My first experience of watching a football game on TV was not a happy one. It was the FA Cup Final in 1956, when Birmingham City was beaten by Manchester City. I’d seen Birmingham City lose before, of course, but it felt totally different and much worse than watching a defeat as part of a crowd. We didn’t have a TV at home so we watched it at Grandma’s house and that didn’t help. At home I could have moaned but that wouldn’t have seemed polite at her house. I had to put on a happy face and thank her for letting us come and watch our hopes being demolished. Watching the TV coverage of the World Cup in 1966 was a much happier experience. But I have always preferred being in the crowd to watching on TV.
I won’t be watching all the World Cup games on TV this month but will probably watch more than I first planned. One goal was enough to make me revise those plans. I switched on the TV just before half time in the Spain versus Netherlands game on Friday and was just in time to see Robin van Persie’s headed goal, truly a thing of beauty. That was enough to make me watch the rest of the game and so I saw all of the amazing second half.
It was an illustration of how one incident can change everything. The game would have been entirely different if van Persie had just failed to score instead of succeeding in such a spectacular fashion. One wonderful goal inspired a whole team to believe that they could win and a tight game turned into a 5-1 rout. Spain’s defeat didn’t mean that they are a bad team or that their manager is an idiot. It’s just one of those things that sometimes happens and it can happen to world champions. I’m going to try to remember that the next time Birmingham City gets badly beaten.
The skill of top footballers, when they are playing with confidence, is astounding. I can understand why supporters that watch a lot of Premier League football on TV find games at St Andrew’s so exasperating. So I’m also going to try to be a bit less judgemental about the Blues fans that go to games and moan about the players or just give up going to games. I suspect that the more you know about the game the more painful it might be to watch players making mistakes. I probably suffer less because I understand less; I can see when the team is playing badly but can’t analyse why. They all play better than I ever could; I was useless at all the games we played at school. And in the bleak midwinter, any player that walks out with bare knees is doing more than I could and deserves my support!