Monday, March 25, 2013

Northern Monkeys

Dressing and messing at the match and more proclaims the cover. Once you start reading you realise there is more, a lot more.

Northern Monkeys isn't just a book on football hooliganism, heaven knows there are more than enough of those already filling bookshelves, nor is it a book on football culture alone, it's more of a history on youth culture, growing up with an identity defined by circumstance, clothes and music as much as football itself.

The emergence in the early eighties of the casual or dresser scene up north after some European 'shopping' trips is at the core of the book but the likes of Teddy Boys, Skins and Suedeheads, the Northern Soul boys, Scooter Boys, Punks, are all in here as they've all played a part in molding a generation of young tearaways. These aren't just the authors recollections of them either, there are detailed heart warming and often humorous accounts from lads that not only talked the talk but walked the walk and with swagger too.

There are wonderful stories of entrepreneurs arriving in Liverpool docks with holdalls full of exciting sportswear, stories of lads attending all nighters at Northern Soul venues with a bag full of spare clothes to change into midway through a nights dancing. Then of course are the tales of working class lads (Scally's from Liverpool and Perry Boys from Manchester) acquiring Adidas trainers and the like by hook and by crook, whilst on the other hand we have chronicles from two gentleman of their time back in the day with both JD Sports and Adidas themselves. It soon becomes apparent this wasn't just a fad, it was a movement, a way of life, and there was some serious money to be made in the process.

I flirted with the casual look as a teenager until I bought a motorbike. Then the appeal of leather denim and loud heavy metal music shaped my late teens and early twenties to a point where I even forgot about football for a while. I became a member of a motorcycle gang and did my dressing and messing in pastures new. It was still the same feeling though, we had a look, an identity, governed by clothes, music and bikes, it's just that bikers as a rule don't tend to 'do' football. Our motto to those on the outside that didn't 'get us' was "If I had to explain you wouldn't understand". It's much the same as any youth movement. I've a scooter now, a much better dress sense and my love of the beautiful game back.

Kids today (I think I'm old enough now to get away with starting a sentence like that) don't seem to have that identity. Whether it's the electronic age, the lack of new British genres of rebellious music or just the desire to be as American as possible, I don't really know. I do however see young lads at the match looking good and even wearing some of the Italian sportswear brands that were huge thirty years ago. I can't say however if they have or want that one-upmanship over their rivals but it always cheers me to see young lads wanting to look good. The book even finishes with a couple of explanations from two youngsters (one norvern, one cockney) as to where they believe the scene is nowadays.

The sixties, seventies and eighties were the greatest time to grow up, whether it was in London's suburbs or the heart of Preston. Some things were universal to both areas as in reading this book I discovered it wasn't just at my school that you asked kids if they were a punk or a mod, punching them if they answered incorrectly!

Buy yourself a copy and relive a time when everything in your world seemed a matter of life and death but was of course in hindsight so much simpler. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sorry, but we're going to have to let you go.

These are words that fill us all with dread. With the country seemingly still in this recession despite reports to the contrary on News at Ten, the thought of losing your job strikes a fear I can only surmise is seconded to a terminal medical diagnosis.

The staff at HMV, Blockbusters and whoever has gone before and will go next have my deepest sympathy, I currently write this myself on a Wednesday, a day I should be working but I am currently reduced to a four day week until company finances improve. The high street is taking a body blow from the relative ease of online shopping, whilst in my case the motorcycle industry has been repeatedly punched and kicked until it's hit the canvas by both the weather and the fact it is now a seasonal and recreational trade. What we all share, whatever our market, is the simple fact we are working class people prepared to do a fair days work for a fair days pay. Some of us even excel in what we do.

The world of football has lost more and more of it's links with the man on the street as the years have past. Your grandparents may fondly recall players catching the same bus as them to get to games, but nowadays blacked out luxury cars fill the grounds car parks. As players loyalties to clubs have dwindled, the clubs loyalty to just about anybody other than Sky has seemingly disappeared entirely.

Nigel Adkins has only one fault in my book, wearing that v-neck sweater under his suit. A schoolboy error in clothing etiquette aside, the former Southampton manager has excelled in a way many companies in a more mundane environment would be offering promotion. Football is a law unto itself though, so Southampton show Adkins the door and they replace him with someone who has very limited knowledge of the Queen's English. This is after back to back promotions and two days since coming from two goals down to hold the champions of Europe in their own back yard. Heaven knows what the board expectations are for Mauricio Pochettino. Now I've nothing against the Argentinian but his winning percentage at Espanyol, his only previous managerial post, is worse than Adkins at any of the three clubs he's been in control of. Let's not forget that Adkins was promoted from within at Scunthorpe, formally filling the role of club physio. Twice there he won promotion to the Championship, once as League One champions and also guided The Iron to a 'paint cup' final at Wembley. Promoted from within, a phenomenon akin to a world that you and I relate to.

There may well be underlying factors between Adkins and the Southampton board that we are unaware of, the club were of course happy to just thank Adkins for all he has done and use that famous cliche "he's taken them as far as he can", an age old get out clause. Adkins like all managers work to contracts with termination and compensation clauses, there is little worry for matters such as mortgage repayments or gas bills for high profile managers as they enter the MD's office for 'that chat'. Adkins could of course shown Southampton the same disregard for loyalty had a bigger fish come calling although that is the employee's right in my book within all fields of employment. It just seems to be the craziest of decisions from the clubs point of view. Phil Parkinson must be praying Bradford City don't work to the same philosophies after guiding his fourth division side to a major cup final.

As bizarre as it seems backward, the actions of Southampton's board are still positively second division compared to Ewood Park's 'Carry on up the Rovers' debacle. I had some quiet respect for Venky's, the Indian poultry group, along with Rovers MD Derek Shaw. For all their faults,  in the beginning they stuck with a manager showing a rare belief in someone even if results and reaction were to the contrary. Kean was always going to go in the end, whether it was due to the protests or the fact they had dropped a division but Rovers attendances were down 9000 on the previous season and the fans were getting as much press as the team.

Blackburn Rovers had unfortunately become a laughing stock, chicken jokes were two a penny yet the fiasco that has followed is equally shambolic. Kean's permanent replacement Henning Berg winning just one of his ten games in charge and lasting just fifty seven days, to be replaced by Michael Appleton who himself had only been at Blackpool for sixty five days prior to arriving at Ewood Park.

Short tenures at the helm have been seen before, most notably Brian Clough's forty four days at Leeds United. That was different, that was footballers protesting and not performing for the new boss. The Berg and Appleton situations are just showing how fast the managerial merry-go-round is spinning, the compensation flying out the pockets quicker than ever before as it continues to build up speed. It may not be Bradford's hiring and firing policy that sees Phil Parkinson's exit after all but the lure of Championship football as he is currently Blackpool's main target to replace Appleton. The League Cup final is only a month away, Steve Thompson's caretaker role could last for a little longer yet.

Last Saturday Appleton lost his first game in charge of Blackburn against Charlton Athletic to a ring of boos from the Rovers supporters. That doesn't bode well, the placards could be undergoing construction as we speak. As I mentioned in my other blog, God, Charlton and Punk Rock,  if he had lasted just another day at Blackpool he would have lost to Charlton on two consecutive weeks with different clubs. His counterpart last Saturday, Chris Powell, celebrated his second anniversary this week in charge of the Addicks. He is now the sixth longest serving boss in the division already.

My four day week seems undeniably substantial in comparison.