Sunday, 27 February 2011


From my earliest recollection I was always kicking something around and watching or talking about Football. We used to go and watch QPR, Arsenal and Arsenal reserves a lot of the time and it was always the individual who I loved to watch. The player who looked different, acted differently and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention - long hair, shirt out, socks down type of confidence. I never remembered the result after a few weeks but I will always remember that one moment of genius, originality that made my adrenaline flow. He entertained and the only player on his day that could run the show for 90mins because he played the game for fun and that’s why I was at games, to have fun. Charlie George was my hero with Stan Bowles, George Best, Tony Currie and Alan Hudson not far behind and as I got older I learnt about a player called Peter Knowles who played for Wolves and walked out of football to become a Jehovah Witness. These players had the ‘R Factor’ – that rebel arrogance to stand up and be counted - to have the audacity to try different skills even though they might not come off. People called them ‘flash wankers’ and booed their every touch, but they always had the last say because such talent will always return to slap you in the face. When George Best walked with the ball on the half-way line for Northern Ireland against Wales with his shirt out, socks down and one boot in his hand and stood with his foot on top of the ball beckoning Terry Yorath to get the ball from him, it was the greatest moment I had ever seen, better than any goal I had ever seen because it was a moment in sport where one man had the confidence in his ability to show it off to the world. No one was going to get the ball from him and he couldn’t give a toss what people thought. When most people say they have a bad attitude or couldn’t care less they are the furthest from the truth. This player is normally the best trainer, the best thinker and most sensitive among the majority. Terry Yorath closed Bestie down, he side-stepped him and shot from the half-way line with his left foot. It looped in to the keeper’s hands with no chance of being a goal. ‘What was the point?’ I hear you say. The answer is there is no point, it didn’t matter, it was pure theatrical entertainment and I loved it. The 1970s was a great era for this type of player because most teams had them and the football was exciting and cavalier to watch. People should have made the most of them because the next decade was looming. The dreaded 1980s was around the corner when football went from entertainment to statistics, where skill was replaced by ‘crunch’ and passing the ball made way for ‘whacking it‘. The worst decade in football for anyone who had skill and ability, it became a hindrance to have it and there I was smack bang in the middle of the ‘Billy Bash-It’, ‘Willie-Welly’, ‘Graham Taylor’ theory of football.

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