Sunday, November 07, 2004
Just when last week was looking bad, the news of Johnny Warren's passing made it worse. I had known a few poms that had come to Australia, loved it, but somehow felt they couldn't live here. So when I landed at Sydney Airport I was on the lookout for signs that would make the country feel "right". On my way from the airport to my girlfriends house the first people I heard on Australian radio were Roy & HG. That was a good start - I didn't quite know what they were going on about but christ they were funny. But then to more serious issues - football. The previous year I had been to the US and saw first hand the appalling coverage of football (ok, ok, soccer). I was anticipating lots of meaningless diagrams and a complete ambivalence to the world game. Then I saw that the only coverage was an intermittent program on the low budget channel SBS. How bad could it get? When I saw Les Murray and Johnny Warren for the first time it felt "right". Here were two people that in world terms had achieved little in soccer, no world cups, no golden boots, but their passion and understanding of the game was world class. In fact, they made far more sense than the grumpy primadonnas in the UK. A few years later, the SBS coverage of the 1998 world cup was outstanding. I didn't always agree with Johnny, and neither did Les, but the man lived football. Move forward four years to the Japan Korean world cup and the difference between the SBS and Channel 9 programmes was like comparing caviar to fish paste. There were of course other factors that made me appreciate Australia much more than England over the years, but Johnny showed that even when something was as much maligned and as joked about (his autobiography Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters says it all about the image of football over here) as soccer, someone could still rise to the top and be respected amongst peers in the world. He wasn't a Stanley Matthews or a Bill Nicholson, but for all the right reasons Johnny Warren was as great a bloody legend.
For more on Johnny Warren see Darp