BY RYAN JONES
There wasn’t much footy on the telly back in the day. If you were lucky there’d be the Big Match on Sunday on ITV; other than that it was Match of the Day or Saint and Greavsie. I think what most of us knew about football existed in our imaginations, having read the match reports in the papers or heard the low down through a third party, you were required to create games, goals and passages of play in your mind.
In the retelling, any scenario will invariably be augmented in some way. For the raconteur, if a game or goal was dull you’d have to add something even to make the banal less boring than is believable. The dark humour of the terrace was an education in itself.
I think for the most part not actually seeing football can improve the game vastly, and having endured the first half of a season that I have just endured as a Wrexham fan, I think having it described to me poetically by someone else would definitely be preferable to sitting in a cold stand making small talk with near strangers, while your team run around kicking the opposition.
There are countless goals that my Dad has told me about that I can recall in an instant that happened 20 years before I was born. He described to me in florid terms the technique used by Ken Barnes in dispatching penalties; or how Bobby Shinton once locked an opposition player in the tunnel after he went to retrieve the ball. Of course, that may have been someone else and I could have remembered wrongly. This stuff becomes folklore; you carry it with you; it connects you to the club and to your Dad (or whoever told you such stories).
In the 80s you were lucky if you saw a goal more than once. If your Mam let you have a videotape and your brother didn’t record over the footy with Buck Rogers you were in clover. The battle of family video tapes was epic in our house. I put in the man hours so tended to come out on top, I also had three years on our kid, so if he tried to give it the big’un I would revert to pulling his pants halfway up his back. Submission was nailed on.
The majority of football’s history happened untelevised in the dim and distant past, and a whole evolution took place over hundreds of years without a camera or a journalist in sight.
As I write this on the wife’s laptop the irony of what I’m about to write is palpable. We are too plugged in, we know too much. As the glow of the screen here illuminates my fingers on the keys and the telly buzzes away in the background, I can’t help but think that things were that little bit better when you had to get up to turn the telly over. We couldn’t go back now, though – could we? The entire country would be furious.