Sunday, April 27, 2008

How the mighty are fallen

I didn't go to see Swinton win at Workington today. My bad back and even worse leg have limited my Rugby League habit to one error-strewn game against London Skolars since Easter, watched on a raw afternoon in intense discomfort. At least it was a win and the new shirts made an appearance a couple of months late after being held up in customs (I don't seem to recall this happening much in the Premiership). It is modelled on the kit worn in 1928 when Swinton, then one of the greats, won all the trophies available to them.

This 80th anniversary season means that a club that has fallen on hard times can remember, reclaim its position in the history of the game, dream and continue to rebuild.

It also made me think that this is the 83rd anniversary of the second of my father's two FA Amateur Cup wins, playing for Clapton, a club that still plays at its Old Spotted Dog Ground in East London (I hasten to add that I was a late child). I still have his medals, though they are now in the bank as a precaution after a burglar narrowly missed them. They are not engraved, he never bothered to take them back to have his name put on.

In the 1920's Clapton was at the top of an amateur game that could rival the professionals and Swinton were giants in rugby league. The heavy commercialisation of sport these days obscures its deep roots and only celebrates the wealthy. It is good to look back and reflect on what was, and, unless the powerful vested interests at the top prevent it, might one day be again.

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