Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

I always had a love of football - my father took me to my first football match in Budapest when I was a child, and he took me to my first English football match when we came to England. 'Preston North End' the poem describes the first match I ever went to which was Spurs versus Preston North End. It's a poem about belonging, about belonging in a crowd, about belonging to a nation, about belonging to a nation with a specific history to which you may become attached in some way, of which you may become a part.

Preston North End

Preston North End

Tottenham Hotspur versus Preston North End.
Finney's last season: my first. And my dad
with me. How surprisingly well we blend

with these others. Then the English had
the advantage, but today we feel
their fury, sadness and pity. There were some bad

years in between, a lot of down-at-heel
meandering. For me though, the deep blue
of Preston was ravishment of a more genteel,

poetic kind. They were thrashed five-one, it's true,
and Finney was crocked by Mackay. Preston went down,
hardly to rise again. But something got through

about Finney the plumber, Lancashire, the Crown,
and those new days a-coming. The crowd dissolves,
but we are of the crowd, heading into town

under sodium street lights. This year Wolves
will win the title. Then Burnley. I will see
Charlton, Law and George Best. The world revolves

around them and those voices on TV
reading the results. I'm being bedded in -
to what kind of soil remains a mystery,

but I sense it in my marrow like a thin
drift of salt blown off the strand. I am
an Englishman, wanting England to win.

I pass the Tebbitt test. I am Alan Lamb,
Greg Rusedski, Viv Anderson, the boy
from the corner shop, Solskjaer and Jaap Stam.

I feel no sense of distance when the tannoy
plays Jerusalem, Rule Britannia or the National Anthem.
I know King Priam. I have lived in Troy.


from An English Apocalypse (Bloodaxe, 2001), copyright © George Szirtes 2001, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

Recordings

George Szirtes Reading from his poems

1The Accordionist

2Losing

3The Photographer in Winter 1

4The Swimmers

5Rain

6National Anthem

7Soil

8Pearl Grey

9Copper Brown

10Keighley

11Orgreave

12Preston North End

13Death by Meteor

14Noir

15Meeting Austerlitz

16Piano

17Comical Roses in a Cubic Vase

18Water

19Prayer for my Daughter

Books & cds by George Szirtes