Home » Winners & Losers

Category - Winners & Losers

I remember the first football match that I ever went to. I was 11 years old and my mum and dad and big brother took me to Home Park to watch Plymouth Argyle vs Oldham Athletic in the old second division. As introductions to football go this was reasonably humble but I was hooked from the moment we parked the car. The buzz of the gathering crowd, the stalls selling tribal scarves and hats, the greasy burgers, the tension and expectation swirling through the air, the proliferation of swearing. All of it seemed to call out to me and say ‘welcome, Richard, to a more grown up world’.

Once we’d made our way through the turnstiles and up into the main stand I sat transfixed by the vastness of the ground, the sound of the crowd (more people than I’d ever seen before in one place) and the almost religious level of fervour that gradually built to a crescendo at kick-off. The game, as it turned out, was a bit of a disappointment for the local side, a 2-1 win for Oldham that put the name of Andy Ritchie in my head forever (If you’re interested you can see his brilliant volley for the first goal here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4m2Cngf4kM).

The next year my family started to travel to Manchester to watch United. I didn’t know at the time that they were about to become the best team in English football history, or that I would feel the thrill of excitement and expectation every time a United game kicked off for the next 30 years. But here I am – A lover of sport, a lover of football and a lover of Manchester United.

The drama and the symbolism of sport are so powerful that I can’t help writing about them. People who don’t enjoy sport (like my otherwise perfect wife) will say things like “It’s only a game. There’s no need to get upset about it”, and they’re not wrong. It is only a game, but therein lies the magic. So many people connected by something so arbitrary, using all there emotional energy and will to try and get 11 grown-ups to propel a ball between some posts. Sport teaches us that if we believe in something enough then we will come together to support it – even if it’s Man City. It also teaches us how much we like to take sides (perhaps a more challenging lesson in that one). So, these stories are about the winners and the losers, my own distant sporting dreams and the little sporting dramas that I’ve been privileged to witness. Enough of this pre-match waffle. It’s about time we kicked off.