Chris Goreham: Is it Fergie time, anyone?
- Credit: Andrew Tobin/Focus Images Ltd
You must have heard about the time Tommy Cooper was introduced to the Queen after appearing at a Royal Variety Performance. He asked Her Majesty whether she liked football and when she said “No, not particularly” he said, “Can I have your Cup final tickets?”
Having watched football struggle to answer the big question about how the sport should progress in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic I am beginning to wish that the Queen had chosen football over horse racing as her main sport all those years ago.
We could really do with some sort of figurehead to bring what has become a giant mess back together.
Whatever your opinions of the Royal Family, you can’t help but admire how restrained the Queen has been over the years. Her role may be strictly non-political, but she deserves tremendous credit for appearing before parliament so many times, particularly in recent years, without ever giving in to the temptation of treating MPs to her version of Sir Alex Ferguson’s hairdryer.
“Come on, lads, it’s my picture on the money and the stamps so get out there and sort yourselves out.”
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It’s that sort of leadership that football appears to be lacking right now.
The great strength of the English game is that it’s built on a pyramid. That means that in theory, King’s Lynn Town play as part of the same system as Liverpool. If lower division or non-league clubs get themselves together, the opportunity is there to progress through the divisions. The distant dream is one of the things that keeps the game alive. For the format to work we have to accept that the Premier League is very much linked to the many and various leagues below it, whether the biggest clubs in the land like it or not. Since the middle of March it’s been easy to understand why the pyramid is made up of ‘divisions’ because plenty of them have been in evidence.
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Football hasn’t been able to approach this difficult and unprecedented situation as one entity because it has too many cooks – and that’s not a dig at Delia Smith.
The Premier League, the EFL and the National League all seem to have different ideas about what should happen next. Then there’s the Football Association, which should have the best interests of the game at heart but is often unable to find a consensus or compete financially with the Premier League in particular. We have Uefa and Fifa, who have also been trying to formulate ways forward. So that’s six different organisations who have their own interests to protect. Then there’s the PFA which represents the players. Match officials, managers and fans also have their own representative groups.
Quite often the grandstanding between these disparate organisations suits football, because it is a tribal sport that thrives on competition and is fuelled by rivalry.
The Covid-19 crisis is different because it’s going to have an impact on everything.
Norwich City’s sporting director Stuart Webber made some very good points recently when he said that the issues are already much more serious than who gets relegated or promoted. The very existence of some clubs is on the line if football doesn’t find a way to work together and share the impact of something that has succeeded where only world wars have in the past, by bringing the sport to a total standstill.
That’s why a figurehead who understands the complexities of football at all levels would come in very handy at the moment.
Prince William is a big football fan, but after seeing him cheer Aston Villa so keenly during their 5-1 win at Carrow Road last October I’ve gone off the idea of putting him in charge.
That underlines why fans will never be happy no matter who is at the top of the game. We all secretly enjoy creating conspiracy theories that prove how much the authorities are against our team.
I wonder whether Sir Alex has got one last blast left in his hairdryer? It feels like some tea cups need throwing at the moment. I would suggest banging a few heads together, but that would go against social distancing.
HE SAID WHAT?
Broadcasting during the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging, but it’s not been without moments of joy.
Presenting BBC Radio Norfolk’s Breakfast Show over the past few weeks has meant choosing my words carefully.
The expectation of any public service broadcaster or local media at a time like this is to be clear and accurate with the information available and not cause any unnecessary stress or worry for the audience.
I thought I was on safe ground recently when the conversation switched to a story about a man who had spent the first few weeks of being in lockdown completing the football sticker album he started in 1979. His daughter had filled the gaps by using ebay and other websites to locate the missing stickers. In a moment of nostalgia I mentioned the Italia ’90 sticker album that accompanied the first World Cup I can properly remember.
It was soon time for the news and I sat back in the chair to think about the Covid-19 related interviews that were on the horizon. It was at that point a text message dropped into our computer in the studio from a listener who had misheard my World Cup recollections.
“Did Chris just say he had a sticker album featuring Italian nighties?” they asked.
That’s how I found myself on the air at 8am one morning having to make it clear to anyone half listening that they weren’t spending their breakfast time with a bloke who had a penchant for the sort of collections that might only exist on the top shelf of the newsagents.
The big lesson from that episode was to take a bit more care when reminiscing about Gazza’s tears, Pavarotti and my first taste of penalty shoot-out heartbreak at the hands of the Germans. Next time I have to mention Italia 90 on the air I will do so in much slower and more deliberate fashion.