Football'y Subject And A Rant

30th October 2014
This blog is unashamedly cannibalised from an recently written football related article. Its publish date is towards Armistice Day and the subject matter therefore appropriate. It is blindingly obvious that I'm easily distracted and easily led off at a tangent………. enjoy!

As this is to be published near to Armistice Day, I thought I would highlight an interesting character you may not be aware of, a footballer who died during 'the war to end all wars'. One Walter Tull. There is a memorial to him outside the building site that is Sixfields, Northampton. However………

However, indeed - I feel a rant coming on, inspired by another few hours of misery courtesy of the M1. I'm probably teaching grandparents to suck eggs (whatever that might mean - sounds deeply unpleasant!), but you may just be aware of the amusement that is travelling North or South on the M1? Twenty Two miles of 50mph, contingency free roadworks from Junction 28 to 31 - a nightmare that was supposed to finally end next May, but I notice with dismay that the signs now just blandly say 'Autumn 2015'. How many hours of my life have I lost sitting stationary in this stretch over the last year? How many more will I lose over the coming year as this stretch is upgraded to 'smart' motorway, i.e. errrrr 3 lanes.

Northbound M1 job, got to get through J28-31 - better give it 2 hours extra contingency. Can't be late.

I point out this obvious truth, as I have just returned from a job at Franklins Gardens, Northampton (that's Rugby Union, chaps), and have discovered that they have implemented exactly the same nightmare for 16 miles from Junction 19 to 16. How much am I looking forward to the next 15 months of North or South travel - leaving stupidly early for any job as a contingency against being late, being stationary for hours, being overtaken in the rain by speeding European lorries not bothering about the speed limit, being in convoys of crawling diverted traffic. Absolute driving Hell……. You can't help thinking that the daily problems in these roadworks has proved what a good idea the hard shoulder is?

Southbound M1 job. Got to get through Catthorpe and Junction's 19-16. Better give it an extra 90 minutes contingency. Can't be late.

I would like to say that the problems are all on the M1, but………. Access to Nottingham from Junction 24 is realistically a non starter as the A453 is converted to dual carriageway so you can get to all the Clifton traffic lights a fraction earlier. The M6 north of Birmingham is, well, charmless due to the necessity of it being a 'Smart' motorway. The A1 around Darlington, another 16 miles of grimness. The A1 in Newcastle, with its 20mph limit - realistically 1mph and the opportunity to scoff a whole tube of extra strong mints out of boredom.

Oh dear, very Northbound job in Newcastle…… That's Junction 28-31, 13 miles of the A1 at Darlington and the A1 at Newcastle roadworks. What's the chance of getting through them unscathed. Better give it 2 hours contingency. Can't miss kick off….

Edgbaston day/night job. M6 Between Junction's 4 and 6 are finished - but the A38 Birmingham City Tunnels are closed and there are 'planned' closures on the M42 on the way home. Great, another home-by-midnight if I'm lucky evening!

Combine this with constant night closures on the A50, M42 and driving in this country is now an unpleasant lottery. I could cite the fact I got home after snapping at Aston Villa at due to both the M42 and M1 having 'planned' closures. Derbyshire was a mythical isolated, distant island that night….

Don't get me wrong I am hugely pleased that the economic miracle taking place appears to be solely based on road contractors profits, and I am very chuffed for the half dozen people who appear to have been employed to facilitate these improvements - but I just want to know who to send my compensation claim to?

Stoke job. Stoke is confusing enough anyway and Port Vale's floodlights (the bulbs that work!) are directed at anywhere but the pitch. I really didn't need the A50 to be closed and a bonus convoy home via Litchfield.

Enough of this tirade…… yes, it is to do with football as we all have to get to away games, or even work - and I feel a lot better having written this. But, back to Walter Tull - he deserve better.

Walter Daniel John Tull played as an inside forward for Spurs and Northampton between 1909 and the outbreak of war. He was the 2nd Afro-Caribbean professional footballer. The first being Arthur Wharton, a keeper at Darlington who had a splendid commemorative statue unveiled at St Georges Park on October 18th.

What makes Walter Tull so interesting is wider than football. He and is brother were raised in a children's home in Bethnall Green before he played amateur football for the successful London club Clapton. He signed for Spurs in 1909 where he made 10 appearances before being signed for 'a substantial fee', by Herbert Chapman's Northampton. He made 111 appearances before being the first Northampton Town player to sign up in 1914. He fought in the Middlesex Regiments Footballers Battalion - a bizarre concept to us? He rose to Sergeant and fought at The Somme. In 1917 he was commissioned Second Lieutenant despite, and I quote: the 1914 Manual of Military Law specifically excluding Negroes/Mulatto's from exercising as actual command officers. He fought in Italy and was recommended for The Military Cross before returning to France where he was killed on 26th March 1918. His body was never recovered.

That is a really brief potted biography, but what a life he must have led? It can't have been easy being mixed-race at that point in history in England. The abuse he suffered playing has been documented - I don't want to single out Bristol City but apparently their terraces were particularly unforgiving. The fact he rose through the army to a rank officially closed to him, only to become part of a mass grave Northern France. What a trail-blazing short life he had. What a bloke to have a pint with and talk about his experiences…..

Anyway, Northampton Town did the decent thing and unveiled a memorial to him in 1999. If you've ever been to Sixfields, I bet you've seen it and not known what it was. It a very decent structure next to the main carpark. So should your lot ever play there again - I mean the FA Cup is a possibility, go and have a look and pay a quiet respect. There were millions of stories curtailed by the war that started 100 years ago, almost to this day, but his must have been unique.

The impressive Walter Tull Memorial at Sixfields, Northampton

And, I hope you get back from Northampton in time to watch the episode of Doctor Who that you forgot to 'tape'. I didn't, road works you know!

Finally, as an unashamed plug: After being stuck in traffic, why not have an unwind pint in the splendid Chip & Pin micropub in Melbourne. A new venture and a haven for real ale in the area - and mercifully free of Sky football.

The marvellous post-roadwork sanity retainer: The Chip And Pin Micropub, Melbourne.