House Magazine Hinterland Column: Why I Love Football.


It is rare that you get a job in politics that covers all your major interests outside politics.

As Lib Dem spokesperson on culture, media and sport I have that honour. How many politicians can say that attending a sporting event is part of their job?

I have always loved sport. My love of football started at age five, when my dad took me to see Manchester City at Maine Road. By the age of thirteen I had season ticket and I still have mine 31 seasons later. Of course, now we are successful, but I remember the wilderness years. Trekking around away grounds in the 3rd tier of English football, I’ve managed to visit 46 league stadiums if you include the ones that do not exist anymore.

Like most City fans, I am a pessimistic football fan by nature. Who can blame me give our track record?  I remember my first visit to Wembley, to watch the 1999 second division play-off against Gillingham. Two nil down with five minutes left- Paul Dickov equalised in the 5th minute of injury time to take it to penalties.

My favourite City player is Shaun Goater. I met him at a celebration of the 100thanniversary of the PFA in Manchester Town Hall and told him he was my hero. His wife quickly chimed in that I didn’t have to live with him! That same night I argue with Terry Venables that if Ryan Giggs had played for England not Wales we could have won Euro 1996.

Like most football fans, I love playing too.  When I was at school all I ever wanted to do was play sport all day long particularly football.  I kept the football up at University, into my twenties and thirties, playing 5-a-side and Sunday league.  I once scored a triple hat-trick of nine goals in an empathic 10-1 win, the tenth goal was my assist, well it was goal bound shot until someone stuck a foot out and claimed it as their own.  Those heady University days are long gone and now I find myself playing up front for the parliamentary football team.

I’ve swapped the boggy pitches of Sunday league football for Wembley and Stamford Bridge.  In my twenties I played Sunday league against players twice my age, I now find myself up against players half my age or ex-professionals who may have lost some of their pace but their touch has never left them!

When I watched my beloved City in 99’ I never imagined I would get the chance to play on that famous turf myself.  My claim to fame is scoring through the legs of Everton and Wales Goalkeeping legend Neville Southall at Wembley.  I have also played alongside Kenny Dalglish.  Inconsistent is a term that has often been used to describe my footballing abilities and I work on a numbers game, definitely more Shaun Goater than Sergio Aguero.  I have three golden boots for being top scorer, along with three awards for “miss of the season”.  If you keep shooting eventually one of them will go in.

Although most of us in the parliamentary team are pretty average, a few, like Jim Murphy, have real talent.  The only consistency is enthusiasm.


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