All things change

All things change

Barry Edge is an exiled Valiant living in Western Australia. In this, his latest memo from ‘Downunder, he begs the question whether soccer’s modern day changes are for the better.



All Things Change
Today is St George’s Day, April 23, 2000. You know…”St George for England”: of being English; believing in fair play; displaying good manners; and being chivalrous. In other words maintaining a high degree of integrity, credibility and honesty.

Who was St George? And what about that ‘Dragon? Myth or fact? Whatever you believe there is no doubting that he is a popular Saint throughout the world. The legend says he was tall of stature with fair hair, having an outstanding character and good reputation, was known for his virtuous behavior, and of having a physical strength and valour second to none. In short, a powerful allegory of high ideals where good triumphs over evil.

Although celebrated in many other countries throughout the world, as a boy I strongly associated the Red Cross of St George with ‘Englishness’. As an adult I wonder whether such a concept has been consigned to pages of history.

In the last few weeks the great English dream of a Man U v Chelsea Champions League Final came crashing down with a mighty thump.

As for Chelsea of 2000, they resemble anything but ‘Englishness’.

As a boy we would jokingly say a ‘foreigner’ came from outside the ‘Potteries excluding, of course, Ray King, Dickie Cunliffe and others who played for the “Vale. Back in the early to mid 1950s the presence of players from other countries in England must have been rare. The only two I can remember were the German Bert Trautmann (Manchester City) and the Australian Joe Marston (Preston North End). One time at Vale Park a black man turned out for Bradford – which Bradford I can’t remember. Boy, was that a sight to behold. Then my dad said his name was Charlie Williams, a lad from Yorkshire.

Earlier this year Lancaster Gate and Man U displayed a truculence beyond belief when Man U withdraw from the FA Cup competition to compete in FIFAs ‘cash cow’ world club championship debacle in South America. Thumbing their respective noses at the world’s oldest ‘Cup competition left both without integrity and credibility.

Back when we were young a soccer player, barring injury, in a position to play in the FA Cup competition choosing to ‘give it a miss’ to do other things would have surely earned a ride with the men in white coats.

When the top team in the land withdraws from the nation’s premier ‘Cup competition to play in another, contrived competition on another continent, it effectively denies opportunity to clubs like Milton United and Bedford Town – plus Nationwide and Conference League clubs – the chance to become ‘MIGHTY MINNOWS’. Lancaster Gate and Man U showed a callous disregard for English soccer tradition.

Petulant soccer players tell managers where to get off when dropped from a game, or rage at referees when decisions go against them. Hardly the essence of fair play. There was time when managers and the men with ‘wooden whistles’ were given due respect, and players displaying other than good manners on and off the park were said to be ‘getting above themselves’ or lacking in good character.

The two Leeds United supporters who died on the streets of Turkey is a damning indictment that soccer today still has a lot of work to do in getting its house in order. For whilst English soccer reels from the horror and tragedy of Istanbul, it also begins to fear the chilling potential of a Euro 2000 weekend in Belgium. The game between England and Germany in June sends shudders down my spine – and I’m 12,000 miles away.

The history between England and Germany is oppressive, and a minority of followers of both national teams have demonstrated a penchant to wander in marauding masses, terrorising others in their path and leaving behind wanton destruction.

The worst soccer ‘violence’ I witnessed as a boy was on a train from Burslem to Hanley when the carriage light globes were carefully removed and thrown out of the windows onto the rail tracks.

How strange it is. Turkey – previously known as Cappadocia – is said to be the birthplace of St George in approximately 280AD. And Several English monarchs’ had strong links with Germany via the House of Hanover. But whatever positive historic values they may have held, they count for nothing in contemporary England.

Cricket too has its problems and is currently embroiled in another ‘money for weather reports’ scandal. This time one of South Africa’s favorite sons, Hansie Cronje, falls on his own sword.

There is nothing more English than the scene of a picturesque village green depicting boys, and sometimes boys and girls, playing cricket. The scene usually includes the village church in the background, a duck pond nearby, and mums and dads with young children strolling on and around the green. A far cry from the hypocrisy of its international version.

What better example of hypocrisy is there when Australia’s Shane Warne urges Hansie Cronje to come clean about the ‘weather report money’ and quick. Boy, does he suffer from short-term memory loss, or what? As we used to say ‘it’s not cricket’. Credibility has been a big casualty here, and those with the responsibility for maintaining the good reputation of cricket have sold us short – to say the least.

It has been variously stated that the average Premiership footballer now earns more than four times as much as the Prime Minister. Back when I was a boy the weekly pay for soccer players was better than the average adult male wage. But less than £20.

Now there is talk of players of the future earning upwards of £100,000 a week.

According to one song…”…the times they are a changin’…”. For better or worse? Only time will tell.

See you later…

Barry Edge
Western Australia
August 7, 2000


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