Football Might Be More Technical Today, But It Is More Popular Than Ever

Posted: June 12, 2017 in Arsenal, Chelsea, European Football, Football, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion
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In the good old, (bad old?), days back when WSA was unheard of and was, in fact, just a strip of a lad, trekking down to Old Trafford every other week to watch a decent team which didn’t win very much , football was a very simple affair.

Arriving at the ground by 1:00pm if United were playing another big club usually ensured that we would get a seat in the Stretford End. If not then it would be standing in the Stretford End and, due to my size, or lack of, back in those days, standing did not always guarantee a view of the game. If United were playing a lesser team then we would arrive around 2:00pm and usually have no trouble getting a seat.

We would always check for the TV cameras on the way in to see if the game was going to be shown on Match of the Day that night.

We would wait for the team to be announced and there would be a collective groan if one of the favourites was missing for any reason. In the sixties EVERY game would be played by the same eleven if there were no injuries or suspensions.

When the teams came out the numbers on the backs of the player’s shirts indicated their position in the team. They were numbered 1 – 11 which kept things very simple as we knew that 2 and 3 were the full-backs, 4 and six were the half-backs with 5 being the centre-half, (yes, there was only one back then), 7 and 11 were the wingers, 8 and 10 the inside-forwards and 9 the centre forward. Even the substitute was numbered 12 to keep it consecutive and easy to understand.

If United won the toss they would usually kick towards the Scoreboard End in the first half, saving the Stretford End for the second. This would only change if there was a strong wind, bright sun or they lost the toss.

At half-time attention would switch to the scoreboard for the half-time scores from the other games. No electronic wizardry involved here. We just looked in the programme at which matches corresponded with which letters on the scoreboard and got our information in that old-fashioned way.

Depending upon how the game was going we would either stay until the very end or leave slightly early. Leaving early was an option if United were winning comfortably and it meant we avoided the majority of the crowd in making our way back to the bus-stop to get home at a reasonable time.

On the way home we would always stop and buy the Football Pink. This was a publication of the Manchester Evening News and was, by definition, pink. It was purely about that day’s football. There were articles on all the North West clubs with detailed scores and scorers, league tables and match reports. It was a must for every football fan in Manchester. Even when not attending a game we would make a special trip to the newsagents as soon as we knew the Pink had arrived.


These were wonderful times and the only downside was that, on the weekends that Manchester United were away from home, we went to Maine Road. (Only joking, we saw some excellent games when watching City!)

The point of all this is that it was simple. If there had been no injuries from the previous game or in training then we knew who would be in the team every week. We knew the formation every week. We knew, by their numbers, which position the players were playing. We knew, for example, that if George Best was wearing number 11, (a number, incidentally, that he wore more often than number 7), then he would be playing on the left wing. We knew that if Denis Law was wearing 10 then he was playing at inside-left but that, if he was wearing 8, then he was inside-right.

Nowadays, nobody has a clue who will be playing from one week until the next. The numbers are totally meaningless, other than in identifying the player, and there are changes to the team formation and personnel on a regular basis. Yet football is probably more popular now than it has ever been.

All of this goes to show that, whatever happens to the game as far as changes in rules and theories and set-ups go, there is no sign of it’s popularity waning. In fact, given the growth of the MSL in America, football is now flourishing as never before and all this in spite of outdated governing bodies such as FIFA and UEFA. They may try to hinder progress, they may try to ruin the game but, fortunately, thanks to the masses, they are doomed to continual failure in these quests.

The game may be more technical in this day and age but it is it’s intrinsic simplicity which will keep it at the forefront of world sport.


  1. pauleee says:

    I’m a Yank from the west coast who happily wakes up at 4AM on the weekends to watch the early games. I’ve been a fan for about 8 years now, after stumbling onto the odd replay of mostly Newcastle or Aston Villa games that they would show on some obscure channel on cable. Now NBCSN gives me access to every game on the schedule.

    I don’t care much for MLS (inferior product – but getting better) and have completely dumped the NFL. The EPL has even now replaced the favorite sport of my youth – baseball. And now I’m in withdrawals until the league starts up again in a couple of months.

    Liked by 1 person

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