Robinson Heath's
Technosoccer Clinic

Howdy Doody and a Happy New Year to all my footballist pals in England. My studies at the Technosoccer Department of the University of Soccer, Downtown Illinois has prevented me from penning any articles recently for your Head, but over the Xmas period (or Neuchatel as it is known in Switzerland) I’ve found some time to investigate what exactly goes on during the mid-match recess. (Apart from soccerites visiting the comfort stations that is).

In the States, we have always put the supporters entertainment at the top of the list. However, performances by Barry Manilow, Michael Jackson and Michael Bolton have undermined this somewhat. Men flying in with jet-packs, Mickey Mouse strutting his stuff and laser shows are all very well as far as the Olympics are concerned, but I’m sure that you’d all agree with me that the sight of Diana Ross shooting as wide as that chap in the hilarious Danny Baker/Alan Hansen/Neil Morrissey/Nick Hancock/Des Lynam videos from the penalty spot is what we want to see more of. Yes, superstars of the world of entertainment humiliating themselves in front of thousands of footballing followers.

I heard that in the old days in the UK, that “half-time”, as you call it, used to include dogs from the Police or armed services jumping through flaming hoops. This seems a barbaric treatment of dumb animals. In the U S of A we reserve this feat for humans on motorcycles. However, an interesting development on this theme took place at the Scarborough v Hartlepool Auto Windscreen Northern Group Qualifying Elimination Round 5th round 2nd leg match in the 1989-90 season. A Pro-Celebrity dog assault course challenge was held on the pitch to provide some interest for the 45 fans before the match resumed. This turned into a farce as the dogs were as disinterested as the audience and the winners ("Police Stop Action” frontman Alistair Stewart and Max the Alsatian - pictured opposite) only completed 73% of the course before succumbing to the foul weather conditions, which claimed the lives of three dogs and Bernard Manning.
Animals tend to feature strongly in British half-time entertainment. Another flopped idea was of a Falconry display. This involved filmstar Simon McCorkindale, who in his spare time keeps hawks in a small cage at the end of his garden in Rochdale. The Falconer swings a piece of meat and the bird flies off to collect it and then returns to his master’s glove. Well, that was the theory anyway. Like the ManU v Spurs soccer match that took place in the film “Kestrel” (sic) all hell broke loose when the bird caught the food and took it high into the rafters at Highbury and stayed there. It was only after the break that it again became peckish (quite literally) and swooped on the Junior Gooners section to pluck hot-dogs and hamburgers from the children’s hands. Calm was only restored when it was allowed to nest in Ray Parlour’s hair.
For many of us, the break means an opportunity for our ears to be cleared of wax by the wonderful PA system or to wonder if our ears need de-waxing because we can’t understand anything coming out of the naff PA. An interesting diversion was provided in the Welsh National League (Played Cymru), where to tie in with their Ibedstead they invited Druids to take part in the Welsh National Car Hubcap Throwing Championships. The title was won by Lllllllllllllyn Lllllllllllangelethprosetheticleggelly, pictured here after catching a cap with the back of his head.
Even the much derided, but commonly accepted shoot-outs involving children from the local youth leagues have lost their appeal. As players have become aware that they only have to master the skill of getting the ball above four feet to ensure a goal. This sparked a controversy when outside-left activists at the local council in Ipswich deemed this to be heightist and outlawed such contests. They suggested that the rowdy fans be provided with some more erudite amusement and so, the Strolling Bones Production Company’s performance of “Hamlet” was the staple diet of the Suffolk Punch drunks during the intermission for the 1975-76 term.
We are all familiar with the fireworks which never fail to accompany an Ian Wright appearance. No, sorry, that should have read, a Coca-Cola Cup Final, but it is little known that there was a major disaster in 1937 when Portsmouth were to provide the biggest display of fireworks seen outside of China. The manager of the time, Archibald Colclough, took the instructions a little too literally and lit the blue touchpaper and retired, leaving the team without a head coach. Oh, but if only he had replaced the lid on the biscuit tin containing the rest of the fireworks and the transfer funds for the forth-coming season. Thus, the team disappeared in a puff of smoke along with their manager.
Strange, but true, some clubs ran a competition to see which person could play the smallest replica of a proper musical instrument. Here we see Henrietta Fortesque with her mini-cello which was much easier to get between her legs than the real thing. But, she was put in the shade by Mickey Morgan and his magic organ, which was a replica of that housed in the Royal Albert Hall, but his copy fitted into a matchbox. His heart-rending version of Aled Jones’ “Walking in The Air” brought a tear to the eye of many in the crowd at the Vetch Field that Day.
As children and indeed all of us become more technically aware, the demand for entertainment of a more sophisticated nature will increase. Will we all be sitting in our all-sitting stadium with headphones on listening to artificial crowd noise and commentary, while during the half-time we are virtually entertained by the way of a headset, as opposed to being virtually entertained by the clowns out on the pitch. Will Bill Gates become the new Head of CompuSoccer where you won’t even have to leave home to experience that wonderful feeling of being beaten by a bunch of cloggers and then travel back home in the pouring rain. Only to take off your virtual helmet to find yourself sitting in your allotted seat at the ground.

Long may we long for the old days when brass bands played and Police tenors boomed out their songs; when pom-poms were things that young girls waved around to Toni Basil’s “Mickey”, not what the influx of Aussie soccerists into the British game refer to their team-mates as; when ball-juggling was a thing that youngsters did to show off their skill and not what some players manually use to show what they think of a referee’s assistant.

All in all, the provision of half-time fare has been pretty poor. Playing spot the member (not literally) of Barry Hearn’s stable of fighters/snooker players is hardly the most enjoyable two minutes of your afternoon’s entertainment, but where would the game be today if all we had to do was talk to the person next to you (or indeed, the bloke behind you). For soccerists the world over know only too well that the game is the thing. What comes in between can only be the Spam in your sandwich, the toad in the hole, the jam in your donut, the wind beneath my wings.

So, until I write again, may your Spurs be successful and may your half-times be full of moaning and groaning.

See you all at the tea-bar for some pastrami on rye and Cuervo Gold.


All the best from your soccer loving pal.

Robinson Heath

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