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Circle of Strife: Why does football wind us up?

I used to go to the match with my dad and have a little chuckle to myself at all the little things that used to wind him up. It seemed like every foul was soft and they would never get away with it ‘in his day.’ It conjured up images of people in his day playing with two broken legs, a three tooth smile and a ball as heavy concrete. He wasn’t alone in this. To be honest he was relatively progressive in his football views in comparison to some of his peers. I learned a lot about football over a few pints in the social club with my dad. Every Sunday we’d listen to Andy Gray talk about strikes ‘right out of the top drawer’.

‘Why’s he diving?!’ an excited Scottish accent would blare, while one of the more experienced men in the room would mutter about how the new balls fly about all over and how you wouldn’t be able to do it with a proper casey. I was in the football equivalent of Jurassic Park and I found it fascinating how men, who loved the game so much, could moan about the fact that forwards were actually not getting booted into the stands. They were right, Thierry Henry would have just been snapped as he raced past a lead footed fullback (Carragher probably would have, if he’d caught him), but why do you want that? Juninho, a demigod in my neck of the woods, would not have been the superstar he was for us if he had somebody kicking him into the air every two minutes. I was baffled, but what’s even more baffling is that after fast forwarding 10 years I’m one of them!

Now I’m the dinosaur and modern football is Jeff Goldblum with a broken leg. I’m never going to catch it up but I’m going to stomp about angrily while I try. I sit with my friends and we talk about how there aren’t any decent centre backs any more. The amount of times I’ve looked in disbelief at how there is a foul when they got the ball is countless. Yes, they’ve followed through and took everything but I thought that was just a good tackle. I was incandescent the first time I heard a penalty was given because there was the ‘intent’ to foul. I even whinged about the fact that nobody wears black boots anymore. When my nephew showed me the ones he liked I said they were ‘a bit flash’. I’m 28 and all of a sudden I’ve turned into Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets.

What’s worse than this is I’ve developed my own pet hates. For my dad, it was strikers who used to dawdle back into an onside position (watch Alen Boksic in any Boro match for an example). I have tons of them and they seem to get me increasingly angry every time I see them:

Crosses that don’t beat the first man, being offside out wide when you can see the whole line of defenders, Hollywood passes when there is an easy option right in front of them and the worst one… defenders who try to thread a pass instead of hoofing it. Just get rid!

If you’re reading this and you reckon I’m just a moaning old git, you’re right. If you reckon I need to accept that Eden Hazard rolling on the floor for 10 minutes is just the way it has to be, you’re right again. I won’t though. Neither will you when it’s your turn. The circle of strife goes on and you will forever be in conflict with all things new. We revel in nostalgia and as much as I wish there was a hard man at the heart of every defence, a target man up front and two wingers who stuck to the side they could cross from in every team. I’m not going to get it because four four two is dead, may it rest in peace. You’ll be telling the young’uns about how Messi could nutmeg a mermaid and Ronaldo could shoot from his own box. You will scoff and tell them about how the next lad who is scoring 50 a season wouldn’t have done it in your day. Not with Sergio Ramos or Vincent Kompany about.  The robot refs, drone drinks breaks and linesmen on their hover boards will be all wrong. You’ll be crying out for the simple days when Hawkeye used to tell you if it was a goal or not and the refs used spray to tell you where ten yards was.

So just remember, next time you get wound up by something trivial. Embrace the grumpy thoughts and moan until your heart’s content. It’s your right.

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