Keir gets in a Saint George's Day mix-up


Philosophy Football's Mark Perryman worries Keir Starmer doesn't know his England from his Britain

Keir Starmer has taken it upon himself to celebrate Saint George's Day by urging all Labour General Election candidates 'with enthusiasm.' Perhaps if Keir feels the need to 'urge' the enthusiasm of celebrating he's missing the point of celebrating Saint George. 

I don't need any such instruction thank you very much. Every England home game I'm with a bunch of friends at Wembley on the morning of matchday laying out thousands of cards to form a huge fans' Saint George Cross flag. And every Euro or World Cup summer I'll be bedecked in a Saint George Cross somewhere about by person. And no, I don't need reminding 23rd April is Saint George's Day either. 

Keir has backed up all this instructing by 
writing ahead of Saint George's Day for the Sunday Telegraph on his theme ' I have no time for those who flinch at our flag.' Well it might help if Keir could get the flag right. Throughout the piece he lists off a nation's achievements to celebrate: the home front sacrifice of 1939-45, working-class students able to go to university, creating the NHS. Magnificent  achievements to be proud of as a nation, Britain, not England alone. It is the classic yet crucial slippage, England used to represent not itself but three other nations, Scotland, Wales and the North of Ireland too.

A pedant, me? 

Well first off get yourself to Scotland and ask any passing Scot what they feel about England being used to represent them. Good luck with that. 

And on the way back south of the border ask yourself how it feels to be in an England that is denied all manner of identifications that Scotland enjoys.

Keir's Labour party membership cards in Scotland carry the Saltire, in Wales the Welsh flag. Labour membership cards in England? The Union Jack. No wonder Keir is confused.

In Scotland and Wales Labour has its own Scottish and Welsh Labour parties, their own conference, their own leadership. In England, no such English Labour Party. And no sign in his article Keir is in favour of one.  

Unlike Scotland and Wales England doesn't have a National Anthem to call our own, instead God Save the King, anthem of the United Kingdom.  I know Keir is in favour of 'fiscal discipline' but here's a change that doesn't cost a penny.


Jeremy Corbyn added some substance to his very similar calls for what some Labour types label 'progressive patriotism.' Saint Andrew's, David's,  George's and Patrick's days public holidays for the Scots, Welsh, English and Northern Irish. With a General Election in the offing what a trick to be missed, who's ever going to vote against an extra day off work?!  

And since 1999 Scotland and Wales have a parliament, an assembly to call their own. Nothing of the sort for England, we should have, and anywhere but London too. 

Most people are deeply cynical of politicians. A performative politics of this sort, adopting a position for the instant-gratification of changing the image of a party, or leader, but with no practical outcomes to effect change. All good reasons for such cynicism. A politics riddled with contradictions, that actually reproduces the problem at hand but with sufficient spin to fleetingly impress regardless. What good is that?  


Keir, by the time of the next Saint George's Day not much doubt you'll be Prime Minster. No longer simply writing articles but in office, to make change. So when you fly Saint George on the 23rd April outside Number Ten just don't forget there's a nation it belongs to. 


Mark Perryman's book Breaking up Britain: Four Nations after a Union is  available from here

St George's Day Special Offer 20% off all Philosophy Football Saint Georges Day T-shirts quote coupon StGeorgePFN  here   

What's there to get hot under the England collar about?


Philosophy Football's Mark Perryman gets to grips with Nike v St George 

"This virtue signalling, namby-pamby, pearl-clutching, woke nonsense must stop now. Any more and I'll be on the first flight to Rwanda." Lee Anderson MP 

Wembley Stadium, early morning last Saturday with a bunch of friends I spent four hours laying out 7000 cards that just before kick-off for England v Brazil were held up by fans to form a huge St George Cross. 

I've been doing the same for the past 26 years. So do I have a view on 'shirt-gate'. Yes, just a bit.

'Raise the Flag' started in 1998 after I went to Rome for Italy v England, a vital World Cup qualifier. A night of mayhem, Italian fans chucking everything they had at us, the Italian riot police wading in to England's end with their batons flying, not caring who they hit, and after the game (the best 0-0 I've ever seen, England had qualified for World Cup '98) we're all kept back for 2 hours with the lights off.

However just before kick off the Italian fans had held up cards to form the Italian flag. It was a magnificent sight. Which left me thinking why don't we do something like that for England? It took six months to persuade the FA but for the last home friendly before France '98 with Philosophy Football co-founder Hugh Tisdale adapting the ingenious Italian's 'mosaic' method to Wembley and thousands of England fans holding up red and white cards to form a huge St Grorge Cross Flag we finally did it. And ever since. 

For me and Hugh 'Raise the Flag' has become a small business organising stadium crowd effects, mainly for football, some rugby, London 2012, the late Queen, Take That and Bruce Springsteen. But for England games we do the effect on a not-for-profit basis because it all began with us being England fans. 

And for all those countless fans' St George Cross flags we've created not once have we seen the need to add a line of navy blue, indigo, purple, scarlet or brown. It's our flag so why mess with it?

But then no flag has ever been created by a fashion company. 

Long ago Nike gave up being an outfit producing kit for serious sportsmen and sportswomen. That's an historic side-line, for Nike their big business today is as a fashion brand. Whether its trainers or England shirts what they're selling is fashion not something to actually play sport in. And with a football shirt design for entirely commercial reasons only lasting a maximum of two years this necessitates a new look to make a basic kit colour, a white shirt in England's case, different. Hence the multicoloured flag, and nothing to get too hot under the collar about (sic).

Rather more irksome is why change the kit every two years at all? To make money of course, and at an almighty £125 for the match replica version, £85 to be worn in the stands. That's for something that is basically a bri-nylon T-shirt, with a sell-by date of two years hence. And unless England win the World Cup wearing it, 58 years and counting, never likely to be worn again. So of course a touch of colour to the flag to make the 2024 edition of this vastly overpriced short life item is what is required to make it a tad different because this kind of thing is what the entire replica shirt business is based on. 

Me, I prefer the sheer simplicity of the flag. The ways fans make it our own. Nobody forces us to hold up those cards to 'Raise the Flag' we do it because we want to, it means something to us. But best of all how fans 'deface' the flag, adding our club name and badge, pub, family and mates' names to make it truly ours. 

A bri-nylon, overpriced and short shelflife England shirt? Despite following England to four World Cups, four Euros and countless away trips I've never seen the need to purchase one. Preferring (obligatory product placement) a tournament T-shirt instead from... Philosophy Football.

 And as for those manufacturing all this confected rage. 

Nigel Farage, Barbour jacket and corduroy trousers never ever, seen him in an England shirt, have you? 

Rent-a-gob Lee Anderson, the man who boycotted England's first time since 1966 in a Tournament Final, Euro 2021, because they're now a team of the 'woke' aka they take the knee as an act of solidarity with all, including team mates, who face racist abuse or worse.

Keir Starrmer so eager to please he tells the Sun he's against the St George Cross being tampered with. This from a leader who cares so much about the St George flag he authorised Labour Party membership cards in Scotland with the Scottish Saltire on them, fine; in Wales with the Welsh Flag on them, good; but in England no St George Cross on Labour membership cards. Opportunism and hypocrisy doesn't even begin to describe this Sir Keir. 

It's our flag.

It's not a fashion item. 

It's not a battleground for politicians' soundbites.

And we're perfectly capable of making what we will with it ourselves. No thankyou very much.


Philosophy Football's Lee Anderson St George Cross T-shirt is available from here








Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled 'sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction'  aka Philosophy Football

Lee Anderson St George Cross image by Hugh Tisdale after Nike. 




