Monday 22 January 2018

Nostalgia takes me over as I wander back to the 1980s

Alan Aherne's On The Line column

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

I have been preoccupied with a major outbreak of nostalgia in recent days.

There comes a time in everyone's life when we tend to look back and reflect more and more on the good times long since gone, so perhaps this is just the natural order of things.

Then again, I don't ever want to become one of those people who think everything in the past was better than the present. That's the danger in one sense with our memories I guess; it's a lot easier and more palatable to pick out the good ones and leave the rest in the deepest recess of the mind.

Therefore, when I hear an old-timer declaring that the game was a lot better in their heyday, be it hurling, soccer, Gaelic football or rugby, I always take the comments with a grain of salt.

I've no doubt our elders watched as many poor matches as we have to endure now back in the day, but they're conveniently forgotten when the reminiscing starts. And there's nothing wrong with that of course; we'll be the exact same ourselves in time to come as that's just the way the human mind works.

My own reflection on times past was sparked by a book I reviewed elsewhere in this supplement on the Bradford City fire which led to the loss of 56 lives 30 years ago yesterday, on May 11, 1985.

It took me back to a more innocent age, and that tragic story resonates because the author of the book, Martin Fletcher, was the same age as myself - 12 - at the time.

Therefore, I found it very easy to recall the minutia of his childhood as the timeframe corresponded with my own. There is something unacceptable and plain incomprehensible about going to a match with four other family members spanning three generations and being the only one to come home alive.

Remembering that shocking day - and watching some upsetting YouTube footage - got me thinking more and more about that period from the mid- to late-eighties when I was a typical sports-mad secondary school student.

And as it happens, unlike the older folk with those rose-tinted glasses referred to earlier, I focused on the other tragedies that I hope no armchair viewer looking forward to a game ever has to endure again.

That month of May, 1985 plummeted to new depths in terms of sadness in a sporting text because the Bradford City fire was followed just 18 days later by the Heysel Stadium disaster in Brussels which claimed the lives of 36 Juventus fans before their European Cup final against Liverpool.

And the after-effects were still being felt just under four years later, on April 15, 1989, when the tragedy most readers will probably recall easier than the others - at Hillsborough - resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters attending an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

The deeply upsetting images from all three disasters have never left me, and I'm sure many others feel the same way. Life would be a lot less exciting and interesting without sport, but we take it for granted that we'll never be in danger entering a stadium.

That assumption didn't hold true in the past for so many people though; so, the next time you get into a sports-related argument, take a step back and a deep breath, and remember that it's only a game we're all so lucky to be able to enjoy.

I appreciate this has been a fairly morbid trip down memory lane, but the Bradford book led my mind down that path. On a brighter note, I came across two magazines recently which are like manna from heaven if, like me, you enjoy reflecting on times past and the many teams, games and players long since forgotten.

The first is 'Backpass', labelled as 'the retro football magazine', which has actually being incorporated into a new publication called 'Extra Time' since I purchased the Christmas/New Year edition.

Soccer fans will find this very interesting, while to the G.A.A. brethren I would recommend you look at 'Cornerback', a magazine just two editions old which appears to have used the original 'Backpass' as a template and concentrates on hurling and Gaelic football in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

It's good to have our memories; but the present isn't too bad either and let's hope the future will be even better!

Wexford People

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