The British went for Christmas like there was no tomorrow, but the feeling the morning after was one of wrapping paper. A spiritual dimension craved for, outside of the church, was finally offered up not even at New Year, but on January 5th/6th with the staging of the 3rd Round of The FA Cup.
This is a key date for the British, north and south of the border, shown live on terrestial TV. We feel connected, we feel humbled, ennobled Ã¢ÂÂ appreciative of the underdog. We love our uneven battles, uneven playing surfaces, costume dramas, weathers.
The winter sun low and yellow was a dazzler. At BurnleyÃ¢ÂÂs Turf Moor there were shades of ItÃ¢ÂÂs A Wonderful Life but missing the snow. The football club has new faces, but in the corridors there are many of the old faces, albeit looking older and older. Some of the new faces are related to the old faces. Paul Fletcher is back in town only he wasnÃ¢ÂÂt there today Ã¢ÂÂ he was in Barbados. He starts tomorrow, waving some wand, building a new old era, including a new stadium.
Before I go on about the magic of the Cup , there are several new stadium plans afoot, so the Burnley story is doubtless replicated elsewhere, albeit in different colours, different accents. Bristol City, Liverpool and Everton both, Luton Town, Morecambe, Oldham Athletic, Portsmouth, Scunthorpe United, Southend United, Tottenham Hotspur are all seemingly ripping up or repointing what is in some cases more than 100 years of heritage on the same spot.
The process of new stadium building is not over. I set out in The Homes of Football (incidentally first shown at Burnley in 1991) to put a face to the changing football culture that it might be a mirror to society. It seems appropriate to continue that portrait given all these big plans in or around town.
At Burnley v Arsenal in The FA Cup, there were applications of lip gloss Ã¢ÂÂ the match was being screened live on terrestial TV; there were autograph hunters particularly of Arsenal players; there was barracking from both sides: Ã¢ÂÂYouÃ¢ÂÂve only come to see the ArsenalÃ¢ÂÂ versus Ã¢ÂÂWe are English, We Are EnglishÃ¢ÂÂ versus Ã¢ÂÂYouÃ¢ÂÂre just a small town in BlackburnÃ¢ÂÂ versus Ã¢ÂÂYouÃ¢ÂÂre just a small town in FranceÃ¢ÂÂ versus Ã¢ÂÂYou could do with more ForeignersÃ¢ÂÂ and Ã¢ÂÂWe pay your rent through our taxesÃ¢ÂÂ versus Ã¢ÂÂBurnley Burnley Burnley No One Likes Us we donÃ¢ÂÂt careÃ¢ÂÂ.
On this day Arsenal won the battle of the wits on and off the pitch. In 1961 Burnley would have been more than a match for them. Some of the oldies no doubt pointed this out. The local couple wandered home up the local streets, through the puddles, flag as cloak on the girl. Past the chip shops and hardly noticing the showy cheeky boys who had nicked the blag sheets from outside the paper shop heralding the coming of the League leaders to Burnley.
By the time the cars had cleared Turf Moor, the stadium was heralding the Next match: PLYMOUTH ARGYLE. But not in the Cup. Burnley were out for another year.