Modern Life is Rubbish
This Charming Man....Online!

All this virus time has given me the opportunity to reflect on the last 30 years or so of life with Sheffield Wednesday. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, with plenty of downs and not so many ups since the halcyon days of the 1990’s. In that 30 year period the world has certainly changed, and some aspects of modern life have had a big impact on the beautiful game. 

Tinternet & The Green 'Un

In my eyes the internet has taken away one of the truly wonderful football experiences. For me, reading the Green ‘Un on a Saturday night was a quintessential Sheffield Wednesday ritual. Sadly, since 2013 this fantastic sports paper has been a significant casualty of the world wide web. Waiting for the Green ‘Un to arrive at around 18.00 at Sheffield Train Station was always a bit tense. Myself, my Dad and brother had usually walked back from Hillsborough, and were urgently awaiting its arrival as our train to Birmingham New Street was always imminent.

The feeling of having the paper safely in hand as we rushed across the footbridge to platform 6 was great, knowing the results, tables, attendances and match reports were all safely tucked under your arm. It made the journey back to Worcester so much more enjoyable, each of us with our own personal Green 'Un! The times we had to leave without the magical green paper were so disappointing, having to make do with a copy of the Birmingham Sports Argus just wasn't the same. As a kid I was always in awe of the team of people that managed to get the Green ‘Un prepared and printed so quickly, they were providing such a key service and deserve special acknowledgement for their sterling efforts.

Tinternet & Fanzines

There’s a certain irony that I write this on an online plaftform, but the internet really has ruined a big part of football – the paper fanzine. My Dad (RIP) was a prolific fanzine writer throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s in a number of SWFC fanzines, the name W Martin Lee of Worcester was synonymous with a dogmatic but eloquent style of writing. His views were often controversial, and this made for some excellent printed arguments. His stance on the much celebrated Roland Nilsson for example, was not shared by many. In my Dad’s view Nilsson was “one of the most overrated characters ever to play in a Sheffield Wednesday shirt. His distribution was invariably suspect and he often performed in a very average infuriatingly lacklustre way”! (Oo-er….Eds)

The great thing about the paper fanzine format was that regardless of your views, you really had to think carefully about what you wrote. You knew there was a chance it was going to be printed, and this often meant good quality text. My Dad would write an article, often in his ‘School of Charm’ and the following issue people would reply to his views, discussing their dissatisfaction at his comments! Sometimes these paper based arguments would rumble on for months, backwards and forwards. I recall one such lengthy disagreement between W.M Lee and someone calling himself the Aardvark, in the end (of course) the Aardvark lost!

These days such little thought is required when it comes to the fanzine’s successor the internet fan’s forum. Online ‘keyboard warriors’ sit in wait to shoot you down in seconds with ill thought-out quips and insults, often littered with spelling errors. The high quality writing that went into paper fanzine articles is no longer there on many online forums (not this one, obviously!). The world is a very immediate place, and often an internet post that has taken a lot of thought and effort will be met with moronic and rude comments (this is true across the net, not just football).

Football forums can provide some interesting stuff, but they are also the domain of people who would never say what they have typed to your face. The internet is a sad replacement for an actual paper fanzine that you could hold in your hand. Of course WOTMT has made a recent comeback, and this is wonderful to see. But is it sustainable? In a world where Twitter and Instagram rule, can a paper fanzine stay alive for long? I really hope so.

Granted there are some great things about the internet, such as the ease of watching highlights and reading football news. Of course, the results are live and at your fingertips, with instant updates – like the teleprinter on speed! But wasn’t the old way better!? Anticipation, rather than immediate gratification. Reading the fanzine at half-time, waiting for the Green ‘Un at the station, and then watching MOTD if you made it home in time. Perhaps I’m just getting old! I do wonder if live streaming and the red button will eventually destroy the game below the Premier League, quite possibly. Covid 19 is also going to have a huge impact on the EFL and non league, we will have to wait and see how this all plays out. Best of luck to us all.

1990’s Proper Football

The game seemed more honest in the 1990’s, prices were much more sensible – for both admission fees and player transfer fees. There were less agents involved, and Sky TV  & The Premier League were in their infancy, yet to take a full strangle hold on the game. I may be being biased but I really think the players had more flair, and personality. The average fan could certainly relate to the likes of Hirsty, Shez, Robson, Beardsley Gazza et al, who weren’t earning £100,000's a week. The players of the 90’s may not have been as technically gifted as some of the modern day Premiership robots, but I think the football was more exciting.

The emergence of overseas players was also great to see, with only the best foreign players coming to play in the Premier League. Now we find all levels of the game flooded with very average players from all over the world. I remember the likes of Kanchelskis, Ginola, Zola, Klinsmann etc coming to Hillsborough and genuinely knowing that I was watching a world class player - what great days they were. I'm so grateful to my Dad for being able to take me and my brother to watch the Owls during such a great period in our history.

The Price of Football

For Wednesday fans in particular the price of watching football has become extortionate over the recent past. Since our saviour Milan Mandaric sold us on, we’ve seen ourselves really taken for granted. I’m constantly impressed that so many fans can still afford to turn up at Hillsborough, especially given the drivel served up on the pitch. I recently took my wife and young daughter to their 1st SWFC game vs Millwall in February 2020. Having not taken a small child to a game before I was shocked when the woman in the ticket office asked me to part with £5 for my 16 month old daughter!

Back in the 1980’s I distinctly remember my Dad picking up my younger brother and carrying him through the turnstiles for free. This was common practice. Admittedly, after some years my Dad did start having trouble passing off my rapidly aging brother as an under 2 year old! I recall turnstile operators making sarcastic comments like “That’s a big baby”. Some even dared to dispute the age of what must have appeared an unusally large 2 year old! I think when my brother got to about 7 years of age my Dad had to finally give up. So there we go, £5 for a 16 month old child at Hillsborough – modern life is definitely rubbish!!

Stay safe 


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