But even that clear and logical argument may soon be out of date, for touches of glamour and comfort and concessions to the human being's physical limitations are infiltrating the game in England. The style is being set in Coventry, which has a new $280,000 grandstand and a $300-a-year "vice-presidents' club" with deluxe facilities for its members. Coventry's stadium has disc-jockey entertainment before the game, bars and club rooms, champagne and Scotch, attractive waitresses and gourmet food. To some, the team hovers on the brink of becoming the Los Angeles Dodgers East, of taking the rough-and-tumble masculinity out of a spectating experience that once was the last haven for the sweaty working man. But such dandified new stadiums are only paralleling social change throughout England. "It isn't the same here anymore," says one oldtime fan with mingled relief and annoyance. "A man can't go out and do what he wants. He has to take the wife and the kiddies along, like the United States of America, and the wife and the kiddies don't want to stand in the Kop and listen to vulgarity; they want Pepsi-Cola between the halves and the bleedin' Beatles' music on the loudspeakers and comfortable places to rest their behinds. It's a bloody shame, and yet in a way it isn't. The workingman used to have such a sorry lot that the culture allowed him to do whatever he wanted in the little free time he had. His life was so miserable, down 80 hours a week in a mine or a dirty factory, and if he wanted to go off to the football ground on Saturday afternoon, that was his inalienable right as a tormented soul. If he wanted to say to his son, 'Come along with you, boy,' that was fine, but if he chose to go off with his pals, as most of them did, there was nobody dared give him any lip about it. But now there's pressure from the old lady. She doesn't want association football unless it's rife with comforts. She wants the telly, the wireless, bowling alleys, dance halls, pictures, theaters. Everybody's got more money, and they're all driving around in Mini Minors, and the old lady'd rather go to the seaside than the football ground."
The forces of flux in association football and the Hadrian's Walls of tradition, the touches of old and the flashes of new, were assembled for an outsider recently in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Northumberland city to which one does not carry coals, a carbon-splattered city on the banks of a river that for sheer septic content makes the East River look like a bubbling mountain stream. On this particular weekend the Home Secretary, Mr. Henry Brooke, appeared on the scene to tell the Tories of Newcastle that Labor would lose the election, that Newcastle was a city of character and history and that the people who lived along the Tyne had hearts of gold, proving once again that electioneering politicians speak an international language. The Vickers plant, three miles of dreary sheds along the inky Tyne, was working a light shift Saturday morning, and the ancient Sandgate market, where Newcastle residents take their old clothes for resale, was open for business at dawn.
But the only news of any import to the miners and factory hands of the ancient city was the match to be played that afternoon on the Gallowgate ground between Newcastle United, once the class of the league, and Coventry City, the blue-shirted avant-garde. Coventry City had won five of its first six games, and Newcastle United (or simply the "United," as the club is called locally) had had to turn to defensive-style football to eke out three wins in its first five matches. The consensus among the experts in Newcastle pubs like the Bay Horse, the Queen's Head, the Greyhound and the Lord Hill was that the United was overmatched against the league-leading Sky Blues from Coventry. Mr. William Cunningham analyzed the prospects in his Northumbrian brogue: "We'll be verry loocky, verry verry loocky, if we get a point today. Our lods all grew old about the same time, and now the club's rebuildin', but it's a sloo process, it tis. We've depended on a verry good center forward, but he canna get his form down at tall. Barrie Thomas is his name, and Mr. Barrie Thomas just canna get crackin'. He's havin' one of those spells, he is, where everything he tries is wrong. He's always hittin' the ooprights, you know, or gettin' brought down just outside the penalty area. He canna get started. But once he gets his form, oh, we'll teek some stuppin'!"
The Newcastle resident, or Novacastrian, or Geordie, makes a harsh attack on his words; he speaks with a pronounced glottal stop and a trace of the Scottish burr, and tends to clip off his final t's. Mr. William Cunningham, a little man of middle age with an impudently turned-up nose and a tiny gold cross in his lapel, was no exception. "I think," he said, becoming himself the personification of the game, "I'll sett-ul for a draw. I'll get it wi' a bi' of loock. It's too mooch to osk for a win, and I'll be sot-isfied wi' a draw, indeed I will, sir."
