Sunday, October 26, 2014

Soul time

Fulham away or a film? Granted, not the sort of choice many of us have to make but when entering the last week of the month and the pay-packet has all but dwindled away a man needs to prioritize his disposable folding in a manner most beneficial to him. And this was no ordinary film.

So I forwent a drinking blitz in Putney and a stroll through the park to Craven Cottage, settling instead for live coverage of the match on 'the home of football', the bloody awful Sky television. A London derby, television cameras, it wasn't as if I was going to miss something magical. My feet were planted firmly on the floor.

Those that did venture west on Friday night were certainly in full voice and enjoyed the evening far more than the 3-0 scoreline would suggest. At home one could here nothing but the Charlton following singing from the first to the last minute, they threw down the gauntlet to the team showing far more soul than the players during the first forty five minutes. Thankfully the team accepted the challenge and were for the second period the more threatening side.

With Igor Vetokele still out we just didn't look like capitalizing on all this pressure, attack after attack just seemed devoid of direction and other than Lawrie Wilson's effort against the post, a rather fragile Fulham defence got away scot free. There were plenty of positives, Karlan Ahearne-Grant came on with a quarter of the match left and attacked, chased, and ran at everything and everyone showing confidence that belittled his seventeen years. Johnnie Jackson, emulating Stuart Balmer with a head bandage, skippered the side from the front and was in the thick of just about everything while Jordan Cousins enjoyed his chance to play a more central role in place of the suspended Buyens.

Another youngster, Morgan Fox, had moments of pure brilliance briefly mixed in with more wayward passes than I witness when watching Combined Counties League football. I'm still undecided which is the more atrocious, the passing, that dreadful orange kit, or having to witness Scott Parker basking in victory.

The scoreline wasn't a true representation of the game as a whole but was a true representation of clinical unselfish finishing. Fulham's first touch passing at the start was delightful, in contrast we kept getting bogged down with the ball, and no amount of booing was going to stop Parker running the show and displaying what a wonderful footballer (if not person) we developed.

That was Friday, Saturday night I still had my weekend spending money in my pocket and was going to, to.......the pictures? But this, again I say it, was no ordinary film. This was Northern Soul and I'd been waiting a long time to watch it.

A small British independent film, the release had been delayed for months before finally hitting the big screen a week ago, yet major cinema corporations had turned their noses up at it even if Steve Coogan and Ricky Tomlinson had both been recruited for small cameo parts in an effort to raise it's prominence.

Had I wanted to watch it during it's first week I'd have had to travel to Victoria, by waiting it came to Horsham, still the only place between London and Brighton showing it and even this was in a small cinema screen on the side of the theatre.

The time had come though, I had arranged a pre-film pint with a Crystal Palace supporting fellow scooter rider that I knew through work, Northern Soul doing again what it had done the first time around - breaking down barriers!

I'm no film critic, believe me I just manage to survive muddling through writing about football, but this was all it promised and more. Set obviously in a northern town during the early seventies at a time of general gloom, it dealt with issues such as bullying, racism and general hatred and distrust of the system by bonding the young people of this and surrounding towns with unknown soul music from across the Atlantic.

The film was a very close representation of the time, the clothes, the school, the attitude, the murkiness, but also surprised me with one or two things I wasn't aware of. I knew about the amphetamines (how else could you dance all night long?) but wasn't aware of the needle epidemic being around then, I always presumed that came later.

The storyline mirrored the gloominess of the surroundings with a darker undercurrent and moments of true sadness, yet at the heart of it all was some great dancing and even better soul music (about forty different tunes). I may have been shocked when it opened up to the hippie sounds of Melanie singing but that was soon blown away when the first soul record was spun in the local youth club.

It's already available to buy on DVD, ask for a copy for Christmas if you can wait that long, it was well worth missing a football match for. Northern Soul wasn't just breaking down the walls of heartache, it was breaking down the walls of bigotry, fascism, boredom and depression. Quite monumental when you think about it.

All quite fitting really when you realise that Fulham used their fixture against us on Friday night as their 'Season of Action' game to promote Kick it Out, an organization combating racism and discrimination in football. I shouldn't think playing Northern Soul would be a good idea at the Cottage though, I can't imagine that stand at the Putney end is strong enough survive the dancing!

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