The Enemy Within


Philosophy Football's Mark Perryman digs deep to find for the 40th anniversary
of the start of the 1984-85 Miners Strike an enduring significance


Amidst the 1984-85 Miners strike eruption activist-sociologist Huw Benyon 
edited a collection of reports and analyses Digging Deeper. From the coalfields’ 
frontline his introduction captured the mood of living through this significant 
time perfectly:

“The miners’ strike of 1984-85 is a landmark in the political and economic 
development of post-war Britain. In the breadth of the issues involved, and in 
the drama of its action, it stands out – even to the casual observer – as a 
major social and political event. In its compass it is quite staggering. Initiated 
by a threat to cut capacity and jobs in the coal industry it is the first major 
strike of any duration to be fought over the question of employment. Viewed 
in the context of the near calamitous decline of jobs in manufacturing industry, 
and the sharp rise in unemployment, the strike stands like a beacon. In the 
sincerity of the people involved – women and men – as they talk about the 
threat to mining villages, to ‘whole communities’ and to the futures of their 
children, the strike evokes a deeply human response. Since March 1984 this 
response has been forthcoming from supporters, in groups and as individuals, 
throughout Britain and Europe. The yellow stickers of the NUM, 'Dig Deep for 
the Miners' and 'Coal not Dole', have spread far beyond the coalfields.”

But the sad fact is the 1984-85 strike proved a landmark in all the wrong ways. 
A major social and political defeat, for a trade union, for whole communities, 
for an entire body of ideas of what class and solidarity means. A landmark 
defeat and one we are still living with the consequences of four decades on. 

Does this decry what was achieved in those 12 months? No not a bit of it, but 
only if what made this strike such a special event is properly understood. The 
spectacular revival of support and solidarity as a key element of Labour's, and 
well beyond, organisational culture. 

Doreen Massey and Hilary Wainwright's chapter in Digging Deeperargued a 
key part of this revival were the Miners Support Groups. They located this
geographically, in the ‘big cities’ that shared a socio-economic situation and 
commonality of culture accelerated by the impact of Thatcherism.

“A great mix of industries, including services, and a variety of jobs. Many of 
those in work are on low pay, in casual occupations, working in small firms, 
and in many areas levels of unionisation are low.”

And what this in part produced as a city’s population was significant too.

“An enormously diverse population: in many cities ethnic minorities, gay and 
lesbian communities, women’s groups and ‘alternative’ networks of many 
kinds form an important element. The trade union movement is also different 
from that in the coalfields. Here its very industrial variety has been the basis 
for a tradition of local links and networks. Public sector and white-collar unions 
are specially important.”   

And they were quite clear that this difference had strengthened rather than 
weakened the support for what they called in contrast ‘Coalfield Labourism’:

“It is often anarchistic, socially adventurous, with a commitment to politics 
outside the workplace as well as within.”

In London, Merseyside, Southampton, Cardiff, Manchester,York, Glasgow, 
Edinburgh, basically everywhere, something stirred in the course of twelve 
months. Nor was this limited  solely to these ‘big cities’ it stretched also to the 
kind of places where  hitherto the main  opposition to the Tories, or 
'Thatcherland’ as they dubbed this huge swathe of England, wasn’t Labour but 
the SDP-Liberal Alliance. Cambridge, St Albans, Milton Keynes and Somerset 
for starters.  

What was it that caused this surge that had been so absent in Labour’s General 
Election campaign of ’83? Resonance, a common cause, finding allies, the 
forms of organisation adopted, local initiatives as part of a loose yet national 
response, the practical focus of collecting food, the emotional impact of 
delivering that food, the many ways all of this created what Doreen and Hilary 
rather neatly named a politics of 'preaching to the unconverted'..

Perhaps understandably caught up in the moment they concluded with what 
proved to be more than a degree or two of over-confidence in what would 

“Labour movement politics will never be the same again.”  

The past 40 years have proved, over and over again, how difficult a process  
achieving change on the scale, they optimistically imagined had already 
happened, actually is. But their conclusion helps us understand why it still 
remains worth trying. 

“It is not a question of either industrial action or the new social movements, 
nor is it one of just adding the two together. What is important is a recognition 
of a mutual dependence and a new openness to influence, of the one upon the 

True then, true today and that is what made it worth being an 'Enemy Within' 
then and now.


The Philosophy Football 40th anniversary Enemy Within T-shirt is available from here




 Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled 'sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction' aka Philosophy Football  



Don't Tell Him, Pike!


Mark Perryman argues Dad's Army was the most popular Popular front of all

U-Boat Captain  Your name will go on the list! Vot is it?  

Mainwaring Don't tell him, Pike!

It's nigh on impossible to read those words and not summon up a smile. A smile of remembrance too with this week the last surviving member of the Dad's Army cast, Ian Lavender, aka Private Pike, passing away.   

The very first appearance of Private Pike and the rest of the Walmington-on-Sea volunteers featured Lance Corporal Jones the butcher sabotaging any threat of a Nazi invasion by reversing the road signs ‘To the town’ and ‘To the sea’. The result was obvious, a local motorcyclist stops, takes now the wrong turning and off camera there is a loud splash. A comedy classic has begun. It is easy to mock but a decisive connection is made via Dad’s Army with the Popular Front against Nazism which is ever-present amongst all the English slapstick humour. The Bank Manager, his hard-pressed Chief Cashier and the most junior of junior cashiers, the butcher, the miserabilist undertaker who is an English coastline economic migrant from Scotland, the pensioner, the local ducker and diver, the vicar, the verger and their precious Church Hall, the busybody greengrocer. What brought them all together? The defence of Britain and all it meant to them from all that they feared Nazi rule would do in the name of hate.  Only a few years previously Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists were being cheered on by the Daily Mail ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. Despite the best efforts of the stalwarts of Cable Street even in the autumn of 1939 after the declaration of war Mosley was still able to attract crowds to his ‘peace rallies’ numbering in their thousands. The mood of appeasement remained ever-present spearheaded by the Tories’ Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax.  The middle-class, and very English, pomposity of Captain Mainwaring of 1940 is too easily confused with the nasty populism of Farage and his like but this is to seriously misunderstand and misrepresent what Walmington-on-Sea’s finest were all about. 

These were ordinary men (women, apart from Mrs Pike and Mrs Fox are almost entirely absent) doing extraordinary things and in the course of this reinventing what Britain could become.  The selfless sacrifice of Mainwaring’s volunteers in the face of a Nazi Blitzkrieg that to date had laid waste to all resistance in its path is remarkable. In 1941 Hitler would launch Operation Barbarossa and do the same to any resistance in his way on the Eastern Front, until Stalingrad started the turning of the tide of course. The sacrifice is obvious in every episode, the heroism perhaps less so, although when a washed-up U-Boat Commander tries to take over their seaside town Mainwaring’s epic instruction when the Nazi demand his young private’s name ‘Don’t tell him, Pike’ creates perhaps the show’s funniest moment of all. Never mind, the fierce and heroic resistance is obvious in Mainwaring’s voice and puffed-up chest, no fascist was going to push old blighty around. 

Of course class divisions remain within the platoon, as they did right across the war effort. Although it is the public-school educated Sergeant Wilson who invariably loses out in the battle of will and leadership with the grammar-school educated Captain Mainwaring. It is however on the ideological front that in the fictionalised Walmington-on-Sea and the real Britain of 1939-45 that a battle was being fought, and won. A popular mood of co-operation, the common anti-fascist cause and a wide recognition that a society led by and benefitting solely those most used to being in charge was no way to win either the war, or the peace. All of this created the basis for Labour’s 1945 landslide including the election of two Communist Party MPs, and the electoral defeat of Churchill’s Tory Party. We’ll never know whether the Walmington-on-Sea constituency went Labour, countless similar seats certainly did, but we can be sure that for at least a time the town wasn’t the place it was pre-1939. 

There is a danger that in dismissing the cult of nostalgia that Dad’s Army represented, then and now, that we also lose the meaning of the 1940 moment. How Mainwaring, Wilson, Jones, Frazer, Godfrey Pike and Walker in their own way were the most popular Popular Front of them all. 

