Farewell to pom-pom girls. I want Bovril back

ANTON RIPPON is starting a Campaign for Real Match Days, with 3 o’clock Saturday kick-offs and half-time  pies. Will you be joining?

It won’t be long now. With no World Cup this summer, and no European championships either, boy, we really will be ready for the start of the new football season when it rolls around again on August 3.

The decision to start the 2013-14 season so early – for Championship and Leagues One and Two clubs at least; the Premier League starts two weeks later – was made after a majority of clubs voted for it because it delivers an additional Saturday fixture. Which is further proof – if any were needed – that the majority of fans like their football on Saturday afternoons.

Aahhh. Those were the days. Weren't they?
Aahhh. Those were the days. Weren’t they?

I’ve been moaning about this for years. Who wants to turn out to watch football that starts at 5.20pm on Saturday teatime? By then we should be on our way home, plugged into Sports Report (cue Hubert Bath’s “Out Of The Blue”). Or kick-offs on Friday nights when it’s really time to go down the pub, and on Sundays before the boozers have even opened: they aren’t natural times for watching football. Life needs rhythm and routine. Well, mine does anyway.

I said that the season starts on August 3, but already I’ve got to wait another 24 hours so that the nation can be treated to Derby County entertaining Blackburn Rovers.

Apart from pleasing non-travelling supporters of the away club – home fans are just thoroughly inconvenienced – it is hard to imagine that football followers the length and breadth of England are rearranging their schedules in order to watch a match that is, at best, of only passing interest to the neutral.

Of course, it is impossible to argue against televised football. It is what brings most money into the game and, love him or loath him, if it hadn’t been for Rupert Murdoch, the majority of us would still be watching the game with rain dripping down our necks and pigeons pooping on us from rusty rafters.

I recall back in the 1980s covering a match at Leeds Road, then home to Huddersfield Town, and it was touch and go whether the game would take place because the stand roof was coming loose and we had to wait while someone measured the wind speed. Only when it was decided that the roof wouldn’t be blown across the Pennines could events take their scheduled course.

In those days, of course, we didn’t think about our “match day experience”. An entertaining game and something out of it for our team usually did the trick.

As you will have guessed, I’m one of the old school of football fans, an old codger who has no need of a bellowing announcer, loud pop music, semi-skilled dancers and a man in a furry animal costume.

Speaking personally, the occasional visit by the Creswell Colliery brass band would be still welcomed, though. I enjoyed them marching around the Baseball Ground in the days when Tommy Powell and Dennis Woodhead were providing the ammunition for Ray Straw in the Third Division North.

It was the same at most grounds. I’ll bet, if you ask him, Norman Giller will tell you about the Metropolitan Police band that entertained at Highbury. It was a proper concert, too. The match programme even carried details of the music to be played. If memory serves, selections from Gilbert and Sullivan usually featured along with the more obvious classic marches.

For me it all started to go downhill when the Hillsborough PA system got so loud that you couldn’t hear yourself speak. There was someone called Stevie Splash who kept telling us that we were at Wonderful Downtown Wednesdayland (sorry, Stevie, if I didn’t get that quite right but my brain still hurts when I think about it).

I might start the Campaign For Real Match Days: brass band, obviously; catering restricted to Bovril and pies; and the result of the half-time raffle draw chalked on a board and carried round the cinder track by two men from the supporters’ club, both wearing flat caps and properly dressed in collars and ties.

I know I’m living in the past but, as Norman said only the other day, it’s quite nice there.


Thu July 4: SJA/Laureus brunch with Michael Vaughan. Click here for booking details

Mon Sep 9: SJA Autumn Golf Day, including the Phil Sheldon Trophy, at Muswell Hill Golf Club. Details to be announced shortly

Thu Dec 12: SJA 2013 British Sports Awards. Venue and ticket booking details to be announced soon