And All the Pieces Matter . . .

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Monopoly: The Wire
By Richard Cracknell

A few weeks ago, one of my closest friends had a number of reasons to celebrate. Not only was it his birthday, but he’d just moved into a swanky new house and then proposed to his girlfriend. Stopping just short of winning the lottery, or this all taking place on Christmas Day, I’d guess you’d call this “The Perfect Storm” when it comes to celebrations.

For this reason, I decided I would need to create something very special to honour the occasion, and what better than a homemade rip-off version of Monopoly based around one of our favourite TV shows, The Wire.

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We’ve long since forgotten which of the two us introduced the show to the other, whether we’d both stumbled upon it by accident or a mutual friend had advised us to watch HBO’s 2002 crime series, but both of us are in agreement that this was one of the best television shows of all time.

If you were to try and describe the premise as simply as possible, it would be the story of the Baltimore drug trade, seen through the eyes of drug dealers and law enforcement (thanks IMDb). Try and explain it anymore, then you may end up neck deep in a mess trying to describe a genre-fusing, modern day Greek tragedy, where nothing is black and white, good or bad, right or wrong.

The show’s multitude of vibrant characters and locations, along with the underlying objective of buying, selling and climbing to the top the ladder, made creating the game all the easier. All that was left to do was transpose the classic elements of Monopoly; the playing pieces, cards, property spaces, etc; with the relative aspects of the television show. Slowly but surely, everything came into place.

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Old Kent Road became “The Vacants”, the Chance Cards became “Bubble’s Depo” and Free Parking turned into the ultimate free-zone, “Hamsterdam”. Instead of the four stations, you could invest in one of Baltimore’s finest drinking establishment (I think I’d rather own Orlando’s than Liverpool St. Station) and you’ll no longer have to worry about a Super Tax, but you may still end up $200 lighter if Omar Comin’.

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Once the board was complete, all that was left to do was to replace the playing pieces and create the money. The iconic silver tokens, such as the race-car, top hat or Scottie dog, probably wouldn’t fit in with the Baltimore drug scene, but their replacements bore inspiration from D’Angelo’s metaphorical chess speech in Season One. The king stay the king and everyone else stays the same.

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For the money, what better way to honour Baltimore’s finest kingpin:

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With everything finally created, there was nothing left to do but divide out the money, fight over the corners and crush any of the other pawns trying to become King. It’s all in the game, yo!

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Jumpers For Goalposts, Horses For Courses

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Sunday League
By Richard Cracknell

A few weeks ago, I found myself standing in the middle of a field. The morning dew had yet to disappear on the frosty Sunday morning and I was being treated to one of my younger brother’s Under-17’s football matches. It wasn’t the Emirates Stadium, or even Adam’s Park, but being pitch-side in a field near Widmer End still had its charm. Even within the first five minutes, it was clear that some things had changed since my hazy days of running around that same pitch. Before the match, someone was handing out tea and bacon rolls whilst stood under one of the floodlights. In my day, we were lucky to have a complete set of corner flags that were willing to stick into the ground. However, we did see a player miss a penalty, then slide into the ’keeper with two feet as his reward for saving it. Some things never change – cue wavy dream sequence music.

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Over the years, we’ve had the Anfield Cat, the Highbury Squirrel and the Ewood Chicken, but by far the strangest animal pitch invasion I’ve seen is reserved for one of my earlier Sunday league games. As per the norm, a small group of us would arrive before kick-off to put up the goal posts and the nets ready for the match ahead. It wouldn’t be out of place to see one or two dog owners letting their pets off the leash to have a run around the pitch before a match, however on this occasion the pet was somewhat more equestrian. As expected, both boys and horse looked at each other with confusion. Luckily, it was the horse that buckled to the pressure first, moping off to one of the adjoining fields, never to be seen again. Fortunately for us, he hadn’t left a “little present” on the field of play, but the same couldn’t always be said of his canine cousin. It would be common practice as part of the pitch inspection to remove any dog’s muck before a match, but all it took was a hung-over referee not paying attention on a cold Sunday morning and things could take a turn for the worse. One such example that comes to mind was during a soggy, rain soaked match that had the ball spraying up the mud and grass behind it. On this occasion, the ball ran through something a little more “foul” than mud and the poor lad running directly behind the ball never stood a chance.

