Archive | July, 2007

At Long Last: The Return of Mitchell and Kenyon

Posted on 29 July 2007 by JamesHamilton

We interrupt your normal programming to bring the following announcement:

Following on from the hugely successful BBC TV series The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon and the BFI’s first DVD volume Electric Edwardians, come two DVDs containing a new selection of films – Mitchell & Kenyon Edwardian sports and Mitchell & Kenyon in Ireland.

Mitchell & Kenyon Edwardian sports offers an unparalleled opportunity to see and learn about sporting action at the turn of the century. A remarkable selection of sporting highlights from the Mitchell & Kenyon Collection, it brings together some of the earliest surviving films (1901-7) featuring the titans of professional football, cricket and rugby whilst also rediscovering the Corinthian spirit of amateur sport and leisure in Edwardian life. Liverpool, Hull, Kingston Rovers, Everton, and Blackburn Rovers football teams are all featured, alongside a swimming gala in North Shields, the AAA championships of 1901 and the Mold cricket controversy – an early ‘chucking’ storm with an Australian umpire at its centre.

The DVD is programmed by Dr Vanessa Toulmin of the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield Library, author of the BFI book Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon (2006) and editor of The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Britain on Film (BFI, 2004).

Although the commentary has been written by Toulmin, it’s actually being read by Adrian Chiles, which leaves you to wonder how close we came to getting Chris Waddle or Les Ferdinand. Nevertheless, Chiles is a proper broadcaster, so whatever the BFI had in mind with him will result in a good job being done.

The DVDs are released tomorrow, and I for one am going to swing by the South Bank before my evening clinic tomorrow.

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Uruguay 1924-1930

Posted on 18 July 2007 by JamesHamilton

FIFA celebrated its centenary in 2004 by producing what in context might be the worst football DVD of all time. I refer to the horrible FIFA Fever, which contains “greatest goals, saves, bloopers and fouls.” I can’t recommend it even to rent.

However, it does contain a silent film made by a British company, and this is worth seeing: a video biography of the first World Champions, Uruguay. The team that won the first World Cup had also carried off the previous two Olympic titles, both of those in Europe, thereby setting a precedent for Brazil’s 1958 “foreign hemisphere” victory.

The footage of 1924 is especially excellent, and might be the earliest football film in which you can actually get a real idea of what’s going on. The 1930 Final itself has been colorized: the monochrome account of Uruguay’s preparation to host the Finals is more interesting however.

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Film of the Day#16: Everton Start Well…

Posted on 17 July 2007 by JamesHamilton

.. against Borussian Moenchengladbach in the European Cup in November 1970:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8l8iLQAKXw]

It all ends in a penalty shootout. The sound is out of synch with the picture, so you know what’s going to happen before it’s happened. A little like putting your radio on top of your television during a live match.

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An Emergent Phenomenon 2

Posted on 17 July 2007 by JamesHamilton

Football as an emergent phenomenon of urban industrial society again.. but really just an excuse to link to another of Geoff Plumb’s spectacular pictures of that almost vanished world.

And another.

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Film of the Day #15: My Ajax

Posted on 16 July 2007 by JamesHamilton

If you’re English, your first mental encounter with the Dutch club inspired visions of scouring powder. I was a small child when Cruyff provided the elbow grease, and no one in my all-female household was prone to put the football on. Or any sport: I only caught Test Match Special because my gran had fallen asleep during lunchtime childrens’ programmes.

So my preferred edition of the purist’s club is the 1995 volume. Contributions from van der Sar, Michael Reiziger, Danny Blind, Frank Rijkaard, Frank de Boer, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Jari Litmanen, Ronald de Boer, Finidi George, Marc Overmars, Patrick Kluivert and Nwankwo Kanu.

It’s the last “classic” European team line-up, and, I note, they won the Champions League a few months before Alan Hansen’s famous assertion that you win nothing with kids.

Some of these Ajax players were even good enough to make it in the Premiership later on, the greatest league in the world. Finidi George at Ipswich, for instance. But sometimes your finest moment comes early in life, and here is what I consider to be theirs:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InC4VlhnGME]

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Guess the Match..

Posted on 16 July 2007 by JamesHamilton

Without clicking through, see if you can identify the two teams involved here, and hazard a guess at the date.

There are enough clues for most of you to “get it” before it finishes, but see how long it takes you.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b6cwubeSjw]

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“We’re not creative enough, we’re not positive enough”

Posted on 16 July 2007 by JamesHamilton

We’re not creative enough: we’re not positive enough.

Sir Trevor Brooking, in the opening moments of this video:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96-zW2c8H2o]

Perhaps the only good football song ever written that’s just about football. It says only good things about the Germans that they adopted it for themselves – but neglected to translate it in the process. Of course, it’s 41 years of hurt now.

If you can stand it, there are some interesting reflections to be had by listening to the horrible, mawkish 1998 remix. From the days, so recent yet so long ago, when “war” meant something other than, well, war:

I see they left Sir Trevor out of the remake. An error, in my opinion.

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1912 Olympic Football Final

Posted on 16 July 2007 by JamesHamilton

More egregious copyright theft from Football Commentator. But it’s a good example of the huge quantity of high-quality footage to be seen on Freemantle Media’s superb multi-DVD production, The History of Football. Amazon list it for just under £18.00, which, for 7 DVDs of this sort of thing accompanied by intelligent commentary and interviews (e.g. James Walvin and Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger) is an absolute steal. Rather than Youtubing – after all, Football Commentator’s clips are going to be caught up with in a big way before long – buy this magnificent boxed set.

