For those of us that enjoy the noble art of people watching, the old standing terraces of football grounds used to provide an environment for very rich pickings. Some of these characters undoubtedly still inhabit the seats in our modernised stadia though are palpably not as easily sighted.
I’m a football fan of long-standing over the decades, one who has had the good fortune to watch the great game portrayed a few famous arenas and a few less so. This includes grounds in Scotland, England and mainland Europe, from Easter Road to Nottingham Forest and Notts County more regularly, via impressive arenas such as the Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam, the San Paulo, Napoli, Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC, and even from the North Bank at Highbury. One thing I can state quite clearly is that all of those football stadiums had something very much in common – they were a psychologists dream.
I was saddened to read of yesterday’s news story about Paul Gascoigne being detained under the Mental Health Act after an incident in a Gateshead hotel. It seems as thought the mercurial former England international footballer is never to be found far from problems or controversy. Indeed this latest report possibly shocks very few observers.
Gascoigne attracts very polarised views from the public, his image is that of a troubled yet cheeky chappy. A sad clown and one who possessed a serious talent for the game of football but struggles endlessly with the more serious game of life.
Some time ago I embarked on a very special journey into the world of teaching Special Needs children. My original remit was that of a student on a six-week placement at a Special Needs School in the district of Nottinghamshire where I live. My working role was as a Teaching Assistant, aiding the children with their learning whilst carrying out my research. Hearing that I was slightly ‘sporty’, the Deputy Head volunteered me as a helper in the Physical Education class, which would happen every Wednesday afternoon. To my relief, I learned on that very day that the school basketball season had just ended and that football season was about to begin!
I got changed over the lunch break and having donned a rather snazzy Italia Azzurri jersey, acquired on a Roman holiday, headed for the nice gym hall that the little school proudly owned. The children filed in and got changed excitedly, chattering away, with only one young boy dissenting for a game of basketball instead.