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Create a novel football chant
And, for a prize, ten thousand pounds,
And entry to all major grounds
To give great games poetic slant.
Thus the advert nudged my soul,
And hypnotised my beady eyes,
And whispered softly, “Compromise!”
As I approached the yawning goal.
For oft I craft a simple rhyme
Upon some aspect of the game
And, though it has not brought me fame,
I never would begrudge the time.
For I love football as a boy,
And, sculpting verses to express
This burning passion, I confess,
Has filled my heart with searing joy.
And certainly, ten thousand pounds
Would serve to fill a growing void
For one like me, who’s unemployed
And running from the fiscal hounds.
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But somewhere burns a flame obscene,
When football’s fortunate elite
Muscled my game off my street
And placed it on the flattened screen.
When Murdoch offered them the sky,
And men in suits, pragmatic, heartless,
Drove the now-freed gelding, cartless
Up upon the mountain high.
And, scrawling on the dotted line,
With signatures of blood-red ink,
I wonder, did they stop to think
How they’d promote the grand design?
And cloth-capped men with swollen gums
Were in a most foul swoop betrayed,
With utter ruthlessness dismayed,
And left behind to gather crumbs.
For heritage means naught at all
To businessmen in shiny suits,
Who’ve never squeezed on football boots,
Nor swung a leg to kick a ball.
And marketing and TV deals
Are more important than those teams,
Who see the big time, but in dreams,
Upon whom glory seldom steals.
In football, as in life itself,
We always should condemn the greedy
Who take the biscuits from the needy
And place them on the higher shelf.
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Henri twists and sprints away,
And Lampard starts a well-worked ploy,
And bubbling Ruud van Nistlerooy
Brings young Ronaldo into play.
And time and time and time again,
In case, perchance, I might forget,
I watch the bulging, rippling net,
Till it’s embedded in my brain.
And every pass and every throw,
And every corner, every free,
Are analysed intrinsically
By well-paid people in the know.
And though it may be unintentional,
The television generation
Sucked into this orchestration,
Thinks that football’s two-dimensional.
They never stood among a crowd
Or patted players on the back
Or heard a shattered shinbone crack,
Or watched with tears, with heads unbowed,
Or caught the smell of hard-earned sweat,
Or joined in chanting from the stands,
Or waved great flags, or clapped their hands,
Or sucked the ball into the net.
The boy who wants to be a Scout
May buy a woggle and a cap,
And be a moral, steadfast chap,
Who knows his sheepshank inside out.
But if this young lad ne’er attends
A meeting held inside the Den,
Nor joins with others, is he then
A proper Scout, as he intends?
And one game viewed conventionally
Is worth a hundred on the set,
For football, as we oft forget,
Is best viewed three-dimensionally.
And all across this barren land
Are players striving for success,
Well versed in passion and duress,
Who so deserve a clapping hand.
While superstars, who earn much more
Than my old dad did in his life,
Can rise above the sweaty strife,
And take the biscuits from the poor.
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For richer, poorer, better, worse,
I’m wedded to this marvellous game,
Which means, to my enduring shame,
There’s things to which I’m not averse.
Disdainful of the other team,
My club is always in the right,
Through spectacles of black and white,
Is how my biased judgements seem.
For sure, I do not see the fouls
Our midfield bulldog might commit.
He merely shows refreshing grit,
Unmindful of opponents’ scowls.
My arrogance has known no bounds,
When we’re on an unbeaten run.
And we were robbed, when come undone,
Upon the cross of far-flung grounds.
And so, ‘twould surely not be hard
To feign excitement over goals
By Wiltord, Hasselbank and Scholes,
As would the keenest football bard?
And could my head reflect the age,
Composing lines with seeming ease,
That saunter like the summer breeze
Across the blank and sterile page?
And won’t my words with power inspire
Supporters up and down the land,
And glorify that favoured band,
As from a sweet, angelic choir?
What matters it, if I despise
The subject of my gilded words,
That fly aloft like joyous birds
Towards the clear, untrammelled skies?
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But what is passion? What is truth?
Are they mem’ries cast aside,
Floating gently with the tide?
Are they values lost in youth?
There is an honesty that’s found
At Prenton Park and Stenhousemuir,
A love of football so, so pure,
At every struggling low-league ground.
No glory-hunting fans are they
Who congregate on weathered stands,
And clap some warmth into their hands
Upon a cold, forbidding day.
‘Tis not the silver stokes their flames,
But little vict’ries, born of sweat,
A muddy toe-poke in the net
Brings ecstasy to dreadful games.
For these great moments can be measured
Up against Viduka’s flicks
And Michael Owen’s scheming tricks,
As joy, forever to be treasured.
And, as with football, poetry
Must every time come from the heart
And passionately with truth impart
The author’s true philosophy.
For skilful teams with no real passion
End up on the losing side.
And poet’s shots go sailing wide,
When they are merely aping fashion.
For football is a marching song
(Except perhaps upon the pinnacle,
Where it’s soulless and quite cynical)
A spirit so intense and strong.
And if my heart has no belief,
I cannot plant my structured lines,
No matter what my grand designs.
I’d merely be a common thief.
And mercenary, I’d become
Just like the clubs that I despise,
No fire burning in my eyes,
No heartbeat banging like a drum.
And so, although the times are tough,
My burning conscience must deny
That I should for this prize apply,
Even were I good enough.