But a near-constant harking back to World War Two has created a peculiar version of English patriotism. The politics of anti-fascism are airbrushed out. The Labour victory in ‘45 despite Churchill’s wartime leadership scarcely mentioned. The Battle of Britain reduced to a football chant ‘Ten German Bombers and the RAF from England shot them down’ what kind of tribute borne out of ignorance is that? The RAF was never 'from England' and in this most heroic of its battles alongside Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish, pilots and aircrew from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Aussies, Canadians, South Africans and more. 

Thus World War Two memorialising has become translated into a petty anti-Europeanism framed by a resentment at France or most particularly Germany but not Britain being the dominant forces in European politics. Dad’s Army gives us an alternative model. Unlike that other long-running BBC comedy set in World War Two Allo Allo the Germans rarely make an appearance and thus their hateful fascism is never trivialised or turned into a misjudged excuse for a laugh. Mainwaring’s platoon are hopelessly funny but never a joke. The opening credits spelt out what was at stake in 1940, Britain versus the swastika making its mark across Europe.  This was an anti-nazi war not England vs Germany of ’66 vintage and since. 

Dad’s Army was broadcast for 9 years, 1968-1977. Its ending pre-dates the rise and triumph of Thatcherism. It was under Thatcher that Europhobia, or more accurately Germanophobia, came to define the Tory Right and would eventually create the basis for UKIP’s growth too. Given Farage's heartland support lies in England’s left behind coastal towns, he's considering standing in Clacton apparently, it is too easy to rewrite Walmington-on-Sea’s Mainwaring as Thatcher, or Farage, incarnate. But no, rather this was a platoon of community, common cause and if called-upon no little courage. 'Don't tell him, Pike!' Hilariously funny but words too of resistance against the Nazis. You have been watching? The people vs fascism.


Philosophy Football's Don't Tell Him, Pike! T-shirt is available from here







Mark Perryman is the co-founder of  Philosophy Football Don't tell him, Pike design Hugh Tisdale co-founder Philosophy Football





Lenin, Levi's and Subvertising a Centenary


Philosophy Football's Mark Perryman offers his blue jeans vs red October dialectic(ish)

In terms of a twentieth century victory and defeat the 1917 Russian Revolution is pretty much epic. Alongside the rise and eventual fall of Nazi Germany it shaped a century that the historian Eric Hobsbawm described as the "age of extremes". This was a totalising politics that for a lot longer than just ten days shook the world. Lenin’s What is to be Done? is a question not a catechism, but to deny the capacity of 1917 and all that to inspire a movement for change, on a global scale, of unprecedented size and impact. Well, if that’s not ahistorical I don’t know what is. 

In 1984, ten years prior to founding Philosophy Football me and Hugh Tisdale quite independently, we didn't know each other back then, visited the exhibition Art into Production. This showcased Soviet textiles, fashion and ceramics in that all too brief period, 1917-1935 before Stalin, and Stalinism, bastardised the entire meaning of the Russian Revolution to horrific ends. The vivid colours, the use of plates and clothing, the imagination, joyfulness and pleasure of producing, wearing, using these objects of socialist desire was quite unlike anything either of us had seen before. And tucked away in the exhibition catalogue a rationale was provided for this particular version of a brave new world.

The Young Communists of 1928 had asked themselves not ‘what is to be done?’ But 'What do we want from a plate?’ Blimey, this was a cultural politics of practical production I was entirely unused to. “We want it to be right for its purpose, that is for serving food, we want it to be of good quality and style. These are the first requirements of an ordinary china plate.” Forward to the potteries comrades! But of course, they also recognised that churning out cheaper, better dinner plates than whatever Russia’s early twentieth century equivalent of John Lewis might be wasn’t enough, not nearly enough. 

Rather they implored that these plates have “a cultural, educational and organising influence.” Now correct me if I’m wrong but I’ve scoured the John Lewis tableware range and I can’t find a single product offering any such influence. In contrast out of history I'd come across an unfamiliar example of revolutionary promise proffered, something that could never be entirely commodified, a meaning and purpose compromised out of all meaning and purpose.  

The Young Communists’ manifesto for plates, cups n’ saucers too, explained the contrast to what they characterised as ‘non-resistance’:

“In this ‘parade’ of objects there are no non-combatants – nor can there be! Plates and cups, things we see daily, several times a day, which can do their bit for the organising of our consciousness – these occupy an important place.” 

For the 1917 Russian Revolution centenary, to do our bit for the organising of consciousness we reproduced a number of these original plate designs. We promptly sold out, I'm not sure how much consciousness we organised mind. 

Now for the centenary of Lenin's death, 21 January 1924, we've turned Lenin into the ultimate symbol of capitalism vs communism, Levi's jeans. Really? Those of a certain age, and politics, will well remember that for generation after generation of dissenting Soviet youth their badge of rebellion was a pair of Levi's jeans somehow smuggled into the country. 

During this period, again for those of a certain age and politics, arguments would rage. Was the Soviet Union 'actually existing socialism' or 'state capitalist' or a 'degenerate workers state' Never mind, in 2024 any such arguments are pretty much settled. The USSR neither no longer actually existing nor is today's Russia socialist, never mind the state bit its capitalist through and through, and degenerate too. 

And those jeans as a sign of rebellion? Absolutely everywhere, alongside those three universal symbols of any modern consumer society. The Nike swoosh, the McDonald's golden arches, and that brown sticky liquid which rots our teeth and makes us fat. Putin in charge and the oligarchs raking it in, not to mention the war with Ukraine few would argue the now global reach of capitalism is entirely for the betterment of all.

So, what of Lenin 100 years on? Lenin's death followed by Stalin didn't end well, and that's putting it mildly. The free-flowing imagination and creativity of those beautiful plates and cups replaced by the strictly instrumental and narrowly formulaic of socialist realist art. A one-party state, show trials, purges and Gulags. The Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. Soviet tanks crushing the Hungarian revolt in 1956, and then again crushing the Prague Spring of 1968.

And in 1991 the defeat of Gorbachev's reform communism to be replaced first by Yeltsin, then Putin. It's a sorry tale of bloodied disappointment with not much at all, if anything, to celebrate. 

But perhaps those young communists with their cups and plates were on to something, bright and beautiful, original and inspirational, full of hope. Who are we with a world teetering on the verge of envirionmental breakdown to dismiss all that? Hope that across Britain in the1930s inspired hunger marches against unemployment. Hope that mobilised London's East End to stop Mosley's blackshirted fascists at Cable Street. Hope that inspired thousands from across Europe, the USA and Canada to sign up for the International Brigades and travel to Spain in defence of the Republic against the fascist Franco. And after Stalingrad the hope across the entire world that the Red Army could defeat Hitler, which they did. 

Hopes, each in their different ways, disappointed, but they existed for a reason, a good reason. In the old-fashioned language of Marxism, a dialectic, or in other words high hopes vs crushing disappointment, they're inter-related. Thus, our Levi's Lenin centenary design subvertising Communism vs Capitalism is a dialectic too. We think Vladmir Ilyich would approve. 


 The Centenary Lenin Levi's T-shirt is both strictly unofficial and exclusively available from Philosophy Football here         



Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled 'sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction' akaPhilosophy Football




Twelve (reading) Days of Christmas


Philosophy Football's Mark Perryman provides an idiosyncratic diet of books for the seasonal break and into 2024 

Christmas, a time of giving, receiving, and treating ourselves. For those of us who like nothing more than to curl up with a good book to provoke our thoughts, and actions, of how to change the world, what better opportunity to find the time for such a read.  That's if all the eating hasn't sapped our will to do much changing of anything. Never mind, there's always the New Year for that. 

Here's my top twelve day's worth of reads to get us agitated, in a good way, over the Christmas period. 

