I was doing the ironing last Sunday afternoon. No, don’t laugh. And whilst doing the ironing I was listening to Test Match Special, the perfect accompaniment. During the tea-break, there was a segment called Ask Swanny, in which the former England spin bowler Graeme Swann answered questions submitted by listeners, many of which came via Twitter. The session was such a success that it carried on into the evening session, and one particularly pertinent question related to who was the “dressing room joker” when he was playing. He threw a few names around (I was ironing a particularly troublesome dress at that point), but suddenly he grabbed my full attention. He said that when he was a teenager, you’d get boys of 14, 15, 16 playing for men’s club teams. The humour in the dressing room would, as a result, rub off on the youngsters. He went on to say that these days, that simply doesn’t happen. Boys in their early to mid-teens play for county academies now, with their peers, and they’re studying slo-mos of their technique.
And it was at that point it hit me. The contagion of football, where almost all the personalities have been squeezed out, has now spread to cricket. In 1989, the Australian batsman David Boon set a new record for the amount of alcohol consumed on an Australia to England flight, 35 cans of beer. Can you imagine that happening nowadays? The most recent public display of drunkenness by an England cricket dates back to 2005, and it’s a matter of deep regret that I wasn’t working in my present office in the City, right next to the hotel where the England team stay for matches at the Oval. My colleagues still relate with wonder the sight of Freddie Flintoff lurching around the courtyard in a colossal drunken haze.
Tennis also suffers from a dearth of personalities, particularly in the women’s game. I’ve watched tennis on the TV since I was a little girl, and in fairness, there were never a huge number of personalities among the ladies even then. But now it seems to be a procession of Amazonian 6ft grunters and squealers. Even when the odd genuine champ with personality emerges, as happened when the delightful Marion Bartoli won Wimbledon last year, injury can start to take its toll, resulting in a speedy transfer to the commentary box where no doubt she will continue to entertain us for years to come. And much-loved and nice as the likes of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray are, they don’t have the sheer charisma of the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Henri Leconte and Ile Nastase, to name but a few.
Football has long since been consumed by the serious bug. One of the very reasons why David Luiz was so popular at Stamford Bridge was his sheer force of personality. Let’s be honest, you’d have to have had a heart of stone not to be moved at the TV pictures of the young fan who met him a couple of weeks ago. But he’s an exception, not the rule. Stories are legion of players coming up through the ranks who seem to disappear, and “He’s got the wrong attitude” is often trotted . Perhaps the coaches are confusing “attitude” with personality”. Had the likes of Peter Osgood, Charlie Cooke or Alan Hudson been born in the late 80s/early 90s, you wonder if they’d have even made the first team. These days, Paul Gascoigne probably wouldn’t even make it out of an academy. Perhaps life is more serious these days. The Chelsea faithful continue to carol “Carefree” on a weekly basis, but that doesn’t seem to extend to the pitch (or much of life away from Chelsea). Sport is enduring, and will probably continue to, a line of pleasant automatons, whose exploits may gain them untold millions, but will only leave us with a fraction of the memories we have of some of the personalities of days gone by.
To paraphrase Sir Terry Wogan, is it me, or is Modern Sport Rubbish?
And of course, I haven’t even touched upon the disaster, in terms of results if not performance, which has been England’s World Cup campaign, although it did yield a couple of good nights out, including a fine turnout of what I believe are known as Twitter boats at the Finborough Arms on the evening of the England -v- Uruguay game last Thursday night. This tournament is likely to signal the end of their careers for a number of England players, and it’s to be fervently hoped that St Steven Gerrard (or Captain, Loser, Bellend as he was dubbed after the match) will be among them. And TheChels.Net are delighted to be able to exclusively premiere a touching tribute to Stevie Mee by Lord Smelton Pong, which will have the Scouse nation sobbing into their hankies, while the rest of us choke with laughter….
Goodbye Stevie G
You never were that good at all
You started to let it slip
With your Demba Ba pratfall
They came out of the woodwork
And treated you were like Pele
But you let your country down
With your mediocre play
And it seems to me
You lived your life
Like a rubbish Danny Blind
A big fish in a small pond
When the Chels came in
And I’d like to say I’ll miss you
But that would be a fib
The only thing I’ll miss will be
Your trembling, wobbly lip….
Chelsea Charity Heroes
Matthew Harding Lower season ticket holder Martin Wickham (who some of you may recall as a frequent lurker on The Benches on the Chelsea Fancast) and a group of friends will be walking to all four professional football grounds in West London on Saturday 6th September. They will be starting at Griffin Park (Brentford), going on to Craven Cottage (Fulham), then Stamford Bridge (Chelsea) and Loftus Road (QPR). Their finishing point from there will be Wembley Stadium. They’re doing this to raise money for The Polycystic Kidney Disease Charity in memory of their friend Tom, who passed away earlier this year from the condition at the tragically early age of 26. If you would like to sponsor the lads, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/wlu, and if you’re around SW6 on the day of the walk, perhaps consider joining the lads for one of the legs (or buying them a much-deserved pint). Gary Wilson continues to fund raise for Macmillan Cancer Support, and his charity golf day in which he and his friends aim to play 72 holes of golf in one day is fast approaching. We wish them the very best of luck, and you can donate via https://www.justgiving.com/hackersbandits. Supporters Summit/CST News You can still register for the 2014 Supporters summit to be held on Saturday 26th July at Wembley Stadium. It costs £20 for CST or Football Supporters Federation members, and £25 for non-members, which includes a discussion on how to “fix football”, participation in two workshops, lunch, and a Q&A. Key speakers will include Clive Efford MP, Shadow Minister for Sport, and Rory Smith of The Times. You can find out more here http://www.supporterssummit.co.uk. The second Chelsea Supporters Trust AGM will take place over the weekend of 16th/17th August (date and venue to be confirmed once the TV fixtures are announced, allegedly on 4th July). Please visit the CST website for further information on how you can join the Trust (only voting members are eligible to attend the AGM and vote in the Board election). You can find out more at http://www.chelseasupporterstrust.com. We’ll be back over the next few weeks with that long-promised look at football branding and our review of the Supporters Tournament at Cobham. In the meantime you as always follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.