Forget the World Cup: the most emotive
international ever played was between England and Germany in no
man's land on Christmas Day 1914. The recorded score was 3-2 to
Germany (it didn't go to penalties).
Wondering what it must have been like to play in that
match: started the ball rolling for my novel. I've
waited years for Nick Hornby to write Fever Pitch 2,
documenting the effect on fans of the creation of the Premier
League in 1992. He's shown no signs; so I decided to have a go
myself, and compared modern and ancient football.
Rattles and Rosettes is
about two fictitious football fans a century apart.
Tom sees Burnley lift the FA Cup in 1914 before joining one of Lord
Kitchener's Lads' Brigades. Disillusioned by Crystal Palace's
financial predicament in 2010, 23-year-old Dan looks back
nostalgically to a golden age of football and music he has never
known. He sets out on a one-man mission against modern football, a
devotion that comes between him and girlfriend Sally, lead singer
in his '60s covers band, Born Too Late.
I read a fantastic book on the history of the old
Crystal Palace, and that 20 FA Cup Finals had taken
place there before it burned down. And I read about the northern
fans who came down for these matches, and about how they got down
from Burnley, Barnsley, Bury - pawning their pianos, beds, and
sideboards to get the train fare. That's when the comparison began
in my head: fans fly round the world to matches now, whereas these
men were having to give up so much to make the one trip of a
It's not just a novel for football fans:
I've had so many people say to me already: "I'm going to give this
to my wife because she'd really understand." The women in it drive
the plot. The two lads have to deal with their obsession in
relation to the people around them; so it's about obsession, and
where that might take you. It touches on religious observance, the
social situation, everything that goes into culture just at the
turn of the world in 1914.
Truly, it was a different world. In
researching the culture of football fans in 2010, I was surprised
how many hate the way football has gone. The game was originally
developed by men with a deep spirituality and sense of
I also became intrigued by the legacy of Fr Geoffrey
Studdert Kennedy, better known as Woodbine Willie,
an army chaplain during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The
discovery of Bob Holman's biography of him was an inspiration to
me. Some of the top ranks looked down on him socially, disapproved
of the friendships he made with men who were not officers, and
criticised some of the bawdy language in his sermons. One general,
a devout Christian, reported him to a senior officer as a heretic.
Kennedy was just the kind of character I needed for the story's
The Football League pre-1992 survived two world
wars, the Great Depression, the Cuban Missile
Crisis, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and six albums by the
Partridge Family. My novel is a work of social history, but it also
laments our commercially obsessed culture. It's written from
passion: we've really abrogated our responsibility to our past. The
Football League was the inspiration of a Christian of great renown,
and now the Premiership has taken on the mantle, and we've lost
decades of well-worked-through traditions for the sake of
I don't think the Church could control the explosion of
interest in football. Barnsley was originally
Barnsley St Peter's (I think) because it was created by the parish
church to help the locals. But within a matter of years the club
had become too big. I don't think the Church was negligent - just
too successful: football became a massive international sport too
At the moment there are official club chaplains who are
almost part of the boardroom. I think there's room
for fans' chaplains, who could travel to away games with the fans,
wear a replica kit with "Fans' Chaplain" on it, and be part of the
terracing. I think the Church could do more from that point of
view. People I've mentioned it to say that's a ridiculously good
idea. When you think of Street Pastors and other work at
street-level. . .
Why Crystal Palace? I was born within a
mile of the ground, and I'm old-fashioned enough to support the
local team. That's just the way it is.
I started as a musician, and recorded an
album of my own songs called Waiting for Goddard. It was
moderately successful for a couple of years, but then I sent an
article to Buzz magazine [published 1965-87] about my
disenchantment with the music scene, and the editor offered me a
job. I ended up as editor within a year. I didn't plan to go into
journalism or PR.
I'm a freelance PR consultant. I work for
a range of clients that currently include a chocolate maker, a
dating agency, an exhibition organiser, and a Middle East
In my spare time I'm co-editor of Ship of
Fools - "the magazine of Christian unrest", the
brainchild of Simon Jenkins. Ship of Fools is deliberately
iconoclastic, but also committed to the ultimate value of faith. I
love the opportunity to be playful and creative within a
I met Simon at London Bible College in the
'70s. I did a degree in theology and then worked as
editor as Buzz magazine, which morphed into
We ask readers of Ship of Fools to visit
churches, and report on the comfort of pews, length
of sermon, style of music, and whether the after-service coffee has
been fairly traded. Most church guides are about architecture. Our
Mystery Worshippers are more interested in friendly welcomes than
flying buttresses. We've now published more than 2700 reports, from
churches as far apart as Bethlehem and Bangkok, Kampala and
My first experience of God? Guilt at
Sunday school. We had to process to the front and put our money in
a velvet bag, singing "Hear those pennies dropping, dropping. . ."
One day, I only pretended to. Then later, at primary school, I
remember singing the hymn "It Is a Thing Most Wonderful"
accompanied by a 60-something teacher pedalling hard on the
harmonium. I loved that hymn. Still do. It was a very emotional
thing. The teacher had a slipper on the top of the harmonium. If
you didn't behave, you got slippered on your backside; so there
were mixed feelings: how he could play these wonderful songs, and
then have 10 or 12 lads in a queue getting slippered - hard.
Some people have moments of doubt. I have
moments of faith. I cling to these. I've stopped expecting answers
this side of eternity and, as a result, I think my questions are
becoming deeper and more meaningful.
If Rattles and Rosettes is well
received, I doubt I will be able to resist writing
If I could change one thing in the Church with a fairy
wand, it would be being forced to "share the
I'm delighted to have come from a family of
God-botherers. I may have had a little too much
religion as a child, but I would rather that than the bleak
nihilism of most secular culture.
In 1961, my uncle, the late Canon Sydney
Goddard, bought a dilapidated farmhouse above the
ruined goldmines of Gwynfynydd, near Dolgellau. It's been my
spiritual home ever since. It's been partof my life since I was
nine, andit's hardly changed in all thattime.
My favourite music is the live version of
Mark Knopfler's theme from my all-time favourite film, Local
Hero. Thank you, Bill Forsyth and Lord Puttnam - and
especially for that ending.
Most influential people to me? Arlo
Guthrie, Woody Allen, Tony Campolo, Oswald Chambers, David Lodge,
Willy Russell, and Auntie Betty.
I've really enjoyed Therapy by David
Lodge, Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby, and
Revolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald.
I pray for the ability to understand and come to terms
with the situation I'm in rather than trying to
I'd choose to be locked in a church for a few hours with
the late Steve Fairnie. He was a man of so many
parts, it's difficult to describe him, but he was the frontman of a
band called Writz. I never had time to thank him for helping me cut
loose, creatively. The decks of Ship of Fools resound to his
influence. Unrest in peace, Steve.
Steve Goddard was talking to Terence Handley
Rattles and Rosettes is published by Ship of Fools Ltd.
Print: £7.99; Kindle: £3.56. www.rattlesandrosettes.com