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Bring back the Home Internationals

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 May now bids farewell to football
Like the last train from Crewe
Steam pouring from its engine
Like the tearful clown who once
Knew the Premier League themes
Off by heart
But please cast your minds back
To the end of season Home Internationals
It was rather like that ornate bow or ribbon
On the most perfect chocolate box,
A quaint ending
Of football’s nine month gritty, winding road
The After Eight mint or Turkish delight
Accompaniment to that most pleasant
Of dinner parties among family or friends
It always followed the FA Cup Final
Unfailingly, invariably, properly
Like Boxing after Christmas Day
It was the light hearted and frivolous
Final act of
Knockabout fun,
A bit of a lark
In the park
Northern Ireland always meeting
Wales on the Friday night
Rather like the office annual
General Meeting,
You must take the minutes on
Charming reminiscences
On dropped points, crucial
Three points, offside by
A toe, elbow, chin, shoulder,
Eye lid, the extent of an arm
VAR, white sprays on lush green
Bones of contention, referees
Rushing over to see themselves on film
Controversies galore
Goals scored from distant corners
And impossible angles
Free kick thunderbolts
Now but another sharp intake of history
Just as the pubs across villages,
Towns and cities opened for
The Home Counties
Of England, Scotland, Wales
And Northern Ireland, friendly
Yet feisty gatherings of early
Summer jollity and cheerful
Cavorting among those old First
Division hard men cloggers
And delicate decorators
Winks and jokes
Home International frolics
In the amusement arcades
Of football’s pinball machines
Throwing off the earnestness
Of the football League season
Its nine month torture chamber
The serious derbies, managers
With remarkable beards, players
With bristly chins and outlandish
Tribal tattoos, promotion terrors
And relegation paranoias
So England would play Wales
And Scotland, at either Wembley,
Hampden or Windsor Park and
Ninian Park, where the Welsh dragon
Would always be available on the subs
Bench. Never forget the Welsh
Underestimate them at your peril
Home Counties loyalties would offer
Blissful escapism from season long
Injuries, transfer rumours, painful defeats
At home. How did that happen?
Teams on tenterhooks at the bottom
Of your division, teetering on the edge
On the frightening cliffside where your
Relegation haunted eleven could never be
Guaranteed your club’s stability
And then you thought back to those
Famous England- Scotland scraps and
Tussles, Confrontations reeking of
Nasty and acrimonious grudges
Over Hadrian’s Wall. Surely not
Bannockburn and Culloden again
In 1977 the Scots wrecked the hallowed
acres of the old Wembley, like marauding
Armies with bayonets and bravado
Perhaps an exaggeration but still a
Game on football’s crowded fixture list
Where fires and resentments
Of old, always burn deep into the night
Passionate voices on that distant day
Of 1977 when Scotland beat England
Gordon Mcqueen rose like a Scottish salmon
To head home past a gasping Ray Clemence
And Kenny Dalglish for whom goal scoring
Came naturally as drinking water or breathing
Did much as he pleased
Then riots and invasions scarred
Friendly pleasantries and exchanges
When the Tartan Hordes ripped down
Goal posts and cross bars, cracking and
Splitting open the Wembley woodwork
Like a statement of intent bent and twisted
Beyond recognition again and again
Your mind also reeled back
To Ninian Park when Brian Flynn,
Leighton James and John Toshack
Taunted and tormented England’s
Finest. Suddenly a goal to place
On the mantelpiece of memory
A Welsh masterpiece of intricate
One twos that sliced open the English
Defence like Sunday roast beef
A glorious shield to engrave in their hearts
And then there was George, oh gorgeous
George, the Best, masterful, nerveless,
Cool as a cucumber, unaffected by outside
Forces, imperturbable, radically ahead of his
Time, a vision of green Northern Irish beautiful
Sunsets dropping languidly over Protestant
And Catholic divides, a unifying force
Once against England at Windsor Park
Charged audaciously at the Banks of England
Gordon Banks, smiling, then bundling the ball
Out of the Banks hand and tapping the ball
Nonchalantly from his grasp like the child
Who grabs the gobstoppers and lemon sherbets
From the sweet jars of our young lives
For a penny or two
It was never likely to be a goal
But you had to admire the Irish blarney
Pluck, the litheness of the leprechaun
What a treat
Please breathe the life of resurrection
Into the blood vessels
Of the Home Internationals,
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern
Ireland on the same song sheet
They always have been
And always will.

7

Notes

If only they’d bring back the end of season Home Internationals.

Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/bring-back-the-home-internationals/