John Arlott and football

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 I was thinking back on sacred days
Of Saturday and Sundays
When John Arlott must have pondered
Lightly on cobble stone roads and streets
The feeling, weight and sentiment
Football’s greater insignificance
In the general scheme and world of things
Cricket, though transcended its mud caked beauty
Arlott might have passed learned comment
On its end to end, box to box
Penalty area explosions
Battles royale, the 90 minute therapy
For heaving and seething masses
Loyal fans to the bitter end
Fluctuating fortunes
But Arlott never pinned his colours
To the mast, like Hardy
A lingering concern
Perhaps for Pompey
But never its chimes
Arlott could never understand its urgency,
Its necessity for immediacy
When football should have been spread over
Five Test days in snoozing introspection
Sitting by third man boundaries
Rather than caught up in managerial expletives
Arlott preferred the sedateness of the
John Player League before Sunday sermons
John Arlott must have been aghast
At the emergency of it all, the chaos
And 20 minutes of culture from Bruno Fernandes
Facing Manchester United when they were two down to Wolves
And the referee was about to blow the whistle
Cloughie blowing a gasket
No, not for Arlott the terrifying speed
Of football’s motor racing velocity
Rather the summer bliss of sun kissed
Days by boundaries, deckchairs
The pavilions, the pigeons at cover point
Cricket spoke to Arlott,
Resting easily on careworn shoulders
At times, rather than the blood and thunder
Of Old Trafford, the old Highbury and Anfield
Cricket had art, the gentle murmur
Of conversation, a profound philosophy
Sweet cover drives, literacy
Lyricism in every pull, hook
And bludgeoning drive
How could football provide
An antidote to early morning
Strains and stresses
When emerging from the
Sleep of yesterday’s sleepy afternoon?
How could Portsmouth be the be all
And everything, the curative balm
To football’s permanently injured
Who were never fit for the afternoon
Of Saturday 3pm pleasure
Arlott was never a terrace resident
Amid Anfield’s passionate throng
The Kop far too overbearing for
Arlott’s daily routine of
Red wine, good company, Radio 3
Cake, slow, slow, quick but
Essentially calm, considered,
Savoured for the always tranquil soul
Always reserving verbal diamonds
For the Gillette Cup Final at
Season’s end
But Arlott acknowledged
Football in its August
Seamless transfer of power
But quite possibly identified
With its frightening
Physicality, physique,
Arms and legs locking in battle
The crunching thud of tackles
Designed to hurt and count
Passing Arlott could appreciate
Like a fine, crisp Chablis
But cricket was Arlott’s fondest
Pilgrimage of the day
Cricket was a reassuring theme
From summer’s soothing repertoire
Of pleasing cracks to the Lords Tavern
Arlott could indulge in shimmering similes
On cricket’s village green domains
Rather than those awkward observations
On off side laws, sprays and VAR
The goals that should never have been
Those furious bones of contention
Football’s eternally muddied oafs
In Arlott’s eyes or maybe
There was a soft spot for Jimmy Dickinson’s
Record of appearances for never pompous
Arlott, cricket predominantly
But partial perhaps to
The colourful shade of football


My homage to the one and only John Arlott, a football commentator but never on a regular basis.

Source: https://footballpoets.org/poems/john-arlott-and-football/