When I was a teenager, I was a voracious reader of newspapers. My parents used to have a morning and evening newspaper delivered to our home Monday through Saturday. And then Sunday, we would often pick up one or two British tabloid newspapers as part of our Sunday morning ritual. Plus there was the weekly local newspaper delivered every Thursday to bring us news from our local community. On a typical week, I would read a newspaper 15 times a week. The last time I read a newspaper in the States was 6 years ago on vacation and wanted to relax by the pool. I picked up a Sunday edition of The New York Times.
But thinking back to my childhood in Wales, where I lived until I was 14, I was a newspaperholic. But there was a good reason for it. Newspapers were the best source for quantity and quality of soccer coverage. Each morning, the sound of the newspaper being slotted through the letter box was a delight to hear. I would rush over and pick up the paper off the floor and immediately turn to the back page to see what the headlines were. Where I lived in Wales, the morning paper the newspaper man delivered for us was The Western Mail, which was a comprehensive review of the main headlines from South Wales. Since it was a Cardiff newspaper, it had more articles on Cardiff City than I would have liked, but it still would be a must-read because I could read the headlines screaming about which club had bought which player. Or a detailed match report from the game that happened the night before.
The same sensation of delight would course through my veins after school when the newspaper delivery boy popped the copy of the Evening Post in the letter box. That newspaper was from Swansea, so I’d get a lot more coverage of my favorite team Swansea City in there. Again, I would jump to the back cover to read the latest news about how training was going for John Toshack’s team. Or a feature-length article about a player or the fans getting organized for a weekend bus trip to go see an away game. It was always a joy to scour every page filling my head with what some would perceive as useless knowledge.
But for me, both of the daily newspapers provided my best source for information. Television was useless for soccer news during weekdays. The only two days when you got any semblance of detailed soccer news was Saturday and Sunday when programs such as Match Of The Day, Football Focus, Grandstand and The Big Match were on. But newspapers remained the lifeblood of a soccer fan’s experience.
The Thursday local paper was also a must-read for me so I could read about my local amateur teams and their preparations for the weekend game ahead as well as a match report from their game the previous weekend. But the biggest day of the week for newspaper reading in terms of soccer coverage was Sunday. My Dad preferred to get the News Of The World, which either he or I would pick up from the local paper shop along with a pint of milk or a loaf of bread. I usually picked up another newspaper. And at that age, The Mail On Sunday was my paper of choice because it seemed to have better soccer coverage. The News Of The World, back then and now, was full of transfer gossip. But the rest of the paper was banal reading. At least The Mail on Sunday seemed to have better international coverage of news. And, if I remember correctly, it also had a color magazine supplement inserted inside which would have interesting articles sometimes.
For me, the sound of the newspaper being inserted into the letter box on my door must been seen as a case of Pavlov’s dog. The sound triggered a wonderful buzz and emotion in me, so I would scamper over to the door to pick up the paper (which sometimes would have lodged in the precarious position of hanging in the letter box and not having fallen to the ground). Then I would run off to the living room where I would read the back page. Or, if my Dad was home, I would scan the back page and give him the paper so he could read it first. And then agonize over how long it was taking him to finish with it so I could read the stories of the day.
Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever buy a newspaper again. At least not in the United States. When I do travel to England, which is far too infrequently nowadays, I always make a habit of picking up a newspaper there. And that’s for a few different reasons. One is definitely nostalgia. But two, it’s often because I’ll have a long journey ahead of me either by train or car with a lot of time to catch up on the news. But third, and most importantly of all, it’s because the newspapers are still chock full of soccer news and coverage. And not all of the articles published in the paper make it online. Plus on top of all of that, I enjoy reading British newspapers. With so many national papers competing against each other, the quality of coverage is often excellent in some of the papers. For me, there are few things in life that beat sitting down and reading a British newspaper. It’s definitely a treat.