“..Old Masters and Young Sailors..”
Many years ago on The Stanley Baxter Moving Picture Show he did a fine impersonation of Magnus Magnusson on Mastermind (as well as being the nervous contestant, naturally). “Your specialist subject is Old Masters and Young Sailors...” so there’s a lot to be said for old masters. A Mighty Fine Time was had by one and all, enlivened by a magnificent Hearts support (enlivened by lager at 3.20 a pop, mind) who sang themselves hoarse backing their heroes, including one J Robertson who has obviously enjoyed a hog roast or two as part of Livvy’s win bonus scheme. It was a disappointment we didn’t see him score again in a Hearts jersey, but the old Mackay-Robbo magic was brought out of the toybox for the final time and Leeds were given a fair old pasting. I didn’t recognise one Leeds player, but Liverpool had nothing but European Cup winners amongst them which seemed just a tad serious in the context and it wasn’t any wonder we lost 3-1. I mean, where was Phil Boersma? David Hodson? Tommy Smith? Instead we had Ian Rush, as lean as a butcher’s dog, John Wark, John “2-0 up, 3-2 down” Barnes and Jan Molby, looking so bloody enormous you were expecting a couple of Norwegians with harpoons to be chasing him. Blimey, he made Robbo look slim. Whoever would have thought prison food was so good?
Being a bit thick, I automatically assumed there would be three group matches like any competition I’ve been drunk at, so it was something of a surprise when I was told that despite mauling Leeds 6-2, Hearts’ interest in the competition was over. Still, there was the West Ham v Bradford game to hang on for, and not just for another glimpse of Frank McAvennie, who showed he’d lost none of his scoring abilities (brackets football, that is, close brackets) and he delighted nearly everyone in the crowd with a couple of goals that only a gallus West Coast gadgie could get away with. West Ham needed to win to make the final, and their bludgeoning performance to beat a Coventry side filled with bald thugs (one of whom looked like the living spit of Brian Glover in ‘Kes’ – he wore no 10, but Pele he ain’t) suggested it would take some performance from Bradford to stop them, but towards the end of a tough-tackling encounter there were some Unhappy Hammers in the crowd and it became obvious that in the spirit of the Masters, there were a few old Masters Hooligans there causing aggro, and it promised to get lively. Aware of a slight difference of opinions developing when women and children started to head for safer waters, the fluorescent security people (who are used to nothing more disquieting than Jean-Michel Jarre fans whimpering that the last tune didn’t last more than 45 minutes) started looking nervous. It took a few minutes for the Real Security people to show up and one or two were escorted away, and there was a bit of bother well away from the cameras outside the hall.
I for one was filled with glee. When will people realise that football is not a family game? It never has been. Children who have gone to football over the years have had to take the consequences, whether it’s crowd violence you ran away from or going to school on the Monday after humiliating defeats on the Saturday. No doubt primary schools have counsellors and trauma units these days for such eventualities. But the moneymen and the corporate telly people want to create a new idea, and it ain’t gonna take, no matter how much Sky TV point their cameras in the other direction. Football inflames passions not otherwise aroused in our Starbucking world. If football were invented now, the government would ban it. It’s full of all the nastiest human traits on the field – cheating, revenge, malice, jealousy, violence – so it’s no great surprise those traits are put through a magnifier off it. Football is played by idiots and supported by idiots and there’s not one troublesome West Ham fan I wouldn’t look squarely in the eye and salute as ‘Friend’. It’s like that.
Mind you, it wasn’t just the players who were past their prime... that burger van…