1. Andrew Simms and Leo Murray Badvertising: Polluting our Minds and Fuelling Climate Chaos








With his previous book Tescopoly Andrew Simms helped establish a connectivity between  the hours, often involuntarily, we spend each week shopping  and a politics that is both rooted in the everyday and transformational. With the ever-increasing imperative of the climate emergency Andrew's new book, co-authored with Leo Murray, extends that connectivity to the daily bombardment we all have to endure from advertisers promoting the goods that contribute towards this emergency: in particular, fossil fuels, cars, budget airlines, meat.  As we struggle under the strain of Christmastime consumerism an inspirational read of resistance.  

Available from Pluto books here

2. Benjamin Kunkel and Lola Seaton (Eds) Who Will Build the Ark? Debates on Climate Strategy from New Left Review 








1956 and the Communist Left was reeling from the fallout following the Soviet invasion to crush the Hungarian democratic revolution. Communist families, former comrades, over Christmas dinner hammers and sickles drawn. In those days the Communist Party of Great Britain could count on some 40,000 members. Repulsed by the sight of Red Army tanks on the streets of Budapest over 10,000 resigned, many of whom forrmed the basis  of the New Left. The 'new' has taken a variety of forms since, with today a new generation, not only themseves but their parents too not yet born in 1956, carrying forward the tradition. This latest New Left Review collection is testament to both its legacy and currency, most especially Lola Seaton's superb essay 'Green Questions'.

Available from Verso Books here

3. Marios Mantzos The Social One: Why Jürgen Klopp was a Perfect Fit for Liverpool









Who will be top of the Premiership once the seasonal squeeze of games from Boxing Day to New Year's Day have been completed? With Chelsea struggling, Man Utd not doing much better while Spurs and Newcastle flirt with inconsistency the field of serious contenders is already narrowing. Villa this season's surprise package, City losing points that previously they'd almost taken for granted, and Arsenal repeating last season's excellent form. All three will surely be in the mix come the final whistle on 1st January. But for most neutrals, well apart from any with residual Evertonian sympathies obviously, if it can't be our own club, we'll favour Liverpool to be top. Not since Bill Shankly has there been a Liverpool, or indeed any club's, manager to attract such near universal approval and affection. The inspired title The Social One says it all, and the case author Marios Mantzos makes more than backs it up. 

Available from Pitch Publishing here

4.  Jack Monroe Thrifty Kitchen







Christmas is a time of over-indulgence at the dining-room table. For a tasty antidote look no further than Jack Monroe, former firefighter, author of best-selling recipe books, campaigner against food poverty. Its' a near unique combination in the over-crowded world of 'celebrity chefs'.  Meals that save us money, delicious into the bargain, with a constant  reminder that food poverty is a phenomenon entirely man-made and should have no place in any society that dares to call itself 'civilised'. At 120 recipes, a bumper collection to feed both body and mind. 

Available from Pan Macmillan here

5. Gary Younge Dispatches from the Diaspora : From Nelson Mandela to Black Lives Matter








25th December, no newspapers, for news and opinion junkies of a pre-digital disposition an absolute nightmare. But for many Guardian readers our daily paper not such a daily must-read it once was. Steve Bell excluded earlier this year, Gary Younge left as the 2020s began. For many their combined sharpness of comment and acuteness of opinion is a big absence. Steve's cartoons live on featured as Philosophy Football mugs, tea towels, tees and prints. Gary's writing still pops up on occasion in the paper but a real feast of it is provided by this collection ranging far and wide, to remind ourselves of how much we miss his weekly column.

Available from Faber & Faber here

6. Lynne Segal Lean on Me: A Politics of Radical Care








Twelve days, for those with young children, elderly relatives, or both, days of care. Yet the crisis of care is writ large across our entire society, the entire year-round, from cradle to an early grave.  Lynne Segal, co-author of the classic text Beyond the Fragments : Feminism and the Making of Socialism  makes the case for a society that sees care and caring, as a foundational value. This requires both institutions we can rely upon but also a way in which we live our lives. The personal, as the complement of, not the alternative to, the political. 

Available from Verso books here

7. Daniel Rachel Too Much Too Young : The 2 Tone Records Story








The Specials can count two number ones, Too Much Too Young and Ghost Town but neither topped the charts to grab that much cherished title 'Christmas Number One.'  Fellow ska band, Madness came closest, Christmas 1981, It Must Be Love reaches number five. Number One? The Human League's Don't You Want Me.  Author Daniel Rachel has become highly skilled at compiling popular oral histories of musical moments and movements. Previously with Walls Come Tumbling Down he brilliantly chronicled what was for me a formative period of the fusion, music and politics: Rock against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge. And now he brilliantly revisits the middle part of that trilogy, 2 Tone in glorious detail. Read, remember, enjoy, then stick some ska on the Christmas household soundtrack.   

Available from White Rabbit here

8. Henry Bell & Joey Simons (Eds) Now's The Day, Now's The Hour : Poems for John Maclean  








For those north of the border Christmas is simply a staging post before getting down to the serious partying of Hogmanay closely followed by Burns Night. Anyone not yet convinced Scotland and England are two independent nations, the long overdue recognition of such required so we can get on with co-existing as neighbours on one small island, a visit to Scotland on 31st December or 25th January will be more than suffice to persuade. John Maclean remains a towering figure of the Scottish Left, deeply committed to both the internationalism of the 1917 Revolution and Scotland's own particular road to revolution. To mark the centenary of his death, or more accurately his murder by the British state, this collection of poems will lift spirits, Scottish and English,high. 

Available from Tapsalteerie here   

And for those unfamiliar with John Maclean, check out co-editor Henry Bell's John Maclean biography too. From Pluto Books  here

9. Nic Watts and Sakina Karimjee Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History








A time of 'peace and goodwill'. Not much evidence of the former in Israel and Palestine, nor the latter for those trapped by the cost of living crisis. But there's always hope, however even that's not enough without the ideas, principles and movements to turn that into change. Christmas 1823, who would have ever imagined back then that the scourge of empire and slavery would ever come to an end? But it largely has. Nic Watts and Sakina Karimjee's brilliant graphic novelisation of CLR James own stage adaptation of his book The Black Jacobins will both inspire and convince that, whatever the circumstances, change is possible.

Available from Verso Books here

10. Naomi Klein Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World 








Ghosts of Christmas, past, present and future. A classic Christmas tale, but for materialists who scoff at the supernatural nothing to do with the real world, surely? When Naomi Klein found herself ghosted by a real-life 'doppelganger' same first name, Naomi, and as a fellow campaigning feminist, she assumed Naomi Wolf had similar politics, at first she thought nothing of it. Prominent political women are quite used, if not more than a bit frustrated by, to being confused with other women. But then the 'other Naomi descends into conspiracism, and threatens to drag Naomi Klein, via association, down with her. Not quite the book we might expect from the author of No Logo and Shock Doctrine yet the surprise is richly rewarded with a narrative that is part-thriller and part-investigation, a combination in Naomi (Klein's!) hands that doesn't disappoint. 

Available from Penguin here

11. David Horspool More than a Game: A History of How Sport Made Britain








Next Christmas, 2024, it will be 30 years since the very first Philosophy Football T-shirt. Name and number on the back, quote on the front, 'All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football'. Albert Camus, and obligatory product placement, still proudly available.  Well, with that as our founding philosophy how could we possibly resist David Horspool's More than a Game?  A thoughtfully constructed narrative combines chapter by-chapter accounts of individual sports and the broader theme each serve to highlight. An account that Camus would have enthusiastically endorsed, and in his absence Albert's kit provider Philosophy Football certainly does!  

