Wednesday 10 July 2019

A Marshian future comes to pass as "women's football' becomes football

On Monday 16th September 1995, ten years before being sacked as a Sky Sports pundit for making a joke about the Thailand tsunami, Manchester City and England footballer of the seventies, Rodney Marsh, appeared on Robert Kilroy Silk's daytime discussion show, The Time The Place, to talk about the subject of women in football.

"Football", said Marsh, "is the one avenue women haven't invaded yet. We [men}don't interfere with sewing or cooking".

Even as a dozy 20 year old back then, I considered this comment worthy of a diary entry headline, typed out on my word processor and now sitting in my loft with all the other volumes of melancholy and denial from the 20th century.

Marsh has always considered himself a maverick, and the entertaining skills he showed on the pitch were fuelled by the same brimming confidence that gave the world his humour once his legs had gone. So perhaps Marshy was just pulling our chain that early afternoon in 1995, indulging in a bit of sexist horseplay to get the conversation going, even, maybe, playing the fall guy to make everyone else the Don Warrington hero while he took the hit as Leonard Rossiter. An odd tactic perhaps, but one must stay open minded.

Then in 2007, Marshy entered the only place where disgraced celebrities can check into - the ITV jungle - where he sulked, post-task, about "being beaten by a woman", in amongst a tirade of  misogyny throughout his run on the show.

So to today, and 24, 14 and 12 years after making a prat of himself on BBC, Sky and ITV respectively, Marsh will be furious that the 2019 Women's World Cup in France attracted nearly 30million viewers in this country alone. Almost half the population watched England's semi-final defeat to USA, which peaked at a share of over 50% of the audience. The Final in Paris was attended by 57,000.

Next season, we now learn, women's Super League games will be played in Premier League stadiums.

The 'invasion' is well and truly with us.

Perhaps a few of the players might appear on Matt Tebbutt's BBC Saturday Kitchen show, formerly presented by James Martin. Whether they end up with Food Heaven or Hell, for at least one viewer it will be a dish served cold. Especially as it should be the woman doing the cooking and the man sitting down.

I did look online to study the contestants of all three series' of The Celebrity Great Sewing Bee, hoping against hope that a nice ending might come to this post, finding that Rodney had appeared on one of the episodes, all coy and restyled, a man embracing change, the resurrection of a dinosaur. Sadly, against type, he made no appearances in this reality tv platform, but it's never too late, Rod; tomorrow is another day, another opportunity. But don't delay too long, Man City play at Manchester United in the opening round of WSL fixtures in under two months and tickets will go fast.      

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