As well as a fear of football in the rain mixed with dog poo, Sunday league football also left me with a wonky face. At the end of each season, it would be custom for teams to embark on a small football tour, which generally consisted of your team travelling to a holiday camp to play several other teams in the same situation. It was during the first 5 minutes of a match on one of these football tours, that a ball flew across field in my general direction. I leapt like a salmon and headed the ball away to safety. Someone on the attacking team also leapt with the same intent to head the ball, but unfortunately his aim was a little off. Missing the ball, he instead made full contact with the front of my face, resulting in a broken nose. Understandably, I’m a little hazy on the full details, however I was reliably informed that whilst I remained calm in my semi-unconscious state, the kid who’d head butted me in the face was inconsolable in the fact that he thought he’d killed me. Whilst not dead, I was still pretty annoyed that with only 5 minutes played in our first match, the rest of my tournament was over. That, and the fact that I’d lost my boyish good looks forever.

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Fortunately, not everything about Sunday league football was doom and gloom, dog poo and broken bones. Even as a defender, sometimes I’d find myself high enough up the pitch to warrant a nosebleed and on the odd occasion I’d manage to put one or two in the “onion bag”. Although admittedly, the majority of these were tap-ins as the result of a goal mouth scramble, but I’ve still the treasured memory of scoring something akin to Cantona’s goal against Sunderland in ’96. In hindsight, I wish I’d celebrated as a smoothly as the Frenchman, instead of wheeling away and screaming gibberish to the handful of spectators there to witness it. They’d have been forgiven for thinking I’d never done anything so amazing on a pitch in all my life. And I hadn’t.

Being relatively small, or “vertically challenged” if you’re being politically correct, the 11-a-side Sunday league games were a little out of my depth, with most of the action being to hoof the ball out of defence in the hope that it would reach your one good player who could run with it. Those teams with more than one good player were generally the ones who’d win the league. But then came the six-a-side tournaments; smaller pitches and no over-head-height – I was in my element. The majority of my football trophy haul came from these tournaments and it was a chance for some of the better players to show off their technical ability. Normally held during the summer months, playing football in the sun didn’t do the enjoyment any harm either. It’s the enjoyment of these tournaments that have probably lead me to continue with 6-a-side football as I’ve grown older. I did try my hand at playing for a local Sunday league pub team once the “childhood era” ended, however, I’d have to go into horror stories regarding men losing fingers due to a wedding ring or oppositions always having the mandatory overweight hard bloke who wasn’t really there to play football, to explain why I never really carried on with that aspect on the game. Still, I’ll cling to the fact that Ian Wright didn’t join Arsenal till he was 28 . . .

Have any of your own Sunday league or childhood sports stories? Share with us in the comments section below!

Life Finds A Way

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Jurassic Park 1993
by Richard Cracknell

Either the bus had arrived late, or my mother had made a logistical mistake in getting us to the cinema on time. Even so, we were new to the area, so I’ll forgive her. We ran through the multiplex’s double doors, past the foyer’s collection of small television sets that made up one giant television image on the wall, through the screen doors and down the aisle just as the first scene from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” played out to the rest of the theatre.

At least, that’s how I think it happened? I was 5 years old and this was, from what I can recall, my first cinema experience. It’s not something I can admit with pride, that the first film I remember seeing was “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II”. Had I even seen the first one? Probably not, but at 5 years old I don’t think I really cared. I remember the journey getting to see the film more than I do that actual film itself. Suffice to say, I wasn’t really hooked with the movie business and for the next two years I was pretty much content with Disney videos.

Then came the summer of 1993. Having driven to the cinema this time, my mum presented me with a tin pencil case designed with a Triceratops on one side and a large yellow and red logo complete with the words “JURASSIC PARK” across the middle. I can’t remember where the obsession came from, but I had a lot of dinosaur related toys, ranging from a Brontosaurus model heavy enough to kill a man, to a glow in the dark T-Rex skeleton. The addition of the pencil case was great, but the “Jurassic Park” puzzled me. It being 1993 and me being 7 years old, I didn’t have the mind or method of which to keep up to date with the latest film releases. The personal computer was a big white box on the landing that struggled to turn on and cinema times were listed in the local newspaper, so my only advanced knowledge of this film was the tin pencil case.