Available from John Murray here

12. Verso 2024 Radical Diary & Weekly Planner








And then before we know it the twelfth day cometh and 2024 proper begins.  A year of almost certainly a General Election, and equally almost certainly the end of 14 years of Tory governments (second obligatory product placement, yes in anticipation - no refunds available -  we have the Steve Bell mug to mark 14 years of Tory 'progress' here). Though whether Labour can deliver the change on the scale required remains depressingly unclear.The year also begins with two centenaries, 100 years since the death of Lenin and the descent into Stalinism, 100 years since the first Labour Government and the descent into Ramsay Macdonald's 'National Labour' and a Lab-Con pact. There's the 40th anniversary of the 1984-85 Miners strike too and of Orwell's fateful '1984'  While the sport to look forward to includes Euro 2024 and the Paris Olympics. All will be marked by Philosophy Football T-shirts, ('1984' and Euro 2024 are already out and available). Well what else do we need for the start of the New Year? A diary of course! For those not entirely digitalised, Verso's Radical Diary is an annual must have of effortlessly stylish design, packed with monthly and weekly reminders of struggles past with plenty of space to write in the daily details of struggles present, nearest and dearests' birthdays, home and away fixtures, meetings, General Election canvassing days, whatever and whenever 2024 holds. 

Available from Verso Books here


Note No links in this review are to tax dodging selling sites owned by multi-billionaires. If purchasing from suchlike can be avoided,please do. Best of all buy from a local, independent,bookshop.

Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled 'sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction' akaPhilosophy Football

Peace isn't a four-letter word


Philosophy Football's Mark Perryman argues the horrors of Hamas and the demolition of Gaza demand peace and justice for both Palestine and Israel 


' Peace' is a word, particularly at Christmastime, that has a near universal appeal. Yet as Israel continues to reel from the bloody horrors committed by Hamas on 7 October and Palestine struggles to survive the  reduction of Gaza to a sea of rubble and the murderous attacks launched from the West Bank illegal settlements it is a word almost entirely absent from every discourse around this seemingly never-ending conflict.

For some, on both sides, there is only ever going to be a military solution There won't be. 

Others, on both sides, favour a diplomatic solution that stops the fighting but fails to address the causes. That won't work either. 

I don't always agree with Jonathan Freedland's column in a Saturday Guardian but they always make me think. Generally I find I learn more from someone I disagree with on abc but find myself in agreement on xyz than from those I entirely agree with on everything.     

Jonathan's column on 14 October seven days after the horrors committed by was absolute testament to this maxim of mine. 

In all the hundreds of thousands, millions of words written on Hamas and Gaza since there were ten words in his piece that sum up the context of this entire nightmare up better than anything.

'After the Pogrom’ the 19th century pogroms across eastern Europe, the Jewish refugees to western Europe, Cable Street, Jews and Socialists, Communists, Irish immigrants stopping Mosley, together, the Holocaust, on 7 October descendants from the latter murdered by Hamas

'The Angel of Death' the IDF from land, sea and air reducing Gaza to a sea of rubble, hospitals. schools, houses destroyed. The attacks in Southern Gaza a supposed ’safe haven’. A war crime  

'Licks his lips' Hamas and Netanyahu. None of this will stop either of them. 

Ten words, that explain precisely why neither the Hamas terror attack nor the 4000 plus Palestinian children killed by the heavily armed entirely indiscriminate IDF assault on Gaza  will bring peace, and justice, to Israel and Palestine any closer at all, in fact  quite the reverse. Because of course both Hamas and Netanyahu share the same objective. Neither has any interest in such a shared and peaceful outcome. 

Now I'm not claiming Jonathan shares all the same aims as the Palestine Solidarity protests, there was another one lasr Saturday. And you know what, I don't care, because as much as I support the protests and have marched myself, to reverse this inhuman nightmare we have to be bigger, braver and bolder. 

A common misconception is that if a movement is broadened, it is weakened. But if support for Palestine is limited only to those who subscribe to an entire repudiation of Israel then Palestine will never be free of the suffering currently being forced upon Gaza and the West Bank. 

Paul Kelemen in his excellent book The British Left and Zionism : History of a Divorce  describes an 'awkwardness'  arising out of historical context. An 'awkwardness' which he very neatly sums up as on the one hand 'Israel's establishment emerged out of the triumph over fascism and as a restitution to the Jewish people for the Nazi Holocaust'. But on the other hand it was also 'the product of imperial expansion'. However awkward it might be, to unilaterally subscribe to either one without the other is a politics to no good effect.  

Purity of intent warms the activist's ideological cockles but as a practical politics fails miserably over, and over again. 

The failure is rooted in a fundamental misconception. Supporting Palestine doesn't require being on the Left end of the political spectrum.  For all that Jeremy Corbyn and Zara Sultana, Tariq Ali, the far left groups who provide much of activist infrastructure of the campaign  and others of a left politics bring to the movement, and they, bring an awful lot, if this is the public sum of our political parts then Palestine will never attract the breadth of support it needs to break this lethal impasse. 

When Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Labour Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin, Labour MPs  Dawn Butler, Jess Philips,  Jon Cruddas, Naz Shah,  Rosena Allin-Khan, Rupa Huq, Stella Creasy ,Yasmin Qureshi rebel  to support an immediate  ceasefire the significance should be obvious. None of these Labour rebels would identify with Labour's hard left. And there are many, many more from where that lot come from politically , if the means cannot be made to broaden, to accommodate, what good does that do Palestine's cause?  

Meanwhile in Lewes, where one half of Philosophy Football is based, the weekend after the vote on the ceasefire a protest was called against our local Labour Party by Palestine Solidarity activists for 'allying with genocide'. Mmm, with apologies to Lenny Bruce, ' the how to lose friends and not influence people' strategy.

'Humanitarian Pause' vs 'Immediate Ceasefire' has of course divided a Labour Party previously characterised by its near overwhelming unity behind Keir Starmer. Yet however committed, including me, many are to the immediate ceasefire what harm does it do also to recognise that those equally committed to a pause share with us one core objective, we want this human carnage to stop and doesn't that matter most of all?  

And those Labour MPs who didn't vote for the ceasefire? Noisy banner-waving protests outside their constituency offices are the easy option and achieve precisely nothing. The hard work lies with turning marching to door-knocking, Street by street collecting thousands, tens of thousands of their constituents' signatures, Labour voters who want their MP to back the ceasefire, and for every household in support a window poster. This is the language the Labour Party understands, and the effort Palestine surely deserves.  

What Palestine also deserves is the broadest possible support and there should be no self-imposed limits to that ambition. Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP, fiercely loyal to Blair and now Starmer, he didn't vote for the ceasefire yet with his background as a BBC Middle East Correspondent has made some of the best ever House of Commons speeches on Israel, well informed and hugely critical. Humza Yousaf SNP leader who had family members trapped in Gaza, Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat and the only MP of Palestinian descent who lost family members in Gaza and unbelievably was told by the Speaker this was inappropriate to mention in a Parliamentary debate. And one of the most vocal supporters of Palestine and sternest critics of Israel? Sayeeda Warsi, Tory Peer and former Co-Chairwoman of the Conservative Party.

The list, and the breadth, goes on, and wide. 

And not just breadth but means too. However big, however necessary, marches will only appeal to some, but not all.  Two examples of the potential. 

Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-born British chef and author of best-selling recipe books has helped pioneer the popularity of Palestinian cuisine. Zaytoun import and promote Palestinian delicacies to add such meals both authenticity and purpose.  And both link the tasty meals produced directly to the mistreatment of the land and the farms from whence they came. 

Or football.  Why is it never, ever, questioned why Israel's national team and league clubs compete in European UEFA competitions instead of the Asian Football Confederation where they belong and were members of from 1954 to 1974 when it was forced to leave because no other country would play Israel because of the country's mistreatment of the Palestinians. Meanwhile one of the few arenas in which Palestinian statehood is recognised, by all, is the football pitch. A Palestine national team, competing proudly in Asian Federation competitions. And in the wider sporting orbit 40 years after the murderous Israeli hostage-taking by the Palestinian terror group Black September at the Munich 1972 Olympics, Team Palestine marching proudly behind the Palestinian Flag at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. In such spaces Palestine already exists, providing the basis for a common-sense recognition of statehood yet outside of the realm of protest politics barely noticed. 

