Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Come one, come all!

Thursday night I will see my first footballing hero playing at Craven Cottage and I am nearly as excited as when he scored the first goal I ever saw my team score at Wembley.
Bryan Robson is turning out for England Legends and I would turn up just to support this player. As a manager he has been found wanting and there have been more than a few unsavoury stories about him as a man, but as player he epitomised all I admired in a footballer.
The closest I came myself as a player was to injure my shoulder, although with a broken collar bone rather than a dislocation. Even at the time as I was escorted off the pitch, I was kind of hoping it was a Robbo injury and I'd be back playing soon. He was that inspirational at his peak.
I am more than aware I will not be watching him at any kind of elevated level this week - hell he was pretty ropey in his last few seasons at United as the game got quicker while he simultaneously got slower - but that doesn't matter. It's Bryan Robson, Captain Marvel.
I kind of wish I had kids so I could take them to see someone who was once the best player in the land.
Some people see these legends matches as freakshows, laughing at how old and fat some of the players from some of their own team's hated rivals have become. They certainly don't come to watch a decent game of football or through any sense of loyalty to the arbitrary national teams that serve up the pretence of an important game.
However I, like many others I hope, am attending because I want to pay tribute to these great players of yesterday and reminisce on how they used to marshall games with aplomb. I guess it's the nostalgia factor, which is so prevalent in today's society. It also gives us a glimpse at what football in the early nineties was all about - a much more physical game, with very little diving. Any of these guys throw themselves on the ground and they'll be looking for a new hip.
The joy is that there are plenty of heroes to go around. Forest & Wednesday fans can laud Des Walker. Arsenal and Villa have David Platt. Liverpool Mark Wright and, along with slightly older Fulham fans, Ray Houghton. Man City have Niall Quinn. There is a good cross section for people to get excited about, as if it is 15 years ago.
The fact that this game is to be televised on ITV4 is somewhat puzzling to me, but I guess it's a relatively cheap way of providing 2 hours of exclusive 'dramatic' content for the channel in a week with no UEFA Cup games. Still, there's nothing like the real thing and I'll be shouting at the top of my lungs from the Johnny Haynes Stand, celebrating Robbo making yet another crunching tackle.

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