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This time, I walked into the cinema foyer with a tinge of excitement and wonder. The poster that greeted us didn’t give much away either, the black silhouette of a T-Rex skeleton with the words “An Adventure 65 Million Years In The Making” below and impossibly small text right at the bottom that told us the stars, director and other important people involved. We walked through the screen doors, took our seats and waited for the lights to dim. Expecting the big brass band intro accompanied with film title that came with most of my usual films, I remember being somewhat confused when the screen remained black whilst the sound of a blustering jungle rose up in the speakers around me. I can imagine my 7 year old mind, innocent to blasphemy at the time, going something along that lines of “What’s going on, what’s going on, what’s going on, etc.” as the image of said jungle faded up from black, the trees creaking at something large moving amongst them. I was hooked immediately. Well played Spielberg, well played.

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How I recall the rest of the film is a bit of a blur, but I can imagine I disturbed the rest of the cinema-going public with my shouts of joy and terror at various points.

Dr Grant describing to the annoying kid how Raptors would eat him alive = JOY

Herd of dinosaurs combined with the rising John Williams score = JOY

T-Rex claw on the disabled electric fence = TERROR

Bloke gets eaten on the loo = JOY

Raptors in the kitchen! = TERROR

T-Rex saves the day = ABSOLUTE JOY

What a film. Even now, nearly 20 years later, the special effects and animatronics used are second to none. The combination of both had me convinced that these were the real thing, keeping me terrified and amazed at the same time.

This film then spurred something inside me; I needed to watch more films like THIS. The Indiana Jones trilogy were soon absorbed, along with Star Wars episodes IV to VI .When visiting a cousins house, I demanded that we watch a VHS copy of Hook, whilst Jaws ensured that I would never go swimming in the sea. Ill advised, I also watched Twilight Zone: The Movie and even now I see that girl without a mouth every time I close my eyes.

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And now, so will you

Several years later came the release for Jurassic Park: The Lost World. My overriding memory of this film was threatening to punch my friend in the mouth if he spoiled any of the film for me. This was during a time when films were only released on Fridays and he was lucky enough to be going to see it on the opening night. My turn had to wait until Saturday afternoon, so I stayed locked in my room without any contact from the outside world until that point. By the time Jurassic Park III came out, I was already attuned with how the internet worked, thus it proved impossible to avoid any spoilers. I’m guessing I’ll have exactly the same problem with the recently announced Jurassic Park IV, although when I’m actively searching out news every day, I’ve only got myself to blame.

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Stories like this were made to punish me

Whilst I try to hold back and not get too excited about this latest announcement, the child in me is jumping for joy. The same child in me that remembers what it was like to genuinely walk into a film with no expectations and come out with a new passion for the moving image. The same child in me that will still refer to the classic film quotes, where possible, in everyday life. The same child in me that knows exactly how Velociraptors would attack when they are inevitably cloned and released to run amok . . . .

I’m The One Who Had Your Babies

Blue Boy – “Remember Me” 1997
by Richard Cracknell

It must be a curious life to be a DJ seeking fame and fortune in the music industry. On the one hand, you make your living taking mixing samples and scraps of other people’s work, creating seemingly endless soundscapes to guide and influence the rhythm of hundreds (or tens if you’re not that great ) of gyrating people on the dance floor, whilst on the other hand you know that in order to make it into the big time that is the Holy Grail of radio air play, someone else is going to come and take your masterpiece, pull it apart, jiggle it about a bit, then put it back together again as a more compact and sellable product. It happened to Beethoven, it will happen to you:

I preferred “The 5th Symphony”, but you’re right, “DUN DUN DUN DUNNN” does have a better ring to it

One such hopeful “rhythm bringer” was the DJ Alexis “Lex” Blackmore. Plying his trade and earning valuable Scottish pound notes as a DJ in Glasgow, he made the move over the border and down into London in ’92, learning all he could about the business by touring with British Techno outfit The Shamen.

“The Shamen” – Techno role-models, if ever I saw one

After three years of having the life sucked out of him by listening to an endless rendition of Ebaneezer Goode, Blackmore decided the best thing to do would be to follow the advice of any child leaving their embarrassing parents – accept they’re holding you back, stand on your own two feet, then change your name.