No, like wearing badges, negotiating the 'awkwardness'; of Israel's foundation as a nation-state in 1948, welcoming the support for Palestin  of those we otherwise disagree with, finding popular and positive means to identify with and support Palestinian statehood, each on their own isn't enough. But like badges, each can be the start towards something more than the sum of its parts.  A popular process of peace, for Israel and for Palestine, no longer being a four-letter word. Now that's a badge worth wearing.


The Arabic and Hebrew 'peace' badges are available as part of a pack, with T-shirts too, from Philosophy Football here

Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled 'sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction' aka Philosophy Football  

14 years of Tory 'progress'


Philosophy Football's Mark Perryman and cartoonist Steve Bell get ready to celebrate the end of an era 



OK constitutionally Rishi Sunak could stretch out his Prime Ministership to January 2025 but in all likelihood there will be a General Election in 2024. With every possibility Keir Starmer will bring to a resounding end 14 years of Tory progress (ahem!) 

To put this in context whenever that General Election is held 2024's first time voters, unless they were astonishingly politically precocious during their pre-school years, will have only known Tory governments for their entire lifetime. 

We have to go back even further for the last time Labour won a General Election, Tony Blair  in 2005. Blair had won with a landslide in 1997 but by the time of his third consecutive win, 2005, Labour's share of the vote had slumped from 43.5% in 1997 to 35.2%, a government elected on the lowest share of the vote, ever. Jeremy Corbyn's campaign in 2019 has quite rightly been recorded as an electoral disaster for Labour yet his heavy defeat was with a share of the vote, 32.1%, not far off to what in 2005 returned Blair to office with a 66 seat majority. Not only is this never, ever, mentioned, but neither is much attention paid to the  perversities of our electoral system that can produce two startingly different outcomes on such similar vote shares. 

Quite where Steve Bell's inspired notion of portraying the first of 14 year's worth of Tory Prime Ministers as a condom-headed posh boy came from goodness only knows but to mix contraceptive metaphors if the cap fits.....

After Major, Hague ,Duncan-Smith and Howard the Tories finally had a leader, condom head or no condom head, who was able to make Labour look tired, running out of both ideas and time. Cameron's PMQs quip to Blair ' You were the future, once' absolutely inspired. 

Blair's long-time rival, Gordon Brown, was his natural successor. Though just to be sure  Brown and his cabal of Brownites twisted Labour MPs' arms to ensure the growing grassroots support for John McDonnell didn't result in a contest.  Never mind, yet when the subsequently much-lauded Brown entirely failed to create a popular-progressive narrative around the causes and consequences of the 2008 crash his days were numbered. Since the '97 landslide Labour had steadily cast itself as the new establishment, a safe pair of hands the country could trust. When this was shattered, first by the Iraq War for Blair, second by Brown with the crash, well why not give the new guy who hugs hoodies and drives a sled across the climate change threatened arctic instead?  

2010 was of course a close-run thing, and would have been even closer if Brown had gone beyond mouthing 'I agree with NIck' to laying the basis for a Lab-Lib coalition. Instead condom-head enters Number Ten with a little help from Nick Clegg, for the next five years hilariously portrayed by Steve as Cameron's loyal and obedient lapdog.

Parliamentary politics can be a dirty business, apart from those who entirely reject the 'parliamentary road to socialism' most of us get that and find ways to accommodate this alongside our desire for ways of conducting politics considerably better. But for the generation of 2010 the sins committed against their education were off the scale. A party that just months earlier had campaigned to abolish university tuition fees was now voting to triple them. A Lib-Dem lapdog that never barked. Revolting students, I mean that in the nicest possible way, descended on Westminster, surrounded Parliament and breaking with the well-worn tradition of marching A to B stormed the Tory Party HQ.  This was all too much for Labour, now led by Ed Miliband, who mouthed some platitudes about the betrayal of students before loudly condemning them protesting. The supposedly left-wing lecturers union, the UCU, not much better, solidarity with their students tokenistic, the sectionalism of tripled tuition fees that fill lecturers' wage packets trumping their radicalism. 

Meanwhile in Scotland Labour Unionism disconnected the party from a huge chunk of its support. Independence didn't win the 2014 referendum vote but that defeat wasn't secured by the Tories alone. Labour's support was central to that. And the Tories little-helper-in-chief? Gordon Brown. At the 2015 General Election the result was that Labour lost Scotland, reduced from 41 seats to 1, the SNP the sole beneficiaries, up from 6 to 56 MPs. 

Still, at least some good news 49 of Nick Clegg's 56 Con-Dem MPs lose their seats. Condom-head isn't able to ditch his coalition partners fast enough. Meanwhile Labour minus those 40 Scottish seats look further away from a General Election victory (note, those who claim Corbyn's 2019 disaster the worst Labour result ever, Miliband and Brown both achieved significantly lower shares of the vote than Corbyn).

Condom-head couldn't be happier, a long Premiership stretched out ahead of him, all that remained was to crush the UKIP irritant and Tory fellow-travellers who made it their business to give Cameron as little respect as they could get away with. And he would have succeeded, won the EU referendum, if he'd not allowed his side of the argument to become 'Remain'.  Reducing being European, which most of us are entirely happy with, to one institutuin we mostly tolerate. The timidity of Remain vs the boldness of 'Take Back Control'  there was only ever going to be one winner.

And the day after, condom-head jauntily walks away from the mess he had almost single-handedly created.

Thus in 2016 Theresa May, complete with leopard skin kitten-heels, becomes Prime Minister without being elected as such.The kitten-heeled footwear succeeding contraceptive headgear as Steve Bell's signifier of what the Tories march of progress represents. 

When kitten-heels showed some bite and called a snap 2019 General Election every single political commentator, and a fair few Labour MPs, confidently predicted a Labour wipe out. A divided parliamentary party, in open revolt more like, Corbyn demonised in the media, he was doomed, surely? Although its been written out of Labour's recent history, quite the reverse. For the first time since 1997 Corbyn's Labour increased the number of Labour MPs, something Miliband, Brown, Blair in 2005 and 2001 failed to do. Wipeout? No, a hung parliament.

And the consequence of this was Labour, if it worked with the other opposition parties and the increasing number of dissident Tory MPs, could block every effort by kitten-heels to rush through Brexit.  Which again written out of history, Corbyn did, leading not only his own Labour MPs but the entire opposition plus the Tory dissidents through the voting lobby again and again to thwart May's ill-conceived Brexit plans. 

Unitil eventually she was forced out by her own MPs, left to kick her kitten-heels elsewhere, a Tory Prime Minister brought down by the Corbyn-led opposition. 

And then we have bum-face, unarguably Steve Bell's greatest creation. Bum-face's mission, to get Brexit done. But despite the public school bluster he couldn't, because Corbyn maintained his Parliamentary Popular Front. If there's one thing above all else bum-face fears it's scrutiny, and in particular Parliamentary scrutiny. So what did he do? Close Parliament down, 'prorogue' a posh word for a coup.  But when he was forced to re-open the House of Commons an over confident SNP aided by Lib-Dem leader Jo Swinson, gave him exactly what he wanted. An escape route out of the rigour of such scrutiny, an early General Election, an arena in which his populism, crucially aided by a regressive alliance with Farage's Brexit Party, could only succeed against Labour's now hopelessly confused public position on Brexit. Win the General Election, send the party's Brexit Minister to Brussels for six months to negotiate the best possible exit package then hold a second referendum in which the Labour Party would campaign against its own deal. The architect of this monstrosity of a policy? Mmm, the name escapes me... 

So bum-face gets what he wants, all the advances Labour made in 2017 reversed and then some. Bum-face now has a majority to do with what he wants, while the country pays the price, a price when Covid struck which proves lethal.   

