According to Stiff Little Fingers, nostalgia is past its’ prime while history is a thing of the past. The late 1970s pub-punk philosophers knew a thing or two about how ‘the kids’ thought.
Now the kids are adults and we know nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Comics might be enjoying a bounce thanks – in part – to big screen adaptations but football never got the benefit. Mainly because films about football are few and far between while good films about football are as rare as hen’s teeth.
Indeed, as I write this, I can only think of Pele, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, and a host of former Ipswich Town players in Escape to Victory as the only half-decent football film. The Goal! trilogy is not mentioned in my presence.
If a good football film was written, it would probably be about Jon Stark, Football Mercenary for Hire. For those too young to know or too old to remember, he was a “Matchwinner for hire”, or at least that’s what his business card said. He’d turn up one day at training, be there for a match – maybe two, I don’t recall it ever being longer – win the games for your team and then collect his cash.
Or not, if you lost.
With his trademark leather coat and Glitter Band haircut, he was George Best for hire. Reliable, never at a bar instead of training. He earned a grand a game plus bonuses in an era when footballers’ wages barely reached £200. He was that good.
Of course, it couldn’t happen now. FIFA says you can’t play for more than two or three teams per season – I can’t remember which it is – and that put Stark out to pasture. Unless he had a raft of false identities in a Bourne-esque twist.
Being First Just Cannot Last
Which comes as some relief to Arsenal. We don’t need Jon Stark, it just means the Dog & Duck defenders who masqueraded as Barcelona players can’t pitch up at Colney for the CSKA tie. No need to see their business card: “We do the dirty work you don’t want to”.
If Hollywood scripted last night’s Champions League match in Rome, Kostas Manolas would be the hero. His goal would stop a dirty bomb or nerve agent being unleashed on an unsuspecting city. His wide-eyed celebration captures the emotion of a fantastic win as well as saving the day.
Even Roma players couldn’t believe what they witnessed. As the Greek defender unleashed his inner-Tardelli, one team-mate walked across the corner of the penalty box, hands over face, almost in a daze at the raw emotion of it all.
The last time eyes bulged that biggly, Diego Maradona failed a drugs test; that’s how much raw adrenaline, testosterone and other natural thingies were coursing through Manolas’ veins at that moment.
Seeing footballers enjoy the moment, watching the Roma fans celebrate that instant; it’s why football is such a great thing. You believe it can happen to you and you understand the emotions crashing through their bodies. Half the Eternal City will have woken this morning feeling like they have drunk the vineyards dry.
I’d like to know how that felt but had we lost 4 – 1 in the first leg to Barcelona, they’d have won the second 5 – 0.
There were still seven minutes to go and Lionel Messi on the pitch. But as Argentina found during the 2014 World Cup final, that doesn’t automatically mean victory. Or salvaging a defeat.
The Dog & Duck defenders let them down.
Plug in any Loop Tape You Choose
It was fascinating watching both ties last night. City’s campaign was undone by the same referee whom Guardiola accused of wrecking last season’s home leg against Monaco. UEFA delivered a spectacular middle finger to the Catalan.
It was rank bad officiating to disallow City a second goal before half-time. The fifth official on the goal-line had a clear view that it was a Liverpool player who last touched the ball – the Mr Dull BT Referee claimed said the goalkeeper’s punch meant Milner’s deflection was irrelevant – and was apparently ‘consulted’ over the decision. Oh, for VAR…
That is the reason there are no English officials in Russia, by the way: VAR is a central platform this summer and we’ve proven we can’t use it properly.
CSKA will look at the Roma performance and think they can repeat that. We, on the other hand, should look at Liverpool’s shaky back four and think, “Well, if they can do it, why can’t we?”
Well, we’ve got Shkodran Mustafi for starters and our fates very much depend on which Shkodran turns up in Moscow. The lackadaisical one who we see most weeks, or the Germany international who pops in now and again?
We shall see. One man who will be thinking the Gods are on his side is Mo Elneny. The FA reversed his red card and he doesn’t have to serve any ban at all; hen’s teeth indeed.
Put the Egyptian on the pitch tomorrow and he will feel invincible; the FA? On Arsenal’s side? Is the sky about to fall in? Maybe Mo’s film could be called Skyfall? Nah, it’s a bit of a crap title.
Also, on the Arsenal front, Reiss Nelson showed what an education can do and he realised staying at Arsenal is the best thing for him, so he signed da ting.