The commentary here is from the DVD, and speaks for itself. As for the film, it’s one of the better pre-1914 efforts. Look out for the goal celebration:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR5Jf3eDTwQ]

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Mathew Annis on Youth Football, Football Culture and the Future

Posted on 16 July 2007 by JamesHamilton

In today’s Telegraph, Jim White talks about the boredom of primary school children denied the joys of competition by their overly politicized headmistress. But too much emphasis on competition at too young an age, on promoting “winning” above all, can be just as bad. Mathew Annis of The Sixth Day Is For Football takes up the story:

This is not just a question of football. There is a glaring problem at the very centre of British culture, which affects not just our chances of success in European competition, but also our tourist industry and our general quality of life. Those of you who have seen Fawlty Towers, and particularly the ‘Waldorf Salad’ episode, will be well aware of what this problem is.

Shoddy customer service is taken for granted, even when stretched to unbearable levels. We are slow to complain when we have a right to, and justified complaints are almost invariably met with an overly defensive response (’There’s nothing wrong with our service – you’re just being too picky and demanding’ or even ‘well no-one else has complained’). Those who have visited North America will also be aware that there is indeed an alternative to this way of thinking, as presumably the writers of Fawlty Towers were.

Where am I going with this, I hear you ask. Well, the same problem, in slightly altered form, also exists within football. We have a shocking lack of ambition. Not just within English football, but even in Scotland where revolutionary tactics and skills were once part and parcel of the game.

Children from a young age are thrown into a macho culture of football at school and in youth clubs. Those who have recently watched a football match at any level below 14 years old will have seen a game in which about 15 players may be gathered near the ball. Every child wants to be a striker and none a defender. Goalkeeping positions are often forced on the unpopular and the obese.

At school I tended to stay in right back position, as my pace made up for a shocking lack of ball control, and the front line was just too crowded. In most games I had just ONE fellow defender, and the midfield was non-existent. The emphasis was always on winning, and the PE teacher never made a single effort to teach us anything about skills, never mind any kind of tactical awareness. We’d have been better off playing keepy-up for an hour.

Most of the more talented (or more parentally-pressured) children also played in local youth teams. Undoubtedly they had more training there. But the games were scarcely any better, and the training consisted of a lot of methods straight out of some 1950s manual. There was a definite implication, both at school and in clubs, that football talent was innate and that talk of teaching skills and tactics or even just focusing on something other than winning, was somehow effeminate or homosexual.

The emphasis on victory is one of the most damaging things. I heard many stories from friends of how they would be threatened or even attacked by the opposing team when they travelled to away matches and won, or even just had the temerity to make a strong tackle on the opposition’s star player.

All of these things must surely have stifled creativity among the young players and placed enormous pressure on them to succeed. Consider that this was the generation of Darren Fletcher and Craig Gordon, and one wonders if our national game has even further to fall in the next generations?

The one or two players from my school who were considered talented footballers soon dropped out of the game. Some made it to league football, but burned out before their mid twenties. One classmate of mine went on to play with Manchester United’s youth programme, then an SPL club (one or two appearances), then first division, then third division, then non-league. I don’t know where he plays now.

This waste of talent is found all across the country. The star players of school teams usually don’t make it as they expect to. The discouraging atmosphere of youth football deters many others from entering the game, especially middle-class children.

We should be focusing on skills and having fun in training and youth matches. We should also focus on all the children, talented and untalented, boys and girls. Some who appear clumsy at age 8 may blossom into talented players later on. At any rate, football is not just about producing fodder for the Premier League production lines or for England’s World Cup hopes – it is also about fun, and healthy living, and even the amateur ethic so beloved of yesteryear.

To return to my original point, there seems to be an innate defensiveness in the British character. Suggestions for improvements are not met with a response of ‘oh, well we’ll consider that and see if we can improve’, but with ‘we’ve always done it this way – you just need to stop complaining and everything will be fine’. But everything is not fine.

Whether in response to our latest football failure, or poor service in a restaurant, we should not accept the defensive answer any more. Instead we should demand the best. We certainly pay enough for it, at £30-40 for a Premier ticket, compared to sometimes less than £10 for a Serie A ticket. I could go on. At any rate we have some of the worst value for money around, and we need to start complaining about it.

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1982: A Young Heart Broken By Brazil

Posted on 14 July 2007 by JamesHamilton

In the old days, it was simple: you didn’t trust anyone who wore a tweed hat or a beard. But Jimmy Hill muddied at least the more saline of those waters. And you just don’t see tweed hats anymore, except in Norfolk.

There’s nothing to rely upon anymore. Except that anyone who says Americans don’t get football is a rotter. Positively motherless if they combine it with etymologically incorrect observations about the word soccer.

We, on the other hand, are passionate about the game. Only, not this passionate, and anyway, who needs all this fancy stuff? Here are two properly passionate men, the voice of one, the lettered grief of the other, and a breath of a football culture utterly unlike our own:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npfusAkl8KY]

The commentator sounds like Jabba the Hut. Imagine Mark Lawrenson summarizing for him.

Socrates, whose cigarette smoke you can smell from here now that our pubs have cleaned up, was a doctor of medicine at this point. He’s a doctor of philosophy now too. Tony Adams is an intellectual because he’s learning to play the piano.

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