History and Football Pieces


History can sometimes feel like a dead weight,
A yoke of worm-eaten dry as dust irrelevance,
That somehow keeps its shape, meaning and pressure:
All that love of stately home heritage,
All that fetishisation of tradition and deference,
All that limitation on freedom of thought,
And all those manacles on the imagination.
But sometimes it’s a liberating cross to bear,
Opening a parallel universe of scintillating genius,
Leading to a series of tantalising remembrances,
That sort of peep beyond the curtain and a veil
That almost yields to touch and seems almost visible,
But yet remains elusive and yet simultaneously beckoning,
Gently waving in a gentle wind.
So it was this peaceful Sunday evening,
Front room window skyscapes commissioned by Canaletto,
Vertical cumulus cloudscapes all pink and gold and blue –
(Until the next week brought snow scenes straight from Breughel),
And Donald Rogers back at Wembley again in 1969,
Radio 5 broadcasting a grainy old moment
From the days of hospital wireless football commentaries;
Then Terry Wogan and Gabie Roslin,
Whimsically shouting “Never Again”,
On the Eurovision null points rerun,
Something of an unfortunate dumbing down,
For an anti-fascist Holocaust slogan,
That should be unsullied by postmodernist ironies.
And the next week brought more historical invocations,
When Al Quaeda claimed responsibility for Madrid’s carnage,
Citing Spanish involvement in the Crusades as justification,
And when aboriginal and native peoples took governments to court,
Trying to secure compensation for land loss,
And when African states claimed recompense through the UN
For the depredations of slavery,
And when cricket brought enthusiastic partial reconciliation
To the Asian sub-continent of India and Pakistan.
And there’s me thinking about all this history and mass soc,
Walking past the windswept rain-swept Sunday League soccer match,
Watching my ghost out there on the right wing,
Scurrying home for the minute’s silence on the radio:
Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Aston Villa,
Two names redolent of the Industrial Revolution
When Brummagem goods were bartered for Africa’s slaves:
Manacles and leg irons and iron masks,
The dead weight of History.

The Pits

It wasn’t quite 20 years ago today
That the coal strike started up,
“Coal not Dole”, the watchwords,
“The Flying Pickets” on Top of the Pops,
Miners in our homes,
Fighting on the telly,
The police on overtime:
The climactic conflict of our times,
When Collectivism succumbed
To the force of self-validating Modernity,
A flameless beacon for Blair
And a New Millennium momentum
Of relentless Americanisation.
No more would colliery winding gear
Bring forth an endless stream of footballers
From the historic coal-fields
Of England, Wales and Scotland;
The legacy of Busby, Shankly and Stein,
Of Co. Ashington, Dudley, Merthyr, et al,
Would be replaced by heritage museums
And mis en scene simulacra,
And by a premier league self-aggrandisement
Based upon a fan base, rather than supporters,
And based upon the canting hypocrisy of management-speak,
That just occasionally reveals its essential inhumanity,
When unironically using phrases like “human resources”.
We’re the only ones who dig deep now,
Just isolated pockets of conflict and conscience.

Source: http://footballpoets.org/news/2004/03/28/history-and-football-pieces/