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For sixty years it stood, immovable –
A slap-down to generations of men
Who dared to dream of being paid their
Worth for kicking a football around.
They won Caps, medals, local and
National glory; they fought in wars
For their country – but still, the ceiling
Remained. Stars to the masses, but
Hopeless slaves in reality.
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Any game, a crippling injury could
End it all – no recompense, no saving
Grace. The workhorse defender, the
Mesmerisiing ball player got paid the same.
Equality, yes – of a sort. There were ways
Around it – the sordid gift in an envelope;
Men in commerce called the shots –
Directors and the FA in full control.
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Players were players, only – to know their
Place, be it second class on a train or
Humble servant to the home town club
When foreign money came a-calling.
Subservient, servile, serfs to the end of
Their modest careers; then back into the
World from whence they came – factories,
Pubs, working class trades of modest
Attainment; Still kept in check.
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They played in front of massive audiences
In cavernous, draughty stadia – week in,
Week out. The profits went into pockets,
But not of those who made the crowds
Roar. It took so long to abolish, till the
Sixties began. Even then, no overnight
Millionaires – unlike today’s instantly,
Obscenely rich mediocrities with their
Agents, lawyers and cute contracts.
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So what was best ? The archaic limitations,
Rising fractionally decade by decade –
Or the modern day cash orgy of selfishness.
Both situations reflected prevailling mores
Of the time – be it a frugal resentment of the
Professional, or a willingness to nuture greed
By rewarding ordinary footballers with
Thousands of pounds weekly; From extremity
To extremity – neither can be justified.