The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

The right kind of fire

31 July 2020

Let's start with a quiz: who is in tomorrow's FA Cup final, and when does it kick off? Over the weekend, we have the climax of the English and Welsh season, and the start of the Scottish season, but it is hard to know. In years to come, records from this year will have to come with an asterisk against them.

Perhaps the FA and Football League should just take a leaf from Monty Python and call the season not quite yet completed the "contractual obligations season". From a purely sporting point of view, the only sensible decision would have been to knock all professional football on the head until it could resume in something close to normal conditions. Middle-Aged Diary is not at all sure that, in the long run, it would not have been the best commercial solution as well. No football at all and we'd all be flocking back to it when we finally get the chance. Much more football in empty stadiums, reducing the sport to 22 people kicking about a bag of wind,  and we might start to wonder what the fuss was about.

The fuss, to give one increasingly old but still resonant example, is the Barrett stand shaking when Town beat Everton. And not just Town but the whole of the two towns. Malc Perkins touches on that alchemy. He has written to us after Gordon Wilson's "excellent article" about Alderman Frank Barrett. "As somebody who used to stand leaning on the middle fence, I didn't know where the name of the stand came from. I do remember seeing lots of newspapers and rubbish underneath it and but for the grace of God, with so many smoking and dropping cigarette ends through the gaps in the floor boards, we could have been a Bradford City. Other than that, they were days I looked forward to all week and if we won, the whole town was buzzing and cheerful."

Gordon himself adds that his mother dropped a cigarette end in the upper Barrett's one day in the late 1960s. "It fell between the boards and ignited dust and debris there. She did not know until somebody else spotted the glow of the burning. Action taken. Crisis averted. Fire extinguished and little further thought given. I've given it much thought since May 1985."

A sombre point on which to sign off for the weekend. How about this instead? As there is no Cup final it is possible to take seriously tomorrow, why not imagine the Cup final that Alderman Frank Barrett's leadership made almost possible.