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A game of the masses, played for centuries.
Then, used by the public school elite to mould
Urban life through organisation and morality.
A clean-living alternative to the squalour of
Victorian slums. Soon the shopkeepers and
Merchants gained a foothold, turning a sport
Into a business – with fixtures, and tables.
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Grounds were enclosed, turnstiles installed –
Admission charged, and players hired.
Town against town, local pride at stake in
Northern and Midland conurbations, where
Days were filled with industrial toil – from
Dawn till dusk, till Saturday afternoon and
The cherished three o’clock kick off.
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Men released from their hard labours stood
Shoulder to shoulder – just glad of the chance
To swap tales, to take out their frustrations
On twenty two men, and the match officials.
The monied patrons were seated, removed
From those they may have employed – but
All shared a passion for the old game.
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Through conflicts in foriegn lands, through
Mass unemployment and general strikes;
Through continental tyranny which led to
Further war, the game continued and flourished.
It became an obsession for millions – the
Thing that made life a little easier to live;
A pastime had become an institution.
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In peacetime at last, the appetite revived
And grew even stronger – record numbers
Thronged the same old grounds, finding
Familiarity, maybe consolation in their
Return to the smoky, swaying terraces.
English football reigned supreme, or so
It seemed – until the Magyars prevailled in ’53.
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Things would never be the same, despite
Wolves’ floodlit heroics. Kits more streamlined,
Youth to the fore in Manchester – a team that
Fell at its’ peak. Modernity encroached as TV
Arrived to change the nation’s perceptions.
Crowds began to drop; the feudal wages cap
Abolished, new formations on the field of play.
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The old game became the new Sixties scene,
Players were slicker in brightly coloured gear.
Ramsey’s forecast came true, and England were
Crowned kings of world soccer. Pop culture
Invaded – footy was trendy, a place to be
Seen at, no matter that tribal disputes were now
Enacted by skinheads in bovver boots and braces.
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Managers and players became celebrities,
Book deals, personal appearances, TV and radio
All eager foir the latest gossip and rumour.
Footballers were liberated, spectators became fans.
The game more defensive – flair given a label, but
Squeezed to the margins by the long-ball ethos;
Battles fought on the field, and on the terraces.
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Nadir was reached in the nineteen eighties –
Crowds dwindled, disorder mushroomed,
Football was shunned, mocked, ignored for
All its’ troubles. Death in Bradford, Birmingham
And Brussells – questions asked by Government.
It couldn’t get much worse, then Hillsborough;
So finally, belatedly, a change would come.
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Lord Justice Taylor re-wrote the book, heralding
Complete revision, a rejuvination – a redemption
For the complacent years of lethargy and inertia.
Sparkling new stadia sprang up everywhere; the
Premiership was born, salvation for SKY and a
Windfall of cash unseen in one hundred years;
The old game survives, battered but unbowed.