The rest is (recent) history. Despite a Parliamentary party with a near non-existent centrist group of MPs cast in awe of his bum-faced leadership even they, fearing the multiple loss of their seats, tire of Johnson's disastrous antics.  The tussling of his expensively well-groomed hair masquerading as political leadership had run out of time. 

And so, Liz Truss. No sooner had Steve cast her as a figure of crouching under-achievement and she is gone, but not before she had blown any remaining credibility of her party's fitness for government to smithereens.

Which leaves us with Steve's mini-Rishi to pick up the pieces. A task he has proved entirely unfit for.   

14 years of Tory progress. The descent of Conservative man, and woman, drawn large by the country's most well-loved political cartoonist. And when this lot is finally over next year Steve Bell will no doubt be ready to unleash his other creation, Sir Cardboard Starmer. Can't wait.



Steve Bell's 14 Years of Tory Progress mug, plus tea towel, T-shirt and framed limited edition print signed by Steve is exclusively available from Philosophy Football here  


Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled ' sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction, aka Philosophy Football 

The ever-changing picture of Going to the Match


70 years on Philosophy Football 's Mark Perryman and Guardian football cartoonist David Squires revisit LS Lowry's greatest painting 


Reputedly a Man City fan LS Lowry's 1953 masterpiece Going to the Match depicted not Maine Road but Bolton Wanderers' then ground Burnden Park. A ground that no longer exists, long replaced by an out-of-town stadium named after a building products company who paid a decent sum for the right to have Bolton's home called 'The Toughsheet Community Stadium', having previously been known since 1997 as The Reebok, Macron and University of Bolton Stadium. What price the durability of history versus naming rights deals and their expiry dates? Guardian football cartoonist David Squires' 70th anniversary  recreation of Lowry's original artistically catalogues seven decades' worth of this and many other changes.    

Lowry's 1953 version of Going to the Match is of course most famous for his matchstick men Bolton fans, identically dressed, as far as we can tell all male, all white, the 1950s industrial working-class writ large. The manufacturing economy represented by factories hemming in Burnden Park from where these men exited the belching smoke for ninety minutes of unadulterated bliss.  The factories long since closed down, working practices, class uniformity and what theorists term 'fordism', an entire way of life and social organisation gone with them.

Writing a couple of decades earlier JB Priestley put into words what LS Lowry had portrayed in his painting: 

"It turned you into a partisan, holding your breath when the ball came sailing into your own goalmouth, ecstatic when your forwards raced away towards the opposite goal, elated, downcast, bitter, triumphant by turns at the fortunes of your side, watching a ball shaped Iliads and Odysseys for you; and what is more, it turned you into a member of a new community, all brothers together for an hour and a half." 

Football remained relatively unchanged until the 1970s. The Manchester  United players who lost their lives in the 1958 Munch Air Disaster weren't 'the subject of 'tragedy chants' instead Liverpool FC lent their bitterest rivals players so United could complete their season. When England won the World Cup in 1966 it didn't elevate the players into multi-millionaire celebrities. Ten years after Munich Man Utd win the European Cup at Wembley, lining up for their opponents Benfica Eusebio and Coluna immigrants from the Portuguese imperial outpost Mozambique, that rarity in those days, black players in a football shirt.  For United their European Cup winning foreign contingent consisting of a Scot, a Northern Irishman, two Irishmen and a Scottish manager. The United 1999 team that won it for them the next time ?  A starting line-up consisting of one Dane, one Norwegian, one Dutchman, one Swede, one Trinidadian and Tobagonian, one Irishman, one Welshman, alongside their four English players and a Scottish manager, bloody hell! 

But it wasn't simply the globalisation of the line-ups that had changed in those intervening year, it was the monetisation of their playing skills too. Rome 1977, Liverpool win the first of six consecutive European Cups by English clubs. John Williams, author of a social history of Liverpool FC,The Red Men,describes the scenes in Rome after their victory and what has changed since :        

“The extraordinary party in Rome after the 1977 final involved Reds supporters and the players together. These groups were still broadly drawn from the same stock, drank (and got drunk) in the same pubs, had pretty much similar lifestyles and diets, and footballers had not yet moved into the sort of wage brackets that later had them sealed off behind tinted-windowed cars the size of small armoured trucks.”

Globalisation of team line-ups, player wage rises that outstrip inflation a millionfold, and more, funded by no longer free-to-air broadcasting deals of a scale unimaginable prior to the 1992 creation of the Premier League and the Champions League, both serving to attract foreign investors to take over clubs and fund the largesse on a previously unimaginable scale. 

In 1980 sociologist Stuart Weir described the state of the relationship in English football between clubs and their supporters as:  "The clubs are under the control of local business elites who restrict the participation of their followers to separate supporters' clubs."  "The clubs are under the control of local business elites who restrict the participation of their followers to separate supporters’ clubs. " There's only one word that needs to be changed in this sentence four and a bit decades on, local becomes global. In the era of Lowry through to the early twenty-first century clubs were owned by the local butcher, baker, candlestick-maker. In Man Utd's case quite literally, the Edwards family butchers. Now such owners are almost entirely replaced by Russian oligarchs (until the Ukraine war forced their sanctioning), European, Chinese and US investor conglomerates, and Middle Eastern petro-dollar states. Many favouring the multi-club model which is the money men's  antithesis of what it means to be a fan. 'A multi-club fan' oxymoronic, and then some.

None of this however should allow an over romanticisation of football's past. 

Lowry's Burnden Park in 1946 had been the scene of a stadum disaster, 33 fans died and hundreds more injured because of a human crush caused by poor crowd management. Happened again, Ibrox Stadium disaster of 1971. By the 1980s such horrors should have been confined to the history books, they weren't. 

Last game of the 1984-85 season, Bradford City at home, they've already won the Third Division championship, a party atmosphere. In the 85th minute a fire starts in the wooden main stand. Season after season a pile of litter had built up in the space below the tier where fans were sat. An unlit fag started a fire which within minutes engulfed the entire stand. 56 fans lost their lives, simply because they'd gone to a football match.

The next day this is how the Sunday Times reported on football's part in the tragedy at Bradford City:

 “A slum sport played in slum stadiums increasingly watched by slum people, who deter decent folk from turning up."

It is scarcely credible such words were used back then, the day after 56 deaths,  but it is also scarcely credible such words would be used today to describe football, the stadiums games are played in and the fans in the stands. 

But before that would happen yet another stadium disaster, 1989 Hillsborough, John Williams, again:

" The disaster was attributable to a planned general deterioration of public facilities in Britain, a development that had also brought a range of recent disasters on public transport, as Tory policies had prioritised the private sector and devastated areas such as Merseyside. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that the deaths were also connected to deep-seated problems in terrace culture and poor relations between some football fans and the police. The English game had gone down a fatal route and was routinely treating all its customers (sic) as potential threats.” 

The 1980s. Hillsborough, over 800 England fans arrested and deported from Euro 88, the team knocked out at the Group Stage, all English club sides banned from European competition following crowd trouble at the 1985 European Cup Final. Different causes, different consequences, but overall the game looked irrecoverable.

And then Italia 90, England the least welcome guest at the World Cup party, the draw fixed so all their group games played on the island of Sicily some 60 miles off the Italian mainland. In England's group, Holland, Egypt, amongst Africa's strongest teams, and the Republic of Ireland who'd beaten England at Euro '88. Home before the postcards reach England? That was the widely held expectation, and for our Italian hosts, hope. 

The morning of the semi-final every English newspaper led their front pages with dire expectations of win, or lose, England fans rioting. But then instead an entire nation, from a night in Turin to a night as home spent 'an evening with Gary Lineker'  and everything changed.   

