Year Of The Ram

Beano Niblock makes another contribution to the ongoing soccer discussion that has been taking place on TPQ. A Derby County supporter, Beano Niblock is a writer of poetry, plays and political commentary.

I think even a couple of these short points validates everything we are saying about “modern “ football and where it has went. Fluctuating kick off times is only one strand. In recent years I have booked to go to matches in England months in advance-to get best flight deals and assure accommodation. Only for Sky to change the match from a Saturday to a Sunday!! Result?—having to change a flight and book an extra night in a hotel. Hardly fair on the many thousands of fans who travel to the mainland each week to watch games.

I still enjoy football and would watch regularly — but alas not with the same fervour as I did when young. We have been spoiled and indeed we have overdosed on the Sky diet —plus those other newer force feeders, BT Sport et al. And at times you hanker for the halcyon days of tight shorts and muddy pitches, proper tackles and managers with car coats. There is no suggestion from me that the old game was any better, more skilful, faster or more athletic than the modern one. But for me what was more attractive, for all its faults, was for the most part the honesty and integrity of the game and its connection with working class communities. The days of the corncrake wielding and flat capped woodbine smoking crowd have faded into history but so too have the ideals of the modern “riders and runners” of the present day game. The owners and administrators who have sold out to the oligarchs like Murdoch and who then in turn have transformed the modern player into the footballing equivalent of gigolos and bimbos, must take the bulk of the blame. Players, whilst remaining mercenary and rapacious, less so, but alas they too are a symptom of the malaise of Premier League football.

During my time in the various establishments, I found, like Anthony McIntyre, that outside of the usual suspects of Man U, Liverpool and to a certain extent Leeds — think Billy Hutchinson — there weren’t many other teams had much of a following. Tottenham to a certain extent I suppose — not much in the line of Arsenal or Chelsea, but strangely enough there were 4 Derby County supporters that I knew of.

As a disciple of Clough I led a lonely life through early Kesh and Magilligan days. Even allowing for the fact that Derby were reigning champions when I traversed the LK gates for the first time, and then repeated the feat albeit under Dave Mackay with a Clough team in 1975, by which time I was in the Crumlin Road. I was still ridiculed on many occasions. Imagine my delight when arriving back in LK from my exile in the County Londonderry countryside, to find 3 kindred spirits!! No longer did I have to hold a solitary meeting in a toilet cubicle: now we fellow Rams could afford the luxury of a cubicle or the drying room .... well at least until 1980, by which time the other three had been released.


  1. I try not to get too nostalgic about the old days. Now we have the Champions League with every game on telly and the likes of Messi for all to see. In the past you just never saw the top players except at the World Cup. I could count on one hand the amount of Maradona or Cryuff games I've seen live. The money aspect of the English and World game is deeply unsettling but the standard and coverage is exceptional.
    What I do regret is the fact that local and Scottish football has got so shit. Celtic play in a half empty stadium and Rangers can't even get out of the second division. Not long ago players like Larrson and Van Bronkhorst were playing in Scotland, both ended up at Barca! How many current Old Firm players could make an English premier team never mind Barca?
    And travelling to away games with the Blues was a real day out. I loved going to Coleraine and Portadown but the Oval was the real deal. The stadium was full, the atmosphere was electric, both sets of fans in full voice, real talent like McCaughey and Jim Cleary on show. I can't remeber the last time I went to an Irish league game but I remember it was shit and the stadium was practically empty. There seems to be no sign of improvement in either league in the foreseeable future.

  2. Pater,

    that seems unfair. I think the Celtic side or Rangers for that matter would put in a real challenge against the Glens and the Blues for the title. LOL

    I so many happy memories of the Glens playing at the Oval. My recollection is of a packed stadium. It was not packed when there was an exhibition game but outside of that, it always was. The big Darby games against the Blues were electrifying.

    I think the one benefit of the modern game in terms of coverage, so many of Pele's generation missed out on him because we only ever saw clips outside of the World Cup finals. It was almost as bad for Cruyff, and Maradona and Beckenbauer. Now as you say we can watch them regularly. Add Messi to that list and in my view you have the top five players to have graced the planet.

  3. AM
    You're a typical scouse supporter! You just couldn't bring yourself to put Best on the list cos he's from Man U!

    It has got so bad in the Irish league that I now go to watch Ulster rugby. Top quality, world class sport played in a great, full stadium. Sure we're all middle class now!

  4. Peter,

    he had qualities but they never seemed to be consistent and he didn't stay around long enough, like the five I mentioned, to make that grade. I think he would make the second tier, alongside players like Zico, Zidane, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Gullit. There is just something different about that top flight.

    Rugby - not my thing although I have watched it.

  5. Derby won the league in 1975 ? Scored just 53 points out of 84 ( 42 games, 2 points for a win) and lost 11 out of 42. A total like that wouldn't get you third spot today. Laughable performances from the 4 LFC players @ the Aviva yesterday. Pako Aysteran will be the new boss in weeks or months.

  6. Being a midget I always had to stand on the yellow line on the terraces at the Celtic end watching the old firm. There was something about ending up 20 yards from your starting point after a goal was scored and then everyone getting back into place once the action started again. Like crash positions on the Airplane movie. Doesn't cut it in the all seated stadiums. Think you are harsh on Best AM he was a genius in a tiny international team, never got the stage he deserved internationally. Put any one of your top 5 in a N.I. team and watch them suffer. We moved home from Lincolnshire when I was 9. Had been to see Forest a few times by then and missed the Cough/O'Neill/Keane eras. My parents gave me you bastards instead in '73.

  7. Larry,

    Best was one of the players that we did get to see a lot of. I watched him play at Windsor and during one memorable match he tormented the Scottish side. I never rated him then as highly as the others and have still no reason to change my mind. There is no doubt he was a great player but would not be in the five. I suppose some French midget might criticise me for not putting Zidane at the tope LOL. Best didn't play beyond 27. In the 90s they voted him the 16th best player of all time. No small achievement but it keeps him some distance off the top five.

  8. AM

    how would your top 5 look alone in a norn iron 11?

  9. They would not even need a keeper!

  10. really any 'one' of your top five would be that good surrounded by 10 norn iron

  11. They would stand out like a peacock amongst crows

  12. Classic 11 (4-3-3 attack): Manager - Arrigo Sacchi


    Baresi Beckenbauer

    Cafu Maldini



    Cruyff Di Stefano


  13. From Beano

    Just getting back to this now...and for what it’s worth..I side with Anthony..I loved Best as a player and seen him many times for club and country but was always of the impression that he may have been in my second best all time rationale was that if you were picking players for a position I would have had someone else above him. I am also of the opinion that he wasn’t even the greatest Northern Ireland player of all time. That distinction goes to Pat Jennings. My ideal team would be Jennings in nets and the Brazil outfield from Mexico 70. But apart from that here’s a team made up of the individuals-from my life time-who I rated the highest