Thus, in ’95, the guise we now know as Blue Boy was born and his first creation “Ascension” was released as a single. Feeling the need to make up for lost time; this was shortly followed by the four track EP “Scattered Emotions”. Although both these releases achieved little success, Blue Boy continued with his work and was thankfully rewarded with his biggest hit, and the topic of this article, “Remember Me”.

Originally seeing the light of day in ‘96 as a seven minute turn on Mark Farina’s compilation album “Mushroom Jazz”, Blue Boy’s creation hits you straight out of the traps with a  repetitive, addictive bass line accompanied by a reverbed, snare filled drum loop, which rarely deviates from the safe 4/4. The variation in the song is left to the focus point, a vocal sample taken from Marlena Shaw’s rendition of “Woman of the Ghetto” from her 1973 “Live at Montreux” album, which winds around and embeds itself in the central drum and bass core of the song. We are treated to a powerful female vocal, which seems to be imploring the listener of the song with all her energy, not to help, but to heed her words. Upon first listen, I, as am sure many others, would have believed that this dignified woman is a lover scorned, imploring to the father of their children to come back to her. The truth, however, runs far deeper, as can be seen by a verse from the original song below:

“How do you raise your kids in a ghetto?
How do you raise your kids in a ghetto?
Do you feed one child and starve another?
Won’t you tell me, legislator?

Enthralled through
I know that my eyes ain’t blue
But you see I’m a woman
Of the ghetto”

Based on a polemic poem delivered by a woman from the black American ghetto, the theme of the song surrounds the treatment of black maids raising the children of rich, white, families for very little pay. With references to prostitution, drugs and starvation, the song is quite simply a demand for fairer treatment towards the people who cared and raised their children.

Marlena Shaw – The “Real” Slim Shady

A whole 2 years before Moby had started to pillage “The Sounds of the South”, Blue Boy had used Marlena Shaw’s haunting demand as an undeniable hook of the song. It is also worth noting that this was neither the first nor last time Shaw’s music would be utilised by the techno / hip-hop genre, as her voice can be found in the works of Ghostface Killah, DJ Shadow and Lodus Dei, a particular favoured piece being the highly recommended “California Soul”.

The potential of the song was noticed by Jive Records, who picked up Blackmore’s creation and passed it on to several production companies to “remix” into a commercially viable 3 minutes 50 seconds (see the first paragraph of this article). By February 1997 the song had entered the social conscious of any radio listener, peaking at #8 in the UK pop charts and #2 in the USA dance chart.

Sadly, the fame of the song appears to have outlived the artist themselves. Although Blue Boy used the success to get his next single “Sandman” to #25 in August ’97, his work now seems to reside mainly on compilation albums or as endless remixes. Even trying to find a credible picture of the man himself proved to be too much a task.

The single’s royalties had been used to gain the lifestyle he so craved

Nevertheless, Blackmore’s creation can still be counted as one of the 90’s memorable hits, even at a time when Britpop reigned supreme. Whilst thoughts of that decade are often symbolised with the whine of a Gallagher or “moon” of a Cocker, the song still seems to live on deep within the recesses of our subconscious and is not surprisingly, still being carried on by other artists. Helping to line Blue Boy’s royalty pockets, Australian rock band “Tame Impala” recorded a cover as a b-side to their “Sundown Syndrome” single, which was voted #78 in the Triple J Hottest 100 2009, whilst Walk Off The Earth’s Gianni Luminati, when not sharing a guitar in a bid for stardom, has been viewed over 1 million times performing his own interpretation of the song. Thus suggesting, if anything can improve a song, it’s a hammock.

Why So Serie ‘A’?

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Italian Serie ‘A’ 98/99 Season
by Jack Coles

“To be a footballer means being a privileged interpreter of the feelings and dreams of thousands of people.” – Cesar Luis Menotti

The 1998/1999 Italian Serie ‘A’ league campaign was the best season in any country, of any time, in any sport, ever. To me, at least.

