Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Another English season ends

So we come to the final week of a long old season, a season which for me ended in the North West with defeats at Old Trafford, twice, and Anfield. But, for once, this post isn’t going to be about our shortcomings.

I’m delighted to see Stoke City back in the big time. They used to be regular opponents of the Arsenal and indeed my earliest footballing memories were of Stoke as a big team. Two famous FA Cup semi finals against the Arsenal, beating Chelsea in the League Cup final in 1972 for their first and only honour, beating us 5-0. Banks, Pejic, Greenhoff, John Ritchie, those Potteries legends are still familiar to me even though we’re talking nearly 40 years ago!

They won’t last long in the Premier League so strong is the lure of the dollar there but I hope they give it a good go.

The season they won the cup was also the first season Derby County won the title. The Rams were to win it again three years later and even beat Real Madrid 5-1 in a famous night at the old Baseball Ground with Charlie George getting a hat trick. Derby of course today are no more than bit players and they go down in the record books at the worst ever team in Premier League history.

Still they have proud memories and traditions and a support that has put other clubs to shame. I remember seeing them in the old third division and they were still drawing 12,000 + back then. Now they go down to come back up they hope.

They had their own legends back then, the likes of Kevin Hector, Colin Boulton, Colin Todd, Roy McFarland. Where are their modern counterparts eh? Surely not every talented footballer is at home playing computer games? It can’t be that simple surely?

My first few seasons as a football fan saw Everton, Arsenal, Derby, Liverpool then Leeds become champions. Celtic and Rangers then, as now, dominated Scotland but in England, to me, it was far more exciting. Every year someone different.

Despite living in North London a while it wasn’t till I moved Aldershot way that I started going to games regular. Of course we have just seen the Shots rejoin the league 16years after they folded mid season. I was at their last couple of games and recall meeting, briefly, George Berry who also, if I remember correctly, played for Stoke the last time they played Arsenal in a league game.

I cut my terrace teeth on the East Bank at Aldershot and saw my first terrace violence there. Games against Watford and Crystal Palace got pretty tasty as did Swindon and Northampton in later years. Of course three of those teams went on to play in the Premier League while the Shots went out of business.

The football romantic in me hopes Hull City join Stoke in the Premier League. Hull is one of the largest cities in Europe to have never boasted a top tier football club. A friend of mine was a big Hull fan. He also lived in Berlin during the time of the Berlin wall. He used to go to every Hertha game, home and away, traveling on the only roads in and out of the former DDR. I was impressed by his selfless devotion and have ever looked out for Tigers results since then.

While the rest of the country, nay the world, gears up for this weekend’s title decider I care not whether Chelsea or Manchester United win it. Part of me would like the Blues to win it just to shut their moronic support up. ‘Bring back the special one’ indeed. But really I don’t care.

Other stories this season have given me more delight. Aldershot and Stoke’s resurrection prime examples. The likes of Barnsley, Cardiff, West Brom and Portsmouth reaching the FA Cup semi finals.

As we enter the close season the papers, bereft of copy, will take to making it up. Will Hleb follow Flamini out the Arsenal door? Don’t care either way. This team has been together three years and won nothing, breaking up isn’t hard to do, believe me. Get rid of the losers and bring in some winners.

As we wait for August to come round there is plenty to keep the Asian football fan busy. World Cup Qualifiers, Champions League, AFC Cup for starters. Liga Super in Indonesia, Malaysian Cup, SLeague plus their respective cup competitions. Football goes on but is the Asian football fan really interested? Perhaps they will just wait for European Championships to start.

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