Studies in Lancashire and the North West of England, 1880s to 1930s
Chapter Nine: Rite of Spring: Cup Finals and Community in the North of England
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Ideology, Althusser once remarked, is something that takes place ‘behind our backs’. In other words, the social construction of meaning through the signs and symbols that represent our world to us is a process of which we are largely unaware. It is the very ‘taken-for-grantedness’ of the cultural artefacts – whether films, television programmes, newspapers, sporting events or simply everyday speech – which structure our thoughts and give meaning to our lives, that obscures their ideological significance.
For millions of (mostly male) followers of association or rugby football the Cup Final is just such a symbol. However measured, its appeal has been immense. Its hold on the male psyche is neatly summed up in the oft-quoted story of the former Prime Minister Harold Wilson who, it is said, carried in his wallet a photograph of the Huddersfield Town Cup-winning side of 1922. Moreover, at the slightest provocation, he would reel off their names. Wilson, of course (as the obituaries following his death in 1995 did not fail to point out) was a man of the people. His own social origins were sufficiently close to the working class for him to have assimilated a culture in which sport – and especially football – had a peculiarly strong place. The connection between working class, football and Cup is an intimate one. The historian Patrick Joyce has described the FA Cup Final, in fact, as ‘that most distinctive of proletarian rituals’.1
It is this aspect of the...
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