It’s that time of year in the football season when everything is coming to a climax! We’ve had the final league matches, the FA Cup Final has taken place and two English (?) teams have gone all the way to Moscow for the Champions League Final. Now today as I write this letter the first of the play-off finals (if you discount the Conference) has taken place, to be followed by two more over this Bank Holiday weekend. And by the time you read this letter it will all be over and the dust will be settling for another year.
There are a few folk I know from this area and my last appointment who have particular reason to be interested in the play offs this year to decide which of the four teams immediately below the automatic promotion places will be playing in a higher division next year. One or two folk support Leeds United, others favour Doncaster Rovers and Hull City are up there as well this year. And whoever wins will make a lot of fans very happy, but you also know that for other players and fans there will be bitter disappointment. For some it will feel like the end of the world!
Well I did watch the match between Chelsea and Manchester United and you couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for the Chelsea players who gave so much yet at the end of the season have nothing to show for it. In particular you felt for the Chelsea Captain, John Terry, who had overcome a bad injury sustained 10 days earlier, had prevented a certain goal late on in the game, but then, when it came to the penalty shoot-out, missed that vital penalty, slipping on the wet turf just as he was about to strike the ball. Manchester United went on to win it when if he had scored the result would have gone Chelsea’s way. He was inconsolable! Reading my paper on Friday I saw that one of his team mates, Frank Lampard, just as disappointed probably, had tried to comfort him by saying to him, “There are more important things in life than football, John.” It often doesn’t feel it at the time, but he was surely right, and Frank Lampard was better qualified than most to be able to make such a remark. You see it was only a few weeks ago that his mother died. He would have loved to have won and dedicated his winner’s medal to his mum who had done so much for him, to whom he quite literally owed his life. But he hadn’t won and when he reflected on it he came to the conclusion that losing his mum was a greater blow than losing that match. I remember the same kind of conclusion being reached by some strong union men from the workshops at BP Chemicals some years ago. There came a point where it was announced that after a thorough review some 250 jobs would have to go. The announcements would be made in March the following year when everybody on site would be seen individually and would learn whether or not they had a continuing role in the business. But when in January one man learnt that his father had cancer, as he said to me, “It kind of puts things in perspective!”
For some of us, the team we support inevitably means you have your ups and downs on a fairly regular basis, but as I said after another relegation, “I believe in resurrection!” For my team there would be another season and new hope. A year later and that hope was justified. It doesn’t always happen with humans, but I do know somebody you can bank on who won’t let you down!
With much love,
Your Minister and friend,