Match of the Day (originally posted 13/1/14)
By ProgBlog, Apr 8 2014 09:36PM
I’ve lived within shouting distance and more recently within easy walking distance of Selhurst Park for the past 27 years. I didn’t follow any particular football team when I was at school though I do remember changing the words of hymns in a junior school hymn book to reflect the glory of Chelsea FC; I later professed an admiration for Derby County, who happened to be winning the league and playing in Europe at the time. I once went to see Barrow AFC thrash Cambridge United at Holker Street when Barrow were still in the old Third Division and I’ve been back to Holker Street a few times since, after I’d seriously begun to support Crystal Palace; we were a rugby family and I spent quite a lot of time on the terraces (and later in the stand when I was offered a free ticket) at Craven Park, home of Barrow RLFC.
So why did I start paying my hard earned money to a football club, and not a particularly fashionable club out of all the teams available in London? Palace were my local team and the noise of the crowd was easily audible from our flat in Edith Road. One drawback was the road was convenient for travelling fans, so taking the car out on a Saturday afternoon or Tuesday evening often meant parking round the corner when we returned home. Selhurst Park was so local that it genuinely felt like part of the community; the local paper had pages devoted to the team and Susan’s family were long-standing supporters. As a new home-owner I was cementing my relationship with my community.
The first match I attended was a second-tier fixture against Reading on the 4th November 1995 and the first match I took Daryl to was against Norwich, the last home game of that season (95-96.) Richard had come down to visit to go and see a gig and the opportunity to see a football match presented itself. Richard takes his sport somewhat more seriously than me but this was also the chance to introduce a young Daryl to his local team, a father-son thing. That was so long ago...
Out of all the football teams, Crystal Palace has the most progressive rock sounding name. In the early-mid 80s I used to live in Crystal Palace (Upper Norwood) and it is rumoured the players used to hang out in the Holly Bush, a five minute walk up Gipsy Hill from the flat I lived in at the time. But prog doesn’t really go with football; prog is not about a mob mentality. When I started to go to Selhurst Park regularly I’d get tickets as close to Block A of the Lower Holmesdale as I could, just for the atmosphere. Detached, I’d watch the fans get carried away, frequently abusing their own team for underperforming. Soccer crowds aren’t prog because they tend to be sexist, racist and homophobic and despite the signs warning that the use of offensive language will result in ejection from the ground, there has been an insufficient reduction in offensive behaviour. It has to be said that racism seems to have been eliminated from the crowd at Palace but some of the other vulgarity is unforgivable. The inevitable pessimism that accompanies Palace fans on the rollercoaster ride as the team yo-yos between the top two divisions, flirts with relegation into the third tier and goes into receivership, twice, runs counter to the ethos of early 70s progressive rock. Test match cricket is probably more in tune with prog, requiring patience, considerable thought, lasting five days and being incomprehensible to many. Sadly, cricket has become commercialised in the fight to survive and new forms of the game have the same relationship to former test matches as 90125-era Yes had to the classic line-up of 1972.
So is there any sort of link between soccer and prog? Football songs tend to be more rock ‘n’ roll, though Hocus Pocus was used by sportswear manufacturer Nike as an advert during the 2010 World Cup. Genesis released an out-take EP of songs that didn’t make it on to Wind and Wuthering in 1977 that included a song entitled ‘Match of the Day’, a surprising homage to the beautiful game and an encouragement to spend your Saturday on the terraces. Back in 1973, Peter Gabriel had used extensive football metaphors in The Battle of Epping Forest but the Spot the Pigeon EP (with its cover sleeve displaying a photo from a spot the ball competition) was a song about football as lifestyle.
There is a photo of a Pink Floyd FC on the cover of A Nice Pair and a related photo, with cheerleaders in Nick Mason’s personal history of Pink Floyd, Inside Out. This is dated January 1972 and depicts the team about to take on opponents made up of members from Family.
Rick Wakeman is a confessed football addict. It may have been his influence, but a photo from the Yes biography, Close to the Edge the story of Yes by Chris Welch shows Yes United, from 1976. This is likely to have been at the time when soccer was starting to take off in the USA, and Wakeman, along with 10 others, bought the franchise for the Philadelphia Furys. He was instrumental in getting a number of former UK stars to go over to the States, including Alan Ball, Peter Osgood and Johnny Giles. His admiration for Brentford FC, first made public in the booklet that accompanied Fragile, led him to become a director of the club in 1979 for a year.
Maybe Italian prog artists are into their football...