I turned on the TV the other night and found what I thought was a good idea. Most TV is absolute rubbish, especially at the moment, so I was pleasantly surprised. One of the nostalgia channels had decided to re-air a soccer tournament from 20-odd years ago.
I know, I know…we can look up the result, but I didn’t mind one bit watching the game again. It is good because so much of televised soccer these days involves gambling, but in this case, everything is already known.
I don’t really watch it. It’s on in the background. I look up when the commentator gets excited about something. Most sport, especially my beloved cycling, I lost interest in after the stroke, but soccer is another thing, if my interest hasn’t exactly been rekindled, it is at least tolerable.
As a youngster up in Liverpool, I loved my soccer. Most every boy did. In fact I find it surprising, as someone who left thirty years ago, just how much it still means to people up there.
The whole of my family supported Liverpool. They were a second-rate team until the Sixties. Since then they have become a powerhouse and have even won Europe’s premier trophy, the Champions’ League, several times. My grandad had once even played for them, but way back in the Thirties. So with the family all supporting them, it was inevitable that I decided to support Liverpool’s other team, Everton. In fact, Everton were not a bad team themselves, also winning a European trophy when I watched them.
My first game, I went with my dad, a treat for my eleventh birthday, Christmas 1978. It was against Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) and ended 1-1. I could not believe I was seeing my heroes from TV live, in the flesh! Even better was to come, as I talked my dad into taking me to see the current champions, Nottingham Forest, a few months later.
As I got old enough to go to the game on my own, I continued going to occasional games. I started earning – only a paper round – and got myselt a season ticket (a block ticket which admitted me to every game). It was a period of frustration – the manager was putting a decent roster together but they weren’t quite there yet. By the mid-Eighties, they were a decent team and started winning trophies.
1986 was the year I left Liverpool. Even soccer was not going to keep me there, although it was always a good excuse to revisit. The following year, 1987, Everton won the league again and actually I went to quite a few games, considering that I now lived 200 miles away.
By the Nineties, career took over, Everton were not so good any more (narrowly avoiding relegation one year), and my visits to see the soccer were less frequent. By the Noughties, however, they again had a young, hungry manager and had built a decent team. By this time I was taking my daughter – I don’t think she gave a hoot about soccer but she loved being among 40,000 other people. My parents were still up there, so it was a good opportunity to visit grandparents, too.
My parents both died in 2012. One of the knock-on effects was that I had to go up there regularly to begin clearing out the house. Prolonged time up there gave me the opportunity to watch soccer regularly again. I noticed a change – where I had once watched a sport, I was now watching a business. Although I enjoyed watching the games, I was never as passionate about the result.
I sold my parents’ house at the start of 2014. Occasionally, Everton have played on the south coast, and I watched them a few times on their travels, but I have never been up to see them since. The sport has become so mercenary, I’m not even sure I’d bother watching them on tv these days.