The Dangerous Brothers of Preston
12 June ~ Roy Dangerous passed away on June 7, 2013. That wasn't his real name but it is how he and his brother Gordon were always referred to by their nephew Pete, who I watch Preston North End's games with. Roy and Gordon were not famous but they were important in the history of my club and the wider context of football. The Dangerous Brothers used to regale us with stories from their 60-and-more years of attending Deepdale, often focusing on the great Preston team of the 1950s that they witnessed as young men in their teens and early 20s.
For middle-aged men like Pete and I, their tales of watching Charlie Wayman, Jimmy Baxter, Tommy Thompson and – in their opinion the greatest footballer ever – "Our Tom" were not the nostalgic ramblings of old men to be kindly tolerated. They provided an important insight into a world when footballers were still at one with those who watched them play, a time when England captain Billy Wright travelled to Molineux on the bus and Tom Finney might be fixing your broken tap in the morning before you paid to watch him tormenting full-backs in the afternoon. All was not rosy in the game, with even the biggest stars effectively wage slaves due to the maximum wage and transfer system, but very few of the old pros seem to resent either their own position or the money paid to today's pampered and cosseted "superstars".
Where the old pros differed from their modern counterparts was regularly and graphically illustrated by the Dangerous Brothers on matchdays. Even in their 80s they could be found outside the main entrance to Deepdale, waiting for a glimpse of club president Finney arriving for the match. Ever the gentleman, Finney had a smile and a "hello" to everyone and never refused an autograph. In response, Gordon and Roy's eyes would go misty as they were transported back over the years and they would nod and quietly reply "Alright, Tom". The mutual respect between player and fan was evident in these small gestures and is something that must be retained within the game, rather than slavish and detached adoration.
We are lucky at Preston (as at many clubs outside the gilded Premier League) that our players are down to earth people, who will talk to and engage with the fans, and this has always been the case. I myself feel like a teenager in the presence of Alex Bruce, Mike Elwiss and other favourites from the 1970s, in a way I never do when I meet more famous – but more aloof – players. There are certain members of England's 1966 team that I have met but would consequently not cross the street to talk to.
Despite the passing of the Dangerous Brothers, their memories will not be lost. Because of the tales they told us, and those they passed on from their own fathers and grandfathers, at least some of the common history and lived experiences we shared with our predecessors is preserved and passed on. Roy and Gordon were no different than many fans at all clubs and it is important that their collective mantle is taken on, if football is to remain more than just another television programme and to continue to be a part of the fabric of life for those of us who see beyond the 90 minutes of the match. Martin Atherton