Diego

I love this picture of Diego Maradona in his Boca Juniors shirt and carpet slippers. I saw Diego Maradona play once. In the 1983-4 season United drew Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winner’s Cup. Away in the first leg United came home two-nil  down, centre back Graham Hogg diverting the ball into his own net right at the end of the game. Two weeks later Barca came to Old Trafford for a match that still stands out for me as the best game I’ve ever attended. We didn’t have much hope of going through. Two-nil down,a Barca away goal would finish us. As well as Maradona, then ascending to ‘best player in the world’ status, they had mop-haired midfield maestro Bernd Schuster in their side as well. Old Trafford was crammed to the rafters, Maradona barely got a kick and Frank Stapleton and Bryan Robson scored the three goals that sent us through to the semis (a tie against Juventus, who had a team containing Boniek, Platini and Rossi amongst others. Another amazing night at the football, from when European nights were a rarity rather than an expectation). Robson left the pitch on the shoulders of the thousands of fans who poured onto the pitch at the final whistle. Not me, as my brother frequently reminds me. I didn’t want to get clobbered by a copper. At the Juventus game a copper threatened to break my arm if I tried to walk down a certain gangway again. Friendly chaps the GMP.

None of which has anything to do with this song I found recently. It’s one of those deeply clubby chuggers, Love From Outer Space style jobs. Very good. May wear the carpet out if played late at night in subdued lighting through some decent speakers. Headman featuring Scott Fraser and Douglas McCarthy remixed by Hardway Bros.

SAF

I was 16 years old when Alex Ferguson arrived at Manchester United. I’m 43 in eleven days time. He’s managed the club I support all my adult life. What’s more I was a regular at Old Trafford throughout the Ron Atkinson years and Ferguson’s early days and remember what it was like before we were ‘the biggest football club in the world’ TM. It seems inconceivable that he won’t be there. But then again, let’s not get carried away- no one’s died, it’s only a game. Nothing lasts forever.

What digs at me though is that without him there (and soon the last of the old guard- Giggs, Scholes- will be gone too) is that within three years United will be just another rich, big club playing the Euromoneyball, three year cycle, managerial-merry-go-round, the same as all the rest. I know some of you won’t give a fuck either way. I know that for some of you there are less rewarding ways to spend money watching football (hello Airdrie, hello York City). Although maybe that isn’t less rewarding- I dunno. Yes, we have been spoilt. Yes, it is all over now. Let’s see what happens next.

NB Please, please, please, don’t let it be Mourinho. 

B Is For Black Affair

Steve Mason’s 2009 side project Black Affair was an 80s electro inspired project, which was great in small doses but wore a bit over the course of an entire lp. Still, in a field of his own is Steve Mason- most people wouldn’t record let alone release an album like this, so far removed from what he’s known for. This was one of the highlights.

Sweet

In a slightly belated tribute to United’s 20th league title our picture shows Bobby Charlton, presumably in the aftermath of the Munich air disaster or an early anniversary of, with a cracking quiff. Bobby was present as a player for United’s 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th league titles and he’s still there, although he doesn’t make the netting bulge anymore. The Premier League is a million miles from this picture. Yesterday’s post-Beta Band group The Aliens had a song called Bobby’s Song which I should’ve posted instead really.

Shepherd Rod

I’ve neglected the reggae and dub side of things recently so here’s some Lee Perry for Saturday morning, from the outstanding Voodooism compilation that came out in the mid 90s, an album with twenty first class tracks. There’s a Lee Perry-Orb album out at the moment which didn’t get a great review (at least the one I read). Has anyone heard it?

Shepherd Rod

The English football season starts in earnest today with the kick-off of the ‘greatest league in the world’. I’ve never felt so underwhelmed by the start of a season and United’s recent signing of Robin Van Persie made me do nothing other than shrug. Maybe that’ll change when we play Everton on Monday night but I’ve really enjoyed not having any Premier League football for the last couple of months.

Fat Neck

Out on penalties. Again.

I’m not sure I liked Black Grape that much, although the first album had its moments. 1996 single Fat Neck was a tribute to Karl Power, who specialised in sneaking into major sporting events- he walked up to the crease padded up for England at cricket, got onto court at Wimbledon and lined up for United away in a Champions League tie (see above, far left. See also Roy Keane, far right, who has spotted him. Run, Karl, run). Did he play last night? Fat Neck also has Johnny Marr on guitar.

Fat Neck

England’s Irie

Tonight England play Italy in the quarter finals of Euro 2012. The team has already surpassed expectations by not being total shite. At 7.45 tonight they will either be outclassed or turn this into one of English football’s great adventures. And then lose on penalties.