In the pubs, endless reminiscences rattled about the walls as the Geordies stoked up for the long afternoon with pints of bitter and halves of Newcastle brown ale and nips of barley wine and Whitbread's Final Selection. Englishmen are not noisy in their pubs, but I could hear fragments: "He was an artist, a right winger, no, a left winger he was. Played for Derby County, and he was a wizard, a fly, this master, he was as good as Stanley Matthews.... Yes, I remember that rough one. Willie McGonigle, I think his name was. Knew as much abou' kickin' a football as I know abou' layin' bloody eggs...I have always believed, sir, thot if you deliberately trip a man to stop him from scorin' a goal, or impede him in any way, sir, out you go!" A barman told about days gone by in Newcastle, when the United was the best side in England: "If the United lost a motch, we'd put the oold barrel of beer back on tap because it didn't matt-er, the people'd complain whatever you gave 'em. If you put in a new barrel after the cloob lost, they'd still say, 'Where did you get this stoof? It tastes bloody awful.' "
Two hours before the game, a group of Coventry City supporters arrive by train; they parade past the Royal Station Hotel in their sky-blue boaters, sky-blue vests and sky-blue trousers, whirling sky-blue clackers over their heads and shouting friendly gibes at the Geordies. By now the crowd is building, and one begins to get the feeling that all of Newcastle is converging on the Gallowgate ground. Here they come like a herd of happy elk, down Newgate Street, turning off at St. Andrews, milling past an old cemetery with crazily angled headstones, thin and flat like long tea wafers, past the Northumberland Arms and Richard Charlton, Ltd., which deals in Bass ale, and up the hill to the ground, a starkly simple stadium with stands that are more like big sheds and unsophisticated light towers at each of the four corners. Outside the ground, men with placards shout the glory of the British press: Sunday Express...Read John Dunn on soccer every week! The People...Drugs! Bribes! Soccer's worst scandal! We name top stars! Sunday Sun...Greatest soccer coverage ever!
People hang out of windows across the street, sharing their freeholds with the neighbors, and tall trees just outside the walls are festooned with Geordies: boys and men poised like squirrels and swaying gently in the breeze. Still, there are 37,000 willing to pay their way in, with all but a few thousand of them standing in the old style, hip to hip, loin to loin, locked into position for the remainder of the afternoon. Feeling like the soft American, I find a seat next to an elderly Geordie with a checked cap and an excess of avoirdupois, much of which will be spending the afternoon resting against my side. There is a yell from the crowd ("The Gallowgate Roar," the Geordies proudly call it), and the teams are on the field, loosening up and balancing on their toes, walking lightly: the soccer player's strut. There is the Coventry team in its sky-blue, and there is the glory of Newcastle: the United, wearing black-and-white striped shirts like American basketball referees. "Sssshhhh!" says the heavy man next to me. It is the first of several hundred "sssshhhh's" he is to emit during the game, and I quickly realize that this is merely his manner of expressing his feelings of shock and excitation when his emotions run away with him. Others inhale sharply at such times; my neighbor exhales. "Sssshhhh," he says to his companion. "Did ye see thot poss? Sssshhhh, they'll no' score, possing like thot!"
The pattern of the game is set at the seven-minute mark, when one of the Coventry City fullbacks goes down with a pulled hamstring muscle. No substitutions are permitted in soccer, and a few minutes later he is back on the pitch limping heavily, his leg bound up. The Newcastle players realize that he is going to be a passenger for the rest of the game, and they abandon their customary conservative game to make wild forays against the Coventry goaltender. "Sett-ul down," says Sssshhhh, giving me a reflexive elbow in the side. "You'll no' score if you doon't sett-ul down!" Already it is plain that this is going to be a rough game; the referee is issuing warnings all over the place, and the crowd accuses him of partisanship. "Be fair, ref!" says Sssshhhh. "Be fair!" A few minutes later a spectator slumps to the concrete behind us, and the people around him shout to attract the attention of the black-and-white St. John Ambulance Brigade, patroling on the pitch. The man is carried out on a stretcher, his feet sticking out, his head covered with a blanket. "Dead," a woman behind us whispers.
"He cert-ainly is!" says Sssshhhh, his eyes fixed on the game. "He hosn't called one right since the kickoff!"
Half time comes and, for all its assaultive razzle-dazzle, the home team has failed to score. Now the two least-envied men in Newcastle begin a slow walk around the pitch, carrying on a blackboard the results of a "half-time pool" based on scores of games throughout England. They are the least-envied men in Newcastle because the crowd pelts them with dirt as they stroll by with the bad news, heads ducked down behind their blackboard. They make the whole miserable circuit twice, while the crowd boos and shows its displeasure. "The second time around," a neighbor explains, "is for the people who missed the first time."