North Stand Critic: I fear for future of parks football

Portsmouth Sunday League action    Picture: Kevin Shipp
Portsmouth Sunday League action Picture: Kevin Shipp
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England’s under-performing, over-paid superstars, have given me a massive nudge in the direction of this week’s theme – Sunday league football.

You may think this is a contrived link but the standard of our national team during the Euros has been so low that they would be more suited to Hackney Marshes than the Stade De France.

Maybe as I have grown older, my thoughts of previous England teams have become clouded.

I am used to viewing yesteryear through my rose-tinted glasses and at the moment I have even managed to misplace those favoured ‘specs’ of mine, such is age.

I played local Sunday football myself for more than 20 years and the standard has dropped immeasurably.

During the 1970s and 1980s there were more than 100 teams competing in the Portsmouth Sunday and Dockyard leagues.

Today there are just a handful of clubs, as interest wanes in the 11-a-side game.

Young men’s unhealthy interest in Fifa and other sedentary ‘sports’ has seen our playing fields less and less populated.

I do genuinely fear for the future of all parks football.

I recently witnessed one game and the standard was appalling – I was, however, wearing my special glasses at the time.

Both teams wore garish strips, many with ill-fitting shirts.

The players were of a general mix, made up of a handful of pretty boys and a more generous number of larger lads.

All of the players, however, seemed more concerned with their appearance than honing their limited ball skills.

Their immaculate and expensive football boots of every colour imaginable were almost as impressive as their beautifully coiffured barnets.

There was also a healthy smattering of WAGS present.

They should all be congratulated on their efforts, especially considering it was an early morning kick-off.

What was refreshing for me to see, however, was the re-emergence of the more rotund playing physique – first recognised by me and my pals during the late 1970s.

Pompey’s Peter Mellor and Huddersfield Town’s Steve Kindon were both forbearers.

They chose to wear shirts a couple of sizes too small, thus exaggerating the contours of their emerging and expanding torsos.

Both were excellent professionals, who had great careers but seemed unconcerned by their appearance on the pitch.

England’s preening primadonnas would do well to re-prioritise their training schedules – less gym and more ball, I would suggest.

As I yo-yo between the present and the past, my mind takes me back to what I miss most from my playing days and it has to be the changing room banter.

All the successful teams I played in relied heavily on plenty of good-natured ‘bants’.

This fostered good team spirit and enhanced results.

Performances are always better when you play in a team that likes each other’s company.

The present Wales team are an excellent example.

As the FA embark on their search to replace the dynamic, uplifting and effervescent Roy Hodgson, they could do a lot worse than re-employing a former incumbent of the England hot seat.

Not Hoddle, nor Sven, or even the ‘wally with the brolly’.

We need a man of the people, who can inspire, a man who knows how to bant!

Mike Bassett, come back, your country needs you!

n NORTH STAND CRITIC

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