words: David Marples
Back in 399 BC, a chap who would later lend his name to a Brazilian footballer renowned for possessing a degree in medicine and a rather marvellous headband, stood on trial before a jury of 500 of his fellow Athenians. His alleged crimes were twofold: (i) refusing to recognise the gods recognised by the state and (ii) corrupting the youth.
Socrates – the philosopher of ancient Greece – was a bit of a rabble-rouser. He liked to talk and pontificate (he was, after all, a philosopher) and would frequently do so in and around Athens on pretty much anything: the quality of the olive oil, the persistence of his local team’s adherence to a rigid 4-4-2 formation and perhaps more plausibly, Athens’ loyalty to democracy. On the surface, it could be seen that he was challenging the very notion of democracy as a means for governing a society yet it’s a little more complicated than that.
You see, that lot down the road – Sparta – were a bit different from Athens and did things differently. Socks liked to point this out both loudly and publicly. Sparta had emerged victorious from a long and exhausting war with Athens and Socks just liked to question, prod and challenge dominant ideas. On top of that, he had enjoyed an affair of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor proportions with Alcibiades – a bit of a looker who loved to channel is inner Dionysian and party like it was 399BC. In-between downing Jagerbombs and painstakingly drawing pictures on public blackboards of him doing so, Alcibiades found time to defect to Sparta and plot against Athenian democracy.
None of this reflected very well on our pal Socks.
Found guilty and sentenced to death, Socks decided to do it his way. He could have gone along with a plan to smuggle him away into exile and escape his fate but he chose to take his medicine – literally. His punishment was to drink a mixture containing the deadly poison hemlock.
Although his great pal and student, Plato, was not present, he got busy. In a public grove just outside Athens, he set up his Academy where some very deep things were discussed: politics, the nature of truth and knowledge and, one likes to think, the merits of a possession based approach to winning a football match versus the maximising of opportunities via set pieces approach.
Plato’s Academy – recogised as the first institution of higher learning in the Western world – went from strength to strength, churning out a series of highly respected young men, most notably, your boy Aristotle who would go on to enjoy a long and illustrious career, eventually establishing himself as the world’s first Proper Philosopher Man.
These days, there are academies all over the place. Some do the business and produce upright, nice smelling, impeccably mannered young people who are even capable of remembering the birthday of all their close and extended family members. One such academy exists in the NG2 postcode.
Graduates from this academy are many. Yet let us dwell for one moment on one specific case – a young man by the name of Joe Worrall.
Unlike Socrates, young Joe has no burning desire to question, subvert or challenge the hegemony of the state yet he really really really wants to play football for the football club that he supported as a boy. He is a young man embarking on what he hopes will be a long and illustrious career and like many young men, he occasionally makes mistakes or has an off-day. Yet unlike so many other young men, he faces up to his errors and simply focuses on learning from them and generally doing things better.
It would take a person with a pebble for a heart to not be moved when Worrall slammed in his first goal for Nottingham Forest, which went some way towards securing his team three points, just when they looked to be having difficulty standing on their own two feet, never mind passing a football to each other.
Until Worrall’s timely intervention, Forest were in a bit of a hole. Maybe taking the lead early on didn’t quite compute and shocked the system so used to conceding at an equally early stage. What to do? Mostly amble around and misplace numerous passes appeared at times to be the protocol.
Nonetheless, the team did what they have generally done and stayed in the game. Just when defeat looked the most likely outcome, Worrall’s goal injected a huge dose of hope and confidence into the forearm and they awoke like Mark Renton being given an adrenaline shot by Mother Superior.
Indeed, they became so hyped that they went and did another goal, just for good measure. Bolton manager Phil Parkinson identified Worrall’s goal as the crucial factor in swinging the game towards the home team: “I thought a lot of our play was great today but the second goal was the key moment that changed it; that changed the course of the game.”
Academy graduates Tyler Walker, Ben Brereton, Jordan Smith, Ben Osborn and Worrall all played a significant role in the hard-fought win, sticking to the game plan even when it didn’t seem to be working. There was a little bit of luck along the way but there was also no shortage of resilience – a commodity as essential as talent in order to succeed in the hurly-burly of a Championship game.
A modern academy isn’t necessarily the savior of all the world’s woes, nor will it save us from the seemingly eternal problem of the decline and problem of the teenager. Yet thanks to our old pal Plato – inspired by our unfortunate friend, Socrates – we can enjoy scenes like Joe Worrall scoring his first senior goal at the Trent End mere weeks after Tyler Walker so memorably did something even his great father did not – celebrate with the Trent End faithful.
It’s not the best team in the Championship but it has a heart of gold, capable of frustrating you but just as capable of surprising and delighting you. Cherish it. One day, you will look back fondly on those days when Walker, Brereton and Worrall achieved their firsts. You will proudly proclaim, ‘I was there’. You might even wear a t-shirt stating so too.
While you are here, Issue Six of Bandy is now available. We didn't win the FSF award for fanzine of the year but we did enjoy a free bar at the awards event. Why not buy a copy and tell us why we didn't deserve to be anywhere near such a nomination in the first place?
Issue Six celebrates the mighty John Robertson and contains an exclusive interview with the great man. If you ever bought a pack of Panini stickers there's a wonderful article in there which will transport you back to that beautiful feeling of ripping open a new pack and seeing a shiny in there. Remember Betamax? Johnny Metgod does. Remember Ron Atkinson noodling around in the away dugout? That away game against Dynamo Berlin? All this and so much more.
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