Roy Race and poetry

Ian Plenderleith takes a look at football on the internet

At the website Poems for Football Fans there is a versified view of football where the scribes range in age and talent, but share a common muse. Founded on the work of the Stroud Football Poets, a collective of Gloucestershire round-ball rhymesters, the site welcomes new talent and showcases a sprinkling of fine work such as the above, by Marcus Moore.

You can also enjoy Attila the Stockbroker’s moving lament upon the demise of the Goldstone Ground, Chris Robinson’s The Fookin Cup (a rarity in poetry circles – it scans and it’s funny too), and Rosemary Dun’s ironic tribute to footballers’ legs, In Praise Of (“And as for the gluteus maximus straining/Through tight satin shorts/Thank God for hard training!”).

There are few other sites dedicated to the creative representation of football in either poesy or fiction, but nostalgia lured me towards the Roy of the Rovers website. Last time I read Roy he was happily married to Penny, had baby twins and was still effortlessly knocking them in from 30 yards while Rovers won just about everything bar the World Cup.

So imagine my shock when I read the following recent storyline: Roy’s daughter Melinda is the Rovers managing director. She talks to Roy about the possibility of a good run in Europe reaping financial benefits, to enable Roy to be in a position to offer improved contract terms for some of the players. And on top of all that, Penny’s dead and his old team-mate Blackie Gray is a homeless alcoholic.

It’s nice to see a touch of social realism, I suppose, and every goal still has the swerve of a Roberto Carlos free-kick, but I much preferred flicking through the Who’s Who section of the site to find out the fictive fates of the 1978 Melchester side. Then my tears of longing for the past turned to howls of regret when I realised that people collect and pay good money for the seven pence comics my Mum chucked out over 20 years ago.

A link from here takes you to Scottishfootball. com, a section of which promises the coolest soccer comic strips, but which opts for the standard fare of fantasy unsullied by the encroachments of the modern game. From the DC Thomson ­stable that is still gratifyingly anchored in the 1930s, for example, World Cup Wonder features the kind of lines uttered by tough but honest pros that should always grace football comic strips: “Don’t pretend to be hurt when you’re not. You’re men, not schoolgirls!”

If you find that difficult to swallow, then you should try reading the formula behind Dr Arpad Elo’s world ratings system at the World Football Elo Ratings homepage. You can marvel at how Mali’s 2-0 victory in Burkina Faso on January 23 led them to jump eight spots in Doctor Elo’s table because Rn = Ro + K (W – We). Why anyone would want to devise a system that rivals FIFA’s world rankings for pointlessness is unclear, but at least you will be able to claim you know why Lebanon’s 3-0 win over Kazakhstan in the 1998 Asian Games ranks as one of the biggest upsets in world football over the past decade. Statistically. Perhaps the Stroud Football Poets could express it better in verse.

From WSC 169 March 2001. What was happening this month