Sunday, 16 September 2012

I can't believe he missed Andy Gray: A foreword


As a leaving present for Chris Oakley upon his departure to New Zealand, Graham Sibley and I published a book containing his complete Friday List Of Little Or No Consequence posts for Some People Are On The Pitch and the Football Fairground. Below is the foreword, penned by myself. 

“Anything with Garlic.” replied Archie Gemmill to the now classic “What’s your favourite food?” question asked of all professional footballers honoured to be the subject of the now defunct “Shoot!” magazine’s Q and A section. The answer immediately conjures images of the rampaging Scotsman, wilting the Dutch players on that infamous night in Argentina in 1978, with his garlic fuelled breath, as the wee man met his destiny and Scotland met their end.

I never read “Shoot!” as a boy and only found out about Archie’s appetites through that stalwart of mental ephemera that is The Friday List Of Little Or No Consequence which for five years ran in Chris Oakley’s football blog, Some People Are On The Pitch and later the Football Fairground.

Every week, the list would provide a portion of empirical factitude delivered by the author. The list was aptly named and exemplifies the true spirit of a fan’s passion for the game. For most of us, football is a matter of little or no consequence but the the lists demonstrate the power the beautiful game has over us when we choose to seek knowledge and understanding for no reason other than because it is there.

As much as chalkboards, tactical breakdowns, player profiles and historical & cultural contexts allow us to understand football, the accumulation of hitherto buried trivia gives the game substance. From the sixteen teams in the 2008 Africa Cup Of Nations in Nickname Form to England one cap wonders to ten stickers missing from his “Football 1981” Panini album to 27 Statistics mentioned during the Guardian Football Weekly podcast of 29 December 2011, every Friday the List gave the reader possibly one of the greatest gift anyone could receive: consequence free knowledge; innocence on a web page.

As Chris embarks upon a new chapter in his life, he leaves his disciples these lists, collected in a single volume, as a fitting legacy and tribute to a man for whom no fact was too small, no event too obscure and no genre too niche.

Happy trails, Oakers.