Crossing Swords At Upton Park
In the football anthology “My Favourite Year”, Nick Hornby ruminates upon the subject of generation gap in football and the irony of seeing Peter Lorimer (in his final season at Leeds United) playing against Andy Sinton (in his first season as a seventeen year-old for Cambridge United). An icon of the 1970s lining up against a star of the 1990s. I was reminded of that this morning, whilst watching “The Big Match Revisited”.
For those of you that have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, ITV4 have been showing the corresponding week’s football action on Thursday afternoons for the last couple of months, and this week the featured match was a match between West Ham United and Stoke City. Quite what was going through the mind of the planner is beyond me. It was a nothing match between two mid-table clubs and it was, unsurprisingly, a poor match that ended in a 1-1 draw. The undoubted highlight of the afternoon, however, was a stunning own goal by a very young Steve Bould, who managed to loop a back-pass over goalkeeper Peter Fox from twenty yards out.
It is, I suspect, a testimony to Bould’s abilities as a defender that he was able to recover his career and go on to play almost three hundred matches for Arsenal and pick up a couple of Premier League championship and FA Cup winners medals. Such was the scarcity of football coverage on the television at the time that one televised mistake could prove to be almost fatal to a player. In 1979, Burnley goalkeeper Billy O’Rourke made his debut for his club in an away match against Queens Park Rangers. O’Rourke left the pitch in tears after Burnley’s 7-0 defeat and the mark that it left went on to scar the rest of his career. Sadly, he died in 2002 at the age of just forty-one. The Everton-Liverpool derby match played at Goodison Park in November is best remembered for Ian Rush’s four goals in a 5-0 Liverpool win, but it was an even more significant afternoon for Everton’s Glenn Keeley, who, making his debut, was sent off after thirty-seven minutes and he never played for Everton again.
For all the talk of how we have reached some sort of zenith in terms of footballing excellence, players make just an mistakes as they ever did. Tottenham Hotspur’s defence, for example, has conceded four goals at home on three occasions now this season, but it almost feels as if the fact that they get paid vastly more than they ever used to leaves them immune from as much criticism as they should surely get. Perhaps we’re just too familiar with them all. Glenn Keeley and Billy O’Rourke certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place in white shirts at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night.