In the immediate aftermath of a certain old lady’s death this week, there were calls for football to pay tribute. There have also been calls for a national day of mourning, renaming Port Stanley in her honour and erecting a statue in Trafalgar Square – probably all from exactly the same people. Cameron recalled Parliament out of pure hero worship. The Daily Mail, always a Thatcher fanzine, went off the scale and produced acres of adulatory froth so toxic it will need to be buried in secure underground bunkers.
Perhaps there was a time when football might have dutifully bent the knee but, gratifyingly and unusually, it has kept a sense of perspective. Thatcher had no appreciation of football. As the favoured game of the nation’s industrial heartlands, it was right up there with secondary picketing in her affections. In the mid 80s, fresh from crushing the miners her unblinking Sauron eye shone next on football supporters – another enemy within. Egged on by fellow guardians of civil liberty like Ken Bates and the disgusting Luton MP David Evans, she planned to impose ID cards on fans. And if that didn’t work, make them wear little symbols on their clothes and live together in designated areas.
And, even worse, there was this:
Thankfully we have come a long way since then. Football fans are now no longer routinely vilified as they were in the 1980s, when we were regarded as some sort of moronic tribe. And the authorities sensibly have realised the likely reaction if clubs around the country were asked to observe a minute’s silence. It might pass off reasonably peacefully at, say, Crawley, but South Yorkshire or Liverpool? Memories still run deep, quite remarkably deep when you consider the 1980s are a generation ago and countries at war have reconciled quicker than that.
So best that the public tributes are left for those who want to - fine characters like Archer, Clarkson and Tebbit - and the rest of us can get on with managing our grief in our own way. Personally at times like this I like to cheer myself up by watching old movies, like say The Wizard of Oz.