THE FINAL WORD; as Good as the Battle of Sideburns
Edmondson, Richard, The Independent (London, England)
It must have been a horrible sight for England's milkmen this morning. All week supporters of the national football team had suggested they would happily swap disembowelment and decapitation as long as their foot soldiers beat Scotland in the European Championship. They would rather not win the tournament if they lost to the greatest enemy the hordes protested, apparently regardless of the fact that one would almost certainly lead to the other.
The commentators spent most of Saturday telling us how different the atmosphere was from other matches between the two sides, giving the impression the disparate groups were mingling inside Wembley and making daisy chains together. This image shrivelled as soon as "Flower Of Scotland" was attempted. I never knew the tune was just one long boo.
Partisanship in this encounter will never die. It never does between great rivals. When I was a lad at Queen's Road Primary School, I was the captain (an office some linked to the fact that my mother taught at the school and picked the team) and the boys to beat were Orrishmere. No other game mattered. One world-shattering day I scored an own goal in the fixture and Mark Summerfield was so nasty to me that I blubbered all the way home. I had made a fool of myself both on and off the pitch but my parents forgave, in fact thought better of me, when they saw the tears streaming down my face. News of this image-building technique was to find its way up to Geordie junior football.
This has been a watershed year in north-east football. The identity of the bete noire has changed. The Toon Army have for long saved the bulk of their spittle for Sunderland but that has gone. "They are not worthy of our hate" was a line in the Mag fanzine this season. Manchester United are now the despised team, not least because Newcastle supporters believe they have hijacked the generic United to mean Manchester specifically.
Old Trafford is now the abhorred location of British football, a crown of thorns last worn in the early 1970s by United (Leeds). The chain gang of Bremner, Hunter and Giles upset a lot of people but nobody more than my brother. Whenever he got a football annual for Christmas he systematically tore out all the Leeds players and flushed them down the toilet. I'm not sure he didn't do something rather vile in the …
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Publication information: Article title: THE FINAL WORD; as Good as the Battle of Sideburns. Contributors: Edmondson, Richard - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: June 17, 1996. Page number: S24. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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