Shortly after the 1998 World Cup I signed a loan deal with the sport of football, with an option to buy if it did well. As an impressionable 11-year old, I was a late-comer to the sport and the World Cup had drawn me in. I decided to watch my second ever 90-minute match of football in the summer of 98′ (the ’98 World Cup final being my first, after being granted a work permit by mother to stay up past bedtime). It was LSK Lodz of Poland vs. Manchester United. These two teams had the task of impressing me to earn a lifelong fan and gladly, given the potential costs and personal sacrifices involved with following LKS Lodz, it was Manchester United who impressed me. I became a United fan that night, though I still didn’t get why Owen was playing left-back for United (I later found out it was Denis IRWIN – big difference).

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How does this relate to your fascination with the 1998/1999 season of the Serie ‘A’?” I hear you ask. We’re getting to that. I cannot commend your patience in the slightest.

ceefaxDespite all this early attacking intent towards the sport, not having Sky TV made following an English team very hard. As an innocent 11 year-old, the complex Ceefax system and late scheduling of Match of the Day did not help. It wasn’t until years later that I found out it was repeated on the Sunday morning, much to my annoyance. What’s a young man to do? Simple, I handed in my transfer request and followed Football Italia on Channel 4 for a live football fix.

It was quite obvious to me that in 1998, the footballers in Italy were better than the footballers in England. I wrote down the team sheets of the Italian teams and kept them in draws around the house, I recorded the matches on the afore-blogged VHS and later recreated them with my Subbuteo set.

KK99One year on, football had convinced me. So I had my sport, now I needed my game for a recently acquired PSOne. I bought Premier Manager 99. It had Kevin Keegan on the front, but I decided to buy it any way. As with most management simulation games, it was a glorified database that was infuriatingly addictive. This game held the squads, formations and ratings of all the Italian friends I had made by watching Channel 4 the previous year, and it galvanised my love of the previous season.

What’s that you ask?

If you’re talking about the Serie ‘A’ 1998-1999 season as being great, then why have you skipped right past the whole year, thus avoiding it in your telling of why you love it so much?”

Well, you’ve interrupted me twice now and it’s starting to get a little annoying, but if you must know, it’s because only on reflection is this league campaign so brilliant. Far beyond the considerations of a young boy, only as a 25-year-old man does it all seem so wonderful. So nostalgic. During the actual year in which the season was played I failed to take it in.

There were any of 7 teams that felt they would win the Scudetto (Italian league title) at the beginning of the 1998/99 season. AC Milan, Inter Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, Parma, Roma and the then-best team in the world and current scudetto holders, Juventus.

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Inter Milan had finished second in the 1997/1998 season, and felt they could win the title because Juventus’ had decided not to buy any more notable players that summer. Fiorentina had a young, powerful side and felt they had a good team and a good manager. They wanted to be, and were, the wild card choice. The title challenge was more inclusive because of the nouveau riche of Lazio, whose owner Sergio Cragnotti made his fortune selling tomatoes (who knew!?), and Parma, whose sponsors were Parmalat and traded in dairy products. Roma had their current, under pressure manager Zdenek Zeman in charge and felt that their excellent squad and attacking style of football could hold in them in good stead. AC Milan were really seen as outsiders. They had little money to spend and had finished 10th the year before.

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All this of course, made for an incredible season. The league was made doubly interesting because of the strong emotions running through each of the teams. Milan and Inter are huge derby rivals, as are Lazio and Roma. Inter and Juventus hated each other because of huge controversy in a title-deciding fixture the year before, whilst Roma and Juventus hated each other because the Roma boss, Zeman, accused the entire Juventus squad of participating in doping during their domestic stranglehold on Italy that decade. With little proof it must be said!

Below are roughly the most frequently occurring sides in each of the title challengers, along with managers. You’re forgiven for crying with joy at the calibre of players in each side, even for spurting out loud “I remember him! I loved him!”

You are not forgiven for being indifferent.

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But there’s no time to calm down, here are some players yet to be mentioned:

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group C - Inter Milan v Spartak MoscowJens Lehmann, Bruno N’Gotty and Roberto Donadoni at Milan;

Youri Djorkaeff, Nicola Ventola, Taribo West, Andrea Pirlo, Sebastien Frey, Nwanko Kanu and Paulo Sousa at Inter;

Thierry Henry at Juventus;

Guillermo Amor at Fiorentina;

Alen Boksic, Ivan de la Pena and Fernando Couto at Lazio.