At Euro ’96, the last time they made a semi-final, Shaun Ryder’s Black Grape provided an unofficial anthem- England’s Irie. It is notable for three things; one, it’s pretty good; two, Shaun performs a verse which goes ‘I’m spectating, my wife’s lactating, it’s a football thing’; three, this was Joe Strummer’s only Top Of The Pops performance.

E For England.

This Time? Nope, Shouldn’t Think So

Let’s be honest, the England team haven’t exactly won our devotion during recent tournaments. Then there’s the whole John Terry business. Still, I’ll be turning on the telly tonight…

There’s No-One There


Hangover. Tired. Headache.

In a chain of events I won’t bother to explain I ended up watching Rochdale play Colchester yesterday. I like watching lower league football every now and then. You can stand up. You can pay on the gate. The crowd have realistic/low expectations. As Rochdale went looking for an equaliser in the second half a long ball was punted towards the box. ‘There’s no one there’ a man sighed. He looked like he’d spent the last 40 years watching Rochdale lump the ball towards the box, in vain hope of a goal. And he was right, there was no-one there.

Random song- M Craft covers She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult, acoustic style.

Meetings With Footballers 4 & 5



For about 18 months in the early-to-mid 90s I ended living in a flat above a hairdressers in Hale. The flat was large, very reasonably priced rent and just down the road from my then flatmate’s girlfriend. Hale is a wealthy suburb of south Manchester, near Altrincham. I lived in almost abject poverty, but as Gang For Four said ‘to hell with poverty, we’ll get drunk on cheap wine’. We started drinking in the local pub, the romantically named Bleeding Wolf. It’s now a block of expensive apartments. As happens when you spend a lot of time in one pub, you get to know the landlord, you get lock-ins, next thing you know you get asked to dj at the staff Christmas party. So we hauled our records down the road, scrounged and cobbled together various pieces of equipment and set up to play in a large landing area above the pub once the last order’s bell had been rung. Well into the night, everyone drunk and having a good time, I put on The Clash’s (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais. Careering out of the kitchen, at the time injured with a dodgy knee but clearly having a good time, comes Roy Keane. He clatters around the dancefloor, jumps up and down a bit, and then vanishes back into the kitchen, with us praying we’re not responsible for worsening the knee. Still, it’s not every night you can say you made Roy Keane dance. I’ve posted White Man recently so there’s no point putting that up, I don’t have Morrissey’s Roy’s Keen (and it’s rubbish), so instead here’s something else I’m pretty sure we played- Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades.

Another time, in the same pub, in the lead up to major international football tournament (probably USA ’94), a reporter is on the rolling news live from the Republic Of Ireland camp commenting on the mysterious absence from the squad of Paul McGrath (who also had dodgy knees). Everyone in The Bleeding Wolf that afternoon knows exactly where he is. It should be noted, Paul McGrath attended a charity dinner in aid of our son’s special needs school last year and was the perfect gentleman.

Meetings With Footballers 3



It is 19th May 1995. It is my 25th birthday. We go into town and have beers and tequila at Ten Bar. We meet the man. We go to Home, in retrospect a very dubious nightclub. We drink more bottled beer. In the bar area above the dancefloor, flanked by two minders in black MA 1 bomber jackets, is Eric Cantona. Eric is serving a long ban for attacking a Crystal Palace supporter as he was leaving the pitch, still one of the most extraordinary things I’ve seen take place at a football match. We shake Eric’s hand. Things are a bit messy now all round. A queue forms. We go up to shake his hand again, reasoning he won’t remember our faces. Eric takes all this with good grace, despite us clearly being worse for wear. I drag the soon-to-be Mrs Swiss off the dancefloor, so she can meet Eric. She asks Eric if he minds being hassled by drunken/gurning idiots in nightclubs. ‘No’ he replies, ‘Not really’.

In 1995 The Stone Roses disintegrated. They lost Reni, the finest drummer of his generation. They released Ten Storey Love Song as a single, the only song off the Second Coming that sounded like the work of the same band that made the first album six years earlier. On their singles to support the first album the B-sides were as good as the A-sides- Standing Here, Mersey Paradise, Going Down… By the time they came to finding B-sides for Second Coming singles the quality was dipping. The 12″ of Ten Storey Love Song had two B-sides- Ride On, a Brown/Squire number, slow, stoned, dirgy, and Moses, a pile driver of guitar riffs and heavy groove, with a breakdown and the riff tumbling back in. Credited to Squire/Mounfield/Wren you felt it was a warm-up, practice tune that had never gained vocals. Heavy and a long way from waterfalls, sugar spun sisters and her banging the drums.