It would have been sometime around 1995 or 1996 when I first watched a game of football. It was the season of Newcastle’s collapse, of “I’d Love It!” and supposedly not being able to win anything with kids. I grew up in a non-football household with not a single family member showing the slightest interest in it or indeed any other professional sport for that matter. I owe my inital footballing education to a boy who lived across the street when I was only 8 years old. It was the early days of Sky Sports and the FA Carling Premiership (as it was then known) when the pre-packaged, event-like status of each match was truly taking off. The presentation of Richard Keys (shudder), Andy Gray (shudder) and the peerless Martin Tyler made every 90 minutes seem vital, essential viewing for any aspiring football fan. The boys father was the only person I knew who had access to live football (YES LIVE! not just the selective once weekly highlights on MOTD), the exclusivity making it even more special. I don’t remember the exact moment, or even the exact game only that there was a time when football was an unknown irrelevance and then suddenly the only thing that mattered.
The jarring goalkeeper shirts of Peter Schmeichel, Giggsy’s curly mop and the upturned collar of the King are just three of the images that now seem emblazoned in my memory forever now. It began with a battered VHS that would arrive each Tuesday morning containing the action from the night before. Monday Night Football was on too late for kid who still thought Power Rangers were the epitome of cool and thus I would wait expectantly for the recording to be delivered each week by my mates dad. As they were both United fans then these were the only games I received. It was then, with a certain inevitability that I became enamoured with the Theatre of Dreams and Fergie’s Fledgeling’s as they chomped away at Newcastle’s healthy lead. Each tape held one game, United V Southampton stands out for some reason but I can’t remember why, the picture jumpy, constantly requesting the tracking be readjusted, but no sound. Without Tyler’s dulcet towns and the roar of the Old Trafford faithful I was left to fall in love with football on my own terms. No grisly ex-pro’s were there to influence my own reading of the game, telling me which players were having a stinker or how the latest South American import ‘didn’t like it up em’ on a cold night at Burden Park. It most likely had something to do with the encryption placed on putting satellite TV onto VHS but I didn’t care. I shrieked and yelped by best impressions of Messrs Motson, Davies and Co. providing my own narrative by commentating on contrastingly dull and pulsating affairs.
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