Some of the players not at big clubs included Gattuso, di Vaio and di Michele at Salernitana and Gainluca Zambrotta at Bari. Udinese ended up being the team that upset most others that year, with their striker Amoroso becoming top scorer. Honourable mentions should go to Hidetoshi Nakata, Alvaro Recoba, ‘Beppe’ Signori and Roberto Muzzi too.

The quality of the games were, of course, excellent. During the season, many of the big games involved plenty of goals. So much so, it needs a table.

Results

I’m not going to lie, my excitement and joy has made me lose my confidence in my own ability to create narrative, so I’ll leave it with you. Needless to say Milan, the least likely team, won the league that year. For me, this period of football creates the essence of nostalgia. Something that only appears wonderful in reflection. The players from that season seem faster and more powerful with oodles of stamina. They seem to be able to shoot, tackle, cross and pass with more accuracy and effect than any current player alive (apart from Messi). The Serie ‘A’ is more like a failed state now (see USSR), but you can still catch it on ESPN. Why not stop by and check out the current crop? If only to see the shirts and stadiums that mean so much because of the 1998/1999 season. I’ll share a link to the entire AS Roma 4-5 Inter Milan match. I suggest you get the kettle on, open the hobnobs and watch just a few minutes. You never know, you may end up watching the whole thing. You’re welcome.

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“The coach proposes and the player disposes, but the limits that the tactics impose on us are every day obfuscating more the expression of new talents. A pity.” – Jorge Valdano

This Will Be On My Videotape

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VHS
by Joel Hills

A long, long time ago… before Blu-ray, before DVD, before laser disc even, came VHS. I grew up with VHS and I love it. VHS had it all.

There was a fashion, of the time, to record all manner of programming and catalogue them, file them away and keep them safe till the next rainy day. My family loved a good video library. We had those horrid VHS cases in the style of books, numbered with our very own hand written list of titles. As a child the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) didn’t get to censor my viewing, that was my parents’ job. They marked titles with their own following classification:

1. Titles appropriate for me to watch on my own.

2. Titles I could only watch with them.

3. Titles I could never, ever, watch.

Responsible parenting perhaps, so for the longest of ages I used to watch my cartoons: Tom & Jerry, The Jungle Book etc. Until one day I put in a video labeled Flight of the Dragons. Universal viewing pleasure about a bunch of dragons that take flight! So there I am, the credits role, I’m very pleased with my cartoon dragons. Then from nowhere the video screeches, tracking kicks in, the picture blurs and then . . . reforms into the last 20 minutes of Aliens.

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I join it wide eyed, as this guy is torn in two by a massive alien. White goo splats everywhere. Some little girl, probably my age at the time, legs it.

Get away from her, you bitch!aliens-ripley-alien-queen

Angry lady in a big robot starts a barney! There is a flame-thrower on the robot, the alien has two mouths and there is a space trap door. This is the best thing EVER! Needless to say I watched the last 20 minutes of Aliens about 100 times! The best thing EVER!

Eventually I got busted and the parents were not best pleased. Someone had taped over Aliens with some cartoon about dragons. Also, I had viewed age restricted material, I was a criminal. They were all set to call the law until they realised their own culpable involvement.

And there was my in.

I begged, I pleaded to see the film. I would have given anything to watch all of Aliens. Months the whining continued and Flight of the Dragons held a place of pride just above the VCR until eventually, after much discussion, my parents caved. They went out and bought a proper copy. A special edition nonetheless, 17 minutes of extra alien splatter. I was in heaven. A big scary alien infested heaven.

However, before the main feature came the trailers. That dude with the amazing voice, Don LaFontaine…

In a world where the sun burns cold and the wind blows colder, a visitor has come, but not by herself…

Incredible trailer for Alien 3, a trillion times better than the actual film!  Then, 20th Century Fox’s Widescreen Collection

So you think you’ve experienced every horrifying moment of Alien on Video… Well think again. So you think you’ve seen all the excitement of Die Hard on tape… well you aint seen nothing yet.

Can of worms well and truly opened. That was it. I was sold. I was going to dedicate my life to films.