Pete Davies wrote a runaway Italia 90 best seller All Played Out and coined the brilliant term 'planet football'. Nick Hornby writes Fever Pitch about what it means to be an Arsenal fan, and in his wake just about every club finds itself having a book published too about what it means to be their fan too. Pre-digital media, club fanzines are written, published, flogged outside the ground, creating another alternative narrative of our fandom.  A fanzine style football magazine When Saturday Comes on the shelves of WH Smith. The Football Supporters Association emerges as an effective and respected fans' campaign with the group's founder Rogan Taylor a hugely impressive TV and radio studio guest.  Fantasy Football League starts, is adopted by every national newspaper, goes from being a cult radio show to peak time TV. And (obligatory product placement alert) Hugh Tisdale and Mark Perryman, a pair of self-styled 'sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction' co-found Philosophy Football.

All to the good, especially the T-shirts! But before the tournament had even begun one critic, Stan Hey, was already predicting what a successful Italia 90  on the pitch might produce beyond the touchline : 

" The global success of football has almost certainly sown the seeds for the game’s corruption. There is now a momentum which seems to be beyond control. Those of us who have retained an optimism for football’s capacity for survival and ability to re-invent itself are already checking our watches. It’s starting to feel like we’re in injury time."

Injury time? Within two years of Italia 90 we were already well past that. In 1992 the  English first division is reinvented as 'The Premier League' with the sinister Orwellian consequence that the old second division becomes The Championship, and to take the Orwellian to a ludicrous extremity the third and fourth divisions became League One and League Two, A pedant writes? No, as Orwell taught us, language matters because it is indicative of powerful forces at work behind the bastardisation of language.

And The European Cup, the finest cup competition in world football, bar none, in 1992 reinvented as a Champions and Rich Runners-up League. Purely to serve the interests of the mega clubs, the element of risk they might not make the competition's latter stages and win it, almost entirely removed.

Is there any hope that the commodification, the foreign investors the corporate sponsors, the media moguls won't have it all their own way? 

Yes because in the 2021 summer of lockdown, fans of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United, City and Spurs protested and defeated a proposal that  entirely served their own self-interest. A so-called 'European Super League' with their clubs not having to compete for qualification but guaranteed entry not via points on the board but the marketing men's co-efficients.

No, those fans didn't look very much like Lowry's 1953 stick men going to the match, but they did stand up, to be counted, to win, and save at least for now and however much already compromised, a part of football's heritage, competition. Even if it meant it meant sacrificing  a guaranteed place in Europe, where they all wanted their clubs to be. Win, lose, draw, the final score, league position, European qualification never a dead cert. Whatver the cost something every bit as valuable to those fans at Lowry's painting, sold at auction in 2022 for a cool £7.8 million.

And David Squires' version of Lowry's original? The commodification and regulation of our fandom, sponsors' logos ruining a classic kit, the scourge of ever-present betting, football on the phone, never mind the match in front of us, VAR, kick off times dictated by broadcasters at maximum inconvenience for away fans, our stadiums named after airlines and the like. Going to the match has changed a lot in seven decades, yet still we go. Thankyou LS Lowry and David Squires for reminding us then, and now, why. 


David Squires redrawing Going to the Match 2023 is exclusively available as a Philosophy Football framed print and tea towel here      











Mark Perryman is co-founder of the self-styled 'sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction', aka Philosophy Football

Bobby, Frannie and what we have lost


Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football explores the meaning of a game's loss

Bobby Charlton: 1966 World Cup Winner, 1967 First Division Champions, 1968 European Cup Winner. Frannie Lee: 1968 First Division Champions, 1969 FA Cup Winner, 1970 League  Cup and European Cup Winners Cup Winner. The red and the blue halves of Manchester have always been divided, yet for four years were united – no not that United – in their pomp, a shared Mancunian Supremacy. Never before, never since, always been one, or the other, or neither. Only the city of Liverpool – no not that City – can boast anything similar, not that any Manc would  admit as much. From seasons 1981-82 to 1989-90, just once did Arsenal break the Liverpudlian First Division Supremacy of Liverpool's six league titles, Everton's two.  Clubs, cities divided, but united by these shared periods of quite extraordinary success.

Northern too. London clubs have had their moments, well Arsenal and Chelsea, but it is different in a two-club city when fans are for one and, against the other. Add the geographical antipathy to all things southern, and London in particular, how much all this meant to the fans is obvious.

This Sunday, City visit Old Trafford for the Manchester derby. Tuesday’s Champions League fixture at the ground came too soon for all the pomp and circumstance to mark the passing of undeniably United’s greatest, arguably England’s greatest too. Sunday will be a uniquely poignant moment for the vast majority of fans, red and blue, perhaps for a vocal minority the opportunity to offend too. Hence the emergence of the phrase ‘tragedy chanting’, indicative of a rotten element within all that is so magnificent about fan culture. Never a majority, or even close to, but ever-present nevertheless, it justifies itself by the warped morality of love for our lot, hate the other lot.  It’s amplified by, cliché alert, though clichés are almost always borne out of a shorthand description of reality, the 'toxic masculinity' uniquely generated by a very particular version of male football fan culture.

But for the vast majority of fans, whether we follow United, England or not, the passing of Bobby Charlton has been marked by a sense of loss. The opportunity to connect this loss to a collective experience as part of a stadium crowd makes it all the more poignant and powerful. In a way almost no other act of mourning comes close, stands packed with the loudly raucous, transformed into universal silence and then the release of a huge shout when the moment ends.  

Sunday’s derby will of course have an extra edge. City are enjoying a period of absolute dominance over United in terms of trophies won for an extended period. The reign of Guardiola is condemning the Ferguson era of even greater success to the history books and to date there is not much sign of a new edition. To extinguish this rivalry is to remove what makes football’s fan culture so uniquely special. The ingrained loyalty, the warm feeling inside that when the other lot chant “Where were you when you were shit?” we were there with our team, never forsaking them. keeping the faith, and now able to enjoy the success, the promotions, the cups and league championships won all the more, thank you very much.

Of course, none of this ‘being shit’ applies to either the period of Bobby Charlton’s greatest success, 1966-68, nor City legend Frannie Lee’s, 1967-70, the pair of them overlapping in life, and now in death, Frannie having passed away this month too. And they shared something else too. They were undoubtedly stand-out stars of their respective clubs, yet very much part of teams of all the talents too. Denis Law, George Best and Charlton at United. Lee, Colin Bell and Mike Summerbee at City. The site of Law, Best and Charlton‘s statue at Old Trafford is currently besieged by fans’ wreaths and tributes.  City are currently finalising their own stadium statue for Lee, Bell and Summerbee. Football, however modernised, commodified and globalised it has become, can never escape from its history, good.

This history, however, shouldn’t be the subject of a hagiography. In those halcyon days of the 1960s it was a parochial game, a foreign player back then a Scot, Welshman, a Northern Irishman. It was a  mono-cultural game too, black players almost entirely absent. In the stands by the seventies there was a racist layer of support that was to take shape in large numbers of votes for the fascist National Front and streetfighters for the neo-Nazi British Movement. The women’s game was close to non- existent, and where it did exist was frequently banned from using men’s pitches and facilities. None of this should be extinguished from our memorialising. 

The greats of the 1970s and 197os for an older generation loomed large in our growing up as fans while for the fans of today feature as a star-studded cast of our club’s history. Whatever our age group the remembrance for all that they mean must be multi-dimensional if it is to connect past with present and future. There’s a need to frame what we miss in this moment of loss, the forces behind the changes from then to now, because as the philosopher Hegel so wonderfully put it, “Nothing is constant but change".  And when the minute’s silence is over, to use Hegel’s maxim, we must loudly understand why our present, good, bad and in-between, is so vastly different to the past represented by those we mourn.


The memorial T-shirts Law, Best & Charlton and Lee, Bell & Summerbee are exclusively available from Philosophy Football


Mark Perryman is co-founder of the self-styled 'sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction' aka Philosophy Football