There is a line towards the end of The 56 when one of the characters says that the city of Bradford “wrapped its arms around itself” in the disaster’s aftermath. The line evokes the coming together of a community, but also suggests why it was regularly called football’s “forgotten” tragedy. The city’s strength to bury, mourn and remember their dead but to try to “get on” as best they could inadvertently masked its impact.
Jon Spurling goes back to Boxing Day 1963, when 66 goals were scored in the First Division
As Christmas 1963 approached, weathermen warned a shivering nation to expect a recurrence of what had happened 12 months previously. The winter of 1962 was the worst since the big freeze of 1946, when the snow began on Boxing Day and wiped out football for virtually the next two and a half months. The occasional game was played here and there, but most were played out in the minds of the newly created Pools Panel, who met each weekend in a secret London location and guessed what each result might have been.
In Paris three years ago, after Cristiano Ronaldo became the fourth Manchester United player to win the Ballon d'Or presented by France Football magazine, Alex Ferguson was asked which Old Trafford legends he considered unlucky not to have lifted the prize. "Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs," he replied. No Roy Keane? No David Beckham? Ferguson's wrong side is a lonely place to be.
On Manchester United's impeccably marketed, sickeningly luxurious and unimaginably profitable summer tour of the US the squad were kept busy. Rafael da Silva caught salmon at Seattle's Pike Place fish market, Patrice Evra and Park Ji-sung were taught how to make deep dish pizza in Chicago and the squad visited the floor of a glass-blowing factory, with Alex Ferguson the only visitor who looked remotely interested in being there.
A few months ago, as the news broke that a house fire had cruelly curtailed the long innings of England batting stalwart Trevor Bailey, a lesser-known strand of his career cropped up in conversation. "Old 'Stonewall' Bailey," mused my grandad, fondly. "I used to watch him play for the Avenue."
"I've got to say that to get away with that in such a hostile environment, you've got to count your chickens" – the wisdom of Ray Wilkins, following Peter Crouch's second bookable tackle early in the first leg of Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur.
TV coverage of English football was in a state of flux 25 years ago. The 1980s was the decade of change between two quite distinct orthodoxies of how we watched most of our televised football. Before 1980 we had the certainties of the highlights era and after 1990 the choices offered by live broadcasts.
In 1986 presenters and pundits sat stiffly, in wife-selected jackets, behind desks, because the desk is the key western symbol of wisdom. In 2011 we have lounging gigglers like Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson who do not even wear neckties, or the man-child Jamie Redknapp who is allowed to wear expensive fashion-clothes and constantly interrupt his elders in a career-long attempt to prove his right to be heard. The desk has gone.
Mike Ticher acknowledges that there are several ways in which to appreciate football. But if we concentrate too much on the view of professionals, we risk missing the point altogether
I was a bit shocked to find out I didn’t know how to watch football, despite years of practice. At least that was the impression I got from Jonathan Wilson’s excellent book on tactics, Inverting the Pyramid. Perhaps a better way to put it is that the book exposes the gulf between two ways of watching: the fan’s way, in which you care about the result and the entertainment; and the coach’s or analyst’s, in which you study patterns and work out what each team is trying to do. The book’s genius is that it successfully explains the second way of thinking to the first group of people.
With a new season comes an array of redesigned kits. Mark Segal has spotted a strong nostalgic influence in this year's crop and wonders if we couldn't just have a little more innovation
When the new Premier League season kicks off in the middle of August, 18 out of the 20 teams will be playing in new strips. Over the past few seasons the official kit unveiling has become as much a part of pre-season routine as money-spinning tours to far-away places and Barcelona’s pursuit of Cesc Fàbregas.