I watched everything I could get my hands on, I had a copy of Die Hard that I kept hidden in my school locker, I even remember braving a visit to the school bully’s house to watch the scene from Terminator where Arnie cuts out his own eye. I kept a scrapbook filled with the films I had seen. I cut out pictures from the Radio Times and sellotaped them in. Name the film, it was in there, from Beverly Hills Cop 2 to Doc Hollywood, it was in there, picture and all. It is at this point I would like to take credit for the creation of IMDb.

DarthjpgSo you may ask, other than my obvious delusion, what about any negative effects of screening all these adult pictures at a childhood age? Seemingly, none from the films I
most revered. However, nightmares did occur through the oddest of combinations. Star Wars gave me nightmares. I was also deeply affected by the film Solarbabies, in which
there was a scene with a grid that, once touched, made your worst fear come true. One character was tortured by being covered in ants, another character lost an arm, etc. My reoccurring nightmare was a mix of Star Wars and Solarbabies; I would touch this grid and then Darth Vader would blow up my mother with a cannon.

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VHS was just so versatile. Armed with my copy of the Radio Times and my own personal IMDb scrapbook, I used to trawl the channels and record films weekly. I ended up with some true pearls of “edited for television” cuts. I taped a version of Die Hard that aired with the unforgettable line “Yippee Ki-Yay, Kimosabe”. I had a copy of Robo Cop that literally made no sense whatsoever. Towards the end of the film a mutated bad guy stumbles in front of Robo Cop’s car, splatting all over his windscreen causing him to crash in the drink where he eventually stabs the main bad guy, Clarence Boddicker, in the neck. All of these events seemingly absent from the watershed cut I had taped. It wasn’t until the late 90’s when I finally watched the studio release that the movie made any sense. Yes films were savaged by censorship, pan and scan had cinematographers crying into their sleeves but it was all part of the charm.

Anyway, there it is, a simpler time - long play and short play to DVD and Blu-ray. There is something still magical about VHS, the hands on nature of videotape, the poor quality, the grain and the lack of clear black colours. I love it and it will always hold a special place in my heart, for without VHS I would never have discovered Aliens at such an impressionable age and I probably wouldn’t love film as a medium as much as I do now.

Would You Believe It?

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Tony Adams vs Everton May 3rd 1998

by Richard Cracknell

I’ll start by revealing something that probably isn’t the best kept secret amongst those who know me. I am an Arsenal fan. I’m not going to pretend that my first words were “George Graham”, or that I knew the offside rule before I could walk, but due to family ties and the area I was born in, it was pretty much set from the start that that’s where my loyalties were going to lie.

Being born in the mid 80’s, some of my early 90’s Arsenal knowledge was a bit hazy. I was aware that we had won some trophies, but the 8-year-old me was a bit confused about why they, and Wycombe Wanderers, weren’t allowed to play in 1994 World Cup. Disappointingly, one of my earliest Arsenal memories is provided by this joint effort from Nayim and David Seaman.

What I’m trying to say is that whilst growing up, I hadn’t really got used to us winning anything. Of course, some people would say that there’s nothing new there, I heard somewhere that we haven’t won anything in 7 years.

Emirates-Cup

Unless you count the trophy that we make up ourselves every year

But all that was about to change. During 1997, as is natural during the month of August; fans were getting excited about the prospect of another season of football entertainment. Even Sean Bean couldn’t hide it. Arsenal’s new manager, Arsène Wenger, was about to lead us for his first full term in charge and if he could carry on our form from the previous season, then few would deny that we had a chance of winning something this year. Since joining the club midway through the 96/97 season, Arsène had transformed the team from a group of players who thought playing a formation other than 4-4-2 was exciting, to a well oiled machine verging on what some may say was near total football. Methods unheard of at the time, including studies into diet, scientifically timed training sessions and psychometric tests, were having the desired effect throughout the year and with three games left to play, Arsenal found themselves needing just to win against relegation candidates Everton to claim the Premier League title as their own.

And so came the day, 3rd May 1998. By half-time, we were already 2-0 up and the celebrations around Highbury had begun. During the 90’s, having Sky TV was an unaffordable luxury compared to what it is now, so I remained fixed to a chair in the dining room listening to the radio commentary, remaining slightly more composed than my Dad, who was nervously walking around in circles. As the game progressed, we got a 3rd. It was at this point I remember asking my Dad, “Is that it, have we definitely won the league now?”

