Back In The Day: A Rose Tinted Retrospective

Many old and cantankerous men have said to today’s whipper-snappers “it was different in my day” and increasingly I find myself agreeing with them.

Things are different now to the game that has been left in the 20th century. The influx of money to top flight football since the inception of the Premier League has been immense, resulting in many positives for the game, including the introduction of a flurry of world class players.

The main victim of the money grabbing Premier League though has ultimately been the charm that the older world of football possessed pre Sky Sports. Arguably football is a sleeker and more attractive proposition now to a wider audience, but this has been at the expense of a more selective and distinguished charm. An appeal that isn’t particularly visible at first glance, but once you are in its presence you continually crave.

The slick adverts, improved grounds and pop star appeal of many players has a mass sex appeal that is lusted by casual fans and hangers-on, but ultimately is hollow and has the charm of a wet trout.

My first top flight game is a reminder of the charm that has since evaporated from the game. Against Spurs in September 1990 at Villa Park, I sat in the Trinity Road stand, which in those days was about as tall as Peter Crouch. It being a good few years ago now my memories of the occasion are a little rose tinted, but I can remember distinctly seeing boyhood heroes Gazza and Lineker metres from me and the baking hot weather, but in particular seeing the ball hoofed clear out of the stands and onto the Trinity Road behind on numerous occasions.

The game was perhaps more innocent then and less concerned with appearance and commerce, to the extent that a teams main concern was what lined up on the pitch, due to a considerably more limited budget, instead of the image surrounding it.

The loss of innocence and charm is often feared and dreaded though only by anxious mothers, so why get your knickers in a twist? For the protagonist it could be the dawn of a new era, as doors are opened to new experiences and opportunities, much like English football has experienced over the past decade and more. No longer do players aim a kung-fu kick at a fan, push referees over, or sport impressively large bushy moustaches.

This though is the charm that is now lacking, the little delicacies that linger fondly in the memory. There was an exciting unpredictability that never affected the overall outcome of the match, but was a welcome addition to an already beautiful game perhaps. There was also the visual delight of seeing Brain Kilcline roaring around the pitch like an angry St Bernard, John Barnes’ short shorts and bigger moustaches on display than anything Hall & Oates could ever manage.

The football on the pitch has remained the same, if not improved greatly by the flood of money into the sport. It now though has the appearance of a finely airbrushed super-model that appeals to a mass audience, who previously didn’t give a shit, and possibly still don’t, but because it’s such a popular and attractive proposition they maintain a casual interest.

The less attractive and often ugly game that was on display during parts of the last century was less appealing and it took true love to take on this monster. This barometer for loyalty ensured that only true fans subscribed, who whole heartedly pledged their support every Saturday, something which is sorely lacking from the prawn sandwich brigade of today.

Tags: Brian Kilcline, John Barnes

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