relationship both with the game and The Gunners, but many are just about the game itself.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Gone But Not Forgotten - The Den, Millwall

This week we take a trip to London with Kate Murray and visit The Den in Millwall. You can also follow Kate on Twitter @kate_murray

Talk to any supporter of a certain age about their least favourite ground and The Den as it was known, is bound to be near the top of the list. I’ve lost count of the number of times fans of other clubs have told me what a nightmare an away trip to Millwall used to be. The dark tunnel under the railway line, the narrow streets, the hostile atmosphere, the rough old loos, the floodlights blocking the away supporters’ view of the pitch…

But for those of us lucky enough to spend our formative years watching the Lions, there was no other place we would rather have been. I first went to The Den in the Seventies, I was so little I can’t even remember my first game, and my Dad died before I’d thought to ask him when exactly it was he first took me.

The Den
But although the date of that first match now escapes me, I’ve got so many fantastic memories of the old ground. I can still recall that thrill of anticipation I’d get going through the turnstiles and then negotiating the puddles on the slope up to the main stand.

I can still picture the faces of the elderly couple who had season tickets next to my brother and me and who used to share their tea from a thermos with us on a cold afternoon. I remember too my first introduction to the language of the football ground, courtesy of the regular whose strongest insult, reserved for some really poor reffing, was: 'You bug-eyed monster'.