Remember, I was still used to this

Remember, I was still used to this

Little did I know, the best was yet to come. In my eyes, one of football’s most rewarding moments was about to unfold in front of the Highbury crowd, but to give it some background; we’ll need to go back to 1990.

The 6ft 3’ centre back, Tony Adams, is more commonly known as “Mr Arsenal”.  Once quoted as saying “I will sign any contract Arsenal put in front of me without reading it”, he was given the captain’s armband at the age of 21 before steering his team to winning titles in ’89 and ’91, as well as one League Cup and one FA Cup. But despite the success, things were far from perfect in his personal life. Battling with alcoholism, he was often involved in fights in nightclubs and arguments with fans from opposing teams. One such event culminated in Adams and fellow team mate Ray Parlour letting off a flare gun and fire extinguishers in a Pizza Hut in Hornchurch.

His list reads like a “beginner’s guide to being Joey Barton”, but the biggest black mark against his name would certainly be when he crashed his car into a wall in Rayleigh. After being breathalysed, he was found to be more than four times the legal drink-drive limit and was subsequently imprisoned for four months. In September 1996, Adams admitted to the public that he was an alcoholic and he began to seek treatment. His recovery and rehabilitation was helped in no small part by the timely arrival of Arsène Wenger, the manager sticking by his captain following his confession of alcoholism and improving his regime. He later admitted that this had extended his playing career by years.

And so we come back to 3rd May 1998. Whilst the team had begun to evolve during Wenger’s first season and a half, Adams remained at the heart of the defence, a symbol of “the old Arsenal”. With his team 3-0 up against Everton, Adams is doing what he does best, sitting at the back whilst the clock runs down. After a misplaced Everton pass, his fellow centre back, Steve Bould, intercepts the ball halfway up the pitch. Carrying on his momentum from tracking one of the Everton attackers, Adams starts to run. And he keeps on running. Past Steve Bould, past Marc Overmars, past Ian Wright and past the Everton defence. Bould’s looping ball falls over Adams’ shoulder, he takes it forward on his chest and with his left foot, strikes the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal. As the net ripples, Adams takes a moment to compose himself, then lifts his arms and head to the sky. I’m sure my words don’t do it justice, so here it is in all its glory-

As we have all experienced in life, there are certain moments that will still make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end years after the original event has taken place. This is one of those moments. I can even pin point the exact moment that my brain is going to send a message to those tiny follicles. It’s not the intercepted pass, nor the lobbed ball over the top or the swing of Adams’ left foot to strike the ball, but commentator Martin Tyler’s screech:

“WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT?!”

Would you believe it? Steve Bould playing a defence splitting pass for Tony Adams to volley home? Tony Adams, the previously imprisoned, recovering alcoholic? This may have been Wenger’s new Arsenal, but the old guard weren’t ready to call it a day yet. As good as the goal may be, his reaction in the celebration also stands out. He’d often commented that he couldn’t remember his previous title-winning games in ’89 or ’91 due to his alcohol problem, but it’s in this moment that you see him briefly close his eyes, spreads his arms wide, take in a deep breath and savour what has just happened. Not only had he buried the finish, he’d buried everything else along with it.

Adams would eventually retire in 2002, after guiding Arsenal to another Premier League title and two FA cups. His goal against Everton becoming such an important part in Arsenal’s history, it was immortalised as a bronze statue outside the Emirates Stadium in 2011.

In 2003, I was lucky enough to meet Tony Adams. At the time, we both worked at Wycombe Wanderers Football Club (he was the manager of the club, I was one of the program sellers, so I use the term “worked together” in the loosest possible sense) and he had happened to take a wrong turn down the corridors of Adams Park and into our office. I managed to snap out of my state of awe long enough to shake his hand, before someone ushered him in the right direct towards the players tunnel. Whilst this was no-where near long enough to establish whether or not he was a “genuinely nice bloke” or a “a bit of a knob”, as are usually the two responses when you meet someone famous, I could safely say there is still a large Tony Adams shaped hole missing in the Arsenal team. And that, I can believe.

johan-djourou

Not Tony Adams