Friday, September 22, 2006

Happy Birthday?

On this day, I am quietly mourning the occasion of my 39th birthday. It is a terrible day for those of us who still harbour ambitions to represent their country in sport. I am now forced to concede that I am unlikely to appear at the Millennium Stadium in a red shirt. Of course, there is still an outside chance that I will be selected as goalkeeper, but the narrow-minded requirements of athleticism, physique, and talent cruelly rule me out.

With this in mind, I have requested an archery set as a gift. Hopefully, I will take to the sport immediately - catapulting myself into contention for the London Olympics. I will achieve my lifetime ambition of sitting down on the winner's podium and raising two fingers when they play "God Save the Queen". I don't fancy spending my Saturdays on rainy fields in the company of the strange people who must surely comprise the "Gwynedd Bowmen" , so I will dedicate myself to the task alone. Self-trained, I will shock the archery world at the Olympic trials. Or I might try it once and leave it in a box in the shed.

Other gifts suggest a particularly Welsh mid-life crisis. I got Cerys Matthew's new CD (disappointing - bangy) , and a DVD compilation of the Super Furry Animals. The sleeve notes for the SFA disc, feature a graphic of Robin Friday in the classic yellow/white striped Cardiff City kit of the 1970's.

I have noticed recently how often the broadsheets are referring to the "unglamorous" Cardiff City. Unglamorous? Nous ?

The Furries picked up on a stupendously glamorous era in Welsh football when they went for the Robin Friday association. Wrexham were going through the Blyth Spartans Cup run, and their record - "This is Arfon Griffiths" is still Welsh music's crowning achievement. Swansea were also thriving, basking in a five-goal sun on Match of the Day, bathing in the reflected glory of their Liverpudlian superstars, and producing the last batch of real talent to come from the Vetch - Robbie James, Alan Curtis, and Jeremy Charles. Even Newport County were building a team around Nigel Vaughan which would attract a gate of 16,000 to a European Cup Winners Cup tie.

Personally, I remember Robin Friday as a run-of-the-mill "talented but ineffective" player. But the modern fashion for nostalgically celebrating the anti-heroes of society has led to the re-writing of history, certainly in the case of Robin Friday. "The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw?" Well, I saw him and he was OK. Not bad. No more than that.

SFA have earned themselves the moniker of Cardiff City's "celebrity fans". This is a curious imposition, which is bestowed uniquely in the world of football. Desperate to normalise their existence, the obsessed fan looks around for some sign, any sign, that travelling 250 miles to a God-forsaken stadium on a Tuesday night is acceptable. And an obsessed football fan needs to wrap the flag of a football team around any figure in public life. It is how we identify ourselves, ergo, it is how we define others.

But this is the rub...Celebrity fans are then rated by levels of authenticity. If they once mention in an interview that they look out for the results of their local team, they are chastised as charlatans, unless they have a season ticket. "Where were you at Stockport away?" chides the real fan.

So in that spirit, let's have a look at the claims of the Welsh celebrity fan. Let's start with the Super Furries. Are they Cardiff fans ? "Fan" is probably too strong a word, but they are certainly seen at Ninian Park when they're around. In their previous incarnation as Ffa Coffi Pawb, the North Walian element had other band members who were regulars at Bangor City. But now the band have more of a connection with the capital. They sponsored a kit when we were really crap, and their iconic treatment of Robin Friday has been entertaining. Who cares if they are real fans? Their stubborn promotion of an "unglamorous" club should be applauded.

Catatonia on the other hand were a split camp. While Owen wore his Cardiff City colours on his sleeve, and continues to do so, Cerys was happy to attach herself to the team of her boyfriend, Marc Roberts. This is why she made the appalling error of appearing at "The Big Noise" Festival in a multi-coloured Man United goalkeeper's shirt. It reminded me of the time when Ian Brown of the Stone Roses caused a mini-riot by donning a Cardiff City shirt at a gig in Newport.

The Manics follow Wales properly, though their club allegiances are more shady. Liverpool and Spurs have been mentioned. Likewise the Stereophonics. Stuart Cable would often be seen drumming in a Liverpool shirt.

Some of you now are bristling. "I know him". "That's not true". "He went to Ninian for the Pompey game in '83. That's all part of the fun. It's like a race. Who can provide the most conclusive evidence ? Well Rhys Ifans is Wrexham. That's a fact. You heard it here first.


Anonymous said...

Harold Shipman was Hyde United .. allegedly.

Adrian Colley said...

You can still play for Wales Eric. Turn out with the rest of the fortysomethings for the Wales fans'. Back four against Czech Republic in Prague last month had an average age of 42 and we still won 7-0.

Gary said...

Having witnessed the fans' team first hand (including defeat to a US team containing two girls and Ade Colley) I have to say that the Czech fans must be diabolical if we won 7-0!