I was rooting through some of his old things. Looking out of the window, the for sale sign blew in the in the dark Stoke sky, almost blowing away the ‘sold’ banner nailed on to it by messrs Butters, or John Bee the day previous. There wasn’t much that I fancied, really. An old camera from the 70s, cool, retro; a handful of football programmes from the past 50 years or so, a dusty box of King Edward cigars. I suppose I was just going through the stuff, because it was his stuff. Then it caught my eye. Some would call it ugly, big, cumbersome, unsought after, outdated, simple. I would call it beautiful, full of tradition, perfectly imperfect, passed down through the years, bringing entertainment from generation to generation. It was his old radio. 30s, maybe 40s, it mattered not. It was mine now. This wasn’t the Man United of radios, no, that would be more like ‘Good Morning Vietnam’, it wasn’t the Man City of Radios, oh no, that would be more of an ipod touch. This was the Stoke City of Radio’s. Big, bold, unfashionable, illogically beautiful, and mine. Bang. I was off, on a Stoke journey. A mental journey, you understand. Out of the door. Back on the terrace, the Boothen Paddock to be precise. Steino has brought it down. Swivelled. Top corner. Bang. The Boothen rises, in the way no other rises, the hovering cigarette smoke dances a jig. I go wild. He goes wild. He holds his chest in that ‘I’m getting too old for this’ way. I say, we have done it, he says he knows, I remind him that he said we were bloody rubbish half an hour ago, and he says he didn’t. He did. He knows he did. But he is stoke. Of course he said it. A fickle Stokie. A true Stokie. Closed eyes bring me the notion of Nigel, blasting out of an early 90s radio – new, but not cool, disposable – The MK Dons of radios, ‘and the crowd are on their feet, and the balls in the back of the net, and the Boothen End erupts’. Great times.
The driving rain on the window brings me back from this momentary lapse of reality and thoughts of Stein and Overson evaporate into the air like the pre match smell of relgex did, back in the paddock. Back to the radio. Still smells of him. I bet it has smelt like this since they sat around it in the 40s, listening to the ‘Nigel’s’ of years gone by verbalising Matthews skipping past the full back and planting it on the head of Freddie Steele. Again, this radio, this piece of history, got me lost in thought; what was his relationship like with his Grandad. I couldn’t get my head around that one, but one thing I did guess is that it involved Stoke City Football Club. Think about that. The one constant, maybe the radio, probably not, but definitely Stoke City. Again, think about that. The importance of one cultural entity – A damn football club – binds this family together, just like this metaphoric radio. This big stoke city like radio, beautiful to us, trash to the next man. Trash to the man with every Chelsea shirt since 2004, soon to be traded in for that sky blue ipod, living in Fenton. They don’t get it, it’s laughable to think they ever would. For them it is not about the radio, but about Sky Sports, HD may I add, their window to football. Their shallow, postage stamp sized window to football. Certainly trash to them. For us though, this radio, this unfashionable football club is as much a part of us that we are a part of it. But what is more, as I eluded to, is that our grandparents, great grandparents said the same thing. For them; like us, it was, and always will be about 3pm, standing on the Boothen End, the release, the passion, the escapism from the dreary soul sapping conditions that Monday to Friday will bring. With great passion comes these deep relationships with the people that ‘you go to see the lads with’. And these ‘lads’, this wireless, were certainly much loved.
I have since found out that one of the early signs of a brain tumour is agoraphobia. This may explain why he only made a few games in our glorious promotion season. He listened to all the games on his DAB radio, the future of radio, maybe an FC United, or an AFC Wimbledon of radios. It was almost time to go, like the radio, he had had his time, his best days, and it was time to pass the club – like the radio – on to me. I had been trained well. I would never leave the club, and I, too, will one day pass the club - our fabric that binds the family, the culture and tradition together - on to my grandson. Along with that big ugly radio.
I don’t really know what the moral of this story is, maybe it is a subtle dig at the growth mass media and the decline of tradition within the beautiful game, but I am probably not that clever. I suppose it is more to do with realising that beauty, like our most treasured relationships often come in forms that only we can understand, that the things that bind us together, make us, well, us and that the things that we really hold dear – unlike Stoke City - won’t be around forever. But, when we hear ‘Delilah’, or even ‘We’ll be with you’ belting out of a radio, particularly an old ugly radio, we are reminded that we are part of a chain, a chain that never, ever can be broken.