Until recently I had been addictively collecting football memorabilia; it had almost been an obsession that started back in the 1950s. It began to dawn on me that as I got older (and I have got older) that is anything happened to me it would be unfair to leave such a vast amount of acquisitions for my family to dispose of. It became clear that I had to start unloading my lifetime collection, a difficult but necessary choice.
I wanted to be able to document examples from my collection so that when the time came when I was sitting in a bar reminiscing about my interest, I could back the statement that I actually did own a Stanley Matthews International Cap or a Manchester United League Championship medal. I could envisage the listener humouring me but not believing me as I made these claims. By writing this book I can actually prove that I owned these items. by the time this is read most of the items illustrated would have moved on.
Over the years I have diligently searched auctions rooms, junk shops, antique fairs … in fact anywhere where I thought I could uncover collectables relating to “Association Football” My collecting habits were diverse; junk to gems, gunge to goodies – in fact anything from a MacDonalds chip holder with a 1994 World Cup Logo to a collection of international programmes and caps from all the home countries. Commemorative china, medals, books, postcards, handbooks, trade cards, stickers, children’s games, referee items, women’s football, match box labels …… well you get the drift.
However, and I never thought I would say this, I have recently found my love for the game diminishing, it is simply not the game I grew up with. This is very much a grumpy old man’s view of course but I became sick and tired of the cheating and the vast amounts of money going out of the game. Why are clubs like Chester City allowed to go out of business when the game is awash with finance? When the referee gets conned, he gets the blame and not the cheat. The most frequent defence is either “all in the heat of the moment” which is true in some cases. I have been guilty of overzealous actions when I played at such exotic locations as Hackney Marshes, Clapham Common, Wormwood Scrubs, Ruskin Park and fully understand the intensity. Even on those most lowly theatres of dreams, it is probably 100 times more intensive at the top level. Or I hear “there is so much at stake”, but this just seems to be perceived as an acceptable defence, for what is after all – cheating.
In my view, the game is just morally bankrupt. If the referee stuck to the rule book then most games would end up 7-a-side fixture after the contact sport that takes place in the penalty box from set pieces for example. There are many good guys of course but there is too much greed and that feeds my cynicism. If I needed another reason to be grumpy then it is sheer unprofessionalism to jump all over each other when a goal is scored, sooner or later a player will get seriously injured (sorry this has already happened – asked Steve Morrow of Arsenal) in this most childish behaviour and petulantly kicking the ball away knowing that you will get booked is simply to disregard the spectator who pays good money only to find that this most juvenile behaviour could lead to a player getting suspended. Fans should not have to pay through the nose and then be deprived of seeing their heroes playing because they have been handed a ban due to their lack of respect for the sport, its laws and its supporters.
Apart from television I rarely watch football these days. In recent years my visit to live football matches has thrown up a very eclectic cross-section including a visit to Dagenham and Redbridge (an entertaining nil-nil drawn against Accrington Stanley), Truro City v Plymouth Argyle in a pre-season friendly during a family holiday that coincided with my daughter’s graduation, GB Women v Brazil Olympic Game at Wembley, a Father’s Day treat from my daughter, GB c Argentina blind 5-a-side at the Paralympics and a league match in Japan on a great family holiday visiting my son who was working there at the time. It is sad to say that the sporting attitude of the Japanese supporters and the cleanliness of the stadiums put their European counterparts to shame.
Additionally, there have been occasional visits to my local clubs. Welling United and Charlton Athletic or a trip to a new non-league ground that I had not visited before. I used to be a very keen Arsenal supporter but have to admit that I have not even visited their new ground yet and can’t remember the past premiership match I watched.
John Daniels, November 2015
John’s books, the proceeds from which all go to support local clubs within John’s area are called Football Postcards, Stansfeld Oxford & Bermondsey FC and Other Anecdotes and From Football Memorabilia to Girls’ Cricket in Bexley. The first one documented my obsession with collecting before the collection was disposed of. The second one diarised a season following a local non-league football club with terrific photographs by a friend Andy Clay) who is an award winning photographer and the third one was back to the collecting theme by illustrating over 200 football postcards that I once owned.
They can be purchased direct from John. Contact him via email at email@example.com