A number of people have commented, and I suppose complained, that I use this column as a vehicle to write about my passion for football.
A female friend of mine, in a not too subtly veiled criticism, pointed out not everyone is as fanatical for “the beautiful game”. That may well be so, but it’s surely better to write on something on which you have an interest. I have just realised that sounds like an apology, but it certainly isn’t meant to be.
Why apologise for loving a game that brings so much to so many? I don’t agree with the sentiment of the late, great Bill Shankly that football is more serious than life or death, but it certainly brings out strong emotions in people. I saw this one Sunday at the Under 12 Lancashire Cup Final. My son plays for Lancaster, who were finalists, and as we boarded the team coach the energy levels were palpable.
Various emotions were on display before, during, and after the game, which unfortunately Lancaster lost 2-1. It was amazing to witness how affected everybody was, including myself, for what was, after all, a kids’ football match.
If that was emotional, the Tuesday evening at Giant Axe was something else. Neil Marshall, Lancaster City’s captain, had his testimonial match. LHD Solicitors jointly sponsored the game, so impressed are we by this man, despite having never met him. Neil has been a stalwart for Lancaster City for 10 consecutive seasons playing in more than 430 games. He is a player many other clubs attempted to sign but he stayed loyal to his home town club often turning down more money in the process. He is the type of player, and man, that many aspire to be like. He kisses the club badge showing pride to play for a team, and a city, he genuinely loves.
If only there were more like him, especially in these times of inflated egos of professional footballers.
At the age of just 31 he has retired to spend more time with his family as unfortunately he faces a battle against serious illness.
I would not know of him if it wasn’t for football. I would like to take this opportunity of wishing Neil and his family every success for the future.