The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Put on your red shoes and dance the blues

22 July 2022

With over 5600 season tickets sold, play-off heroics fresh in the memory, John Fenty moving to Spain and hot dog cuisine at Blundell Park being at its absolute peak, the current mood around GTFC can safely be described as buoyant. I'm a bit nervous, though. And I think the reason I am nervous is David Bowie.

In 1980 David Bowie released Scary Monsters. Now, I was only knee-high to a grasshopper at that point (actually I was 6 foot 2 at the age of 12 but that doesn't sound so picturesque) but I remember loving that album as only an adolescent can. The fabulous videos for Fashion and Ashes to Ashes transformed Top of the Pops from a celebration of nonce-haired sex pests and middle-class music students pretending to be punks into a surrealist collage of ecstasy. The huge, dirty Robert Fripp guitar solos that litter the album gave me a love for the discordant and disruptive I still have many years later. Sinister yet meaningless lines like "now she's stupid in the street and she can't socialise" inspired my own second-rate attempts at song writing for years afterwards.

So, in 1983, when Bowie announced his next album, I was quite beside myself with anticipation. Even the fact that the album was called Let's Dance didn't put me off. I presumed the title was ironic. Then the single of the same name came out. It was okay. Then the album itself appeared. Bowie himself appeared on the cover, topless, with the weird modern romantic haircut also worn by all the kids I hated the most at school. I played it, still hoping for the best.

The first words I heard were:

"I catch a paper boy
But things don't really change
I'm standing in the wind
But I never wave bye-bye"

Oh dear, I thought. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. (These words were later stolen by the Chuckle Brothers, who never credited me for their use, curse them.) The pain of finding out that Let's Dance was a massive duffer was almost physical. I remember being in a daze for hours afterwards and staring at the record sleeve as though Woolworths had made some horrible mistake and sold me a George Michael LP in the wrong cover. And that, THAT, early disappointment in life is why I've learnt never to get too excited about shiny new football seasons and the joy and happiness they will surely bring.

Actually, forget all that stuff. It's probably more likely because of Ian Holloway.

The start of the season gives us the yearly headache of New Player Identification. Now younger readers, who will probably already have stopped reading after the first few paragraphs of grandad's memoirs, will not realise what a modern problem this is. Every Town team in the seventies, eighties and nineties were obliged to have the following:
One very short player (eg Dave Gilbert, Dave Boylen, Joe Waters.)
One bald player (eg Geoff Barker)
One black player (Tony Ford)
One player with a dodgy moustache (eg Tony Rees, Gary Childs)
One player who was always kicking people (Bobby Cumming)
One player who looked like the lead singer in The Vapours (Dean Crombie)
At least three Moore brothers who all looked very different (The Moore Brothers)
One geography teacher (Mick Brolly)

And so on. In other words, a new player looked like a new player and was immediately identifiable due to one or more physical characteristics. This was applicable throughout the whole of the league. A Panini sticker album from the eighties looks like catalogue of hairstyles and face types you might find in a plastic surgeon's catalogue. But now? Oh dear. Now we have the generic footballer with the herbert haircut. He is average height, average build, avarage average. 

You might know Tony Butcher as the man who writes match reports with Pink Floyd references so obscure they would leave Roger Waters scratching his head. But he also has a special skill. He can identify new players despite not having seen them before. Against Lincoln he confidently identified every one of our players despite them being little more than strangers to him. How he does this I don't know. I still only recognise John MacAtee because he has short legs. Holohoholohan is still a mystery to me. New blokes, all identi-haircutted, shaped and sized, could have been subbuteo players for all I knew. At least new signing Brendan Kieran has a beard. Please don’t shave it off, Brendan, for goodness sake.

After a few games I will be able to identify most of them. By the end of the season they will be as familiar as brothers. But for now, if you hear a sad old man in the Pontoon say "who scored?" in a croaky voice that will be me, and the man confidently replying "Green" will be Tony.

I've gone on far too long, in more ways than one. Bye for now.