If you bumped into John Robertson, would you scramble for a pen and paper to obtain his signature, or would you activate your camera phone and take a selfie?
If like me, you favour the former, what would you then do, having acquired the squiggle? Frame it, add it to your scrap book or bang it on ebay?
If the modern footballing era has taught us anything, it is that sentiment and decorum have all but disappeared from the once beautiful game. Managers are sacked after four games in charge whilst the young pretenders earn more than former European Cup winners, having not yet played a first team game.
Times have changed, not just for the professional but for the supporter too. Some of whom are making a pretty penny off the Miracle men and their achievements in the Garibaldi red. And so the debate begins; is it indicative of the modern era or does sentiment still a have place in the beautiful game?
I decided to pen this piece after being asked to chip in at a charity event in aid of former Forest player Peter Hindley. Andy Hallam asked if there was anyone available to man the collection buckets and I offered to help. At this point, I must stress that I wasn’t required in the end, and both Andy and Mick Meehan did an amazing job in raising a staggering £4,200 for Peter. Ian Moore, Viv Anderson and Tony Woodcock were also very instrumental in achieving such a phenomenal sum, with Anderson paying particular tribute to Mr Hindley when he arrived at the club in the early seventies.
But it was where and when the collection took place that inspired me to put pen to paper. It was none other than the Nottingham Forest miracle men show at the Theatre Royal. And for most of the evening I was in close proximity to those legends of men, as we waited backstage with them all.
Seconds after agreeing to come along, I thought about taking my 1979 European Cup shirt with me, but thought better of it. The reason was very simple, it was frankly inappropriate. I’d been asked to assist with a charity event, not selfishly demand the missing signatures for my holy grail.
As we ventured into the VIP suite of the Theatre Royal, a hoard of eager supporters greeted their idols with pens at the ready. The vast majority of them were genuine fans who’d waited a long, long time for the opportunity to meet the men that had enchanted them during their teenage years. It was lovely to see people getting their original Forest shirts signed, along with actual match tickets and programmes from the Munich and Madrid Cup finals.
The miracle men were fantastic and reciprocated by sharing stories and anecdotes with those long standing, loyal supporters who’d followed their idols across the length and breadth of Europe. I tried to make myself invisible as I leaned against the wall a few yards away from Tony Woodcock, who happens to be one of my favourite players of all time.
Among the numerous genuine supporters and autograph hunters, there were vultures circling, and boy did they mean business, in every sense of the word. I was suddenly transfixed by three or four individuals in possession of what can only be described as suitcases full of memorabilia. They systematically darted from player to player with volumes of items to sign, with total disregard for the heroes that stood before them. Here’s an example; one guy approached Mr Woodcock and bleated out “Alright mate, can you sign these for me?” Twenty or so photos of the miracle men, which he waited impatiently for, before ending the encounter with “nice one.” Sure enough, the items in question were for sale on the Facebook selling page before the week had finished.
Let that sink in for a minute, would you ever treat a club legend in this manner for the sake of as quick buck? I certainly wouldn’t!
As it transpires, that was the second time in which I’d been in close proximity to Nottingham Forest’s miracle men. Last summer I was invited to have lunch with them, courtesy of a friend who knows them all well. At no point during the encounter did I even consider requesting any signatures and my unfinished symphony of a shirt remained at home in the drawer. Maybe I’m too polite or even naive, but in both instances I deemed it inappropriate to go down that route.
The serial signature sellers continue to pop up on my social media feed, and good luck to them. But for me, it will always be a quest for personal sentiment as opposed to profit making. I may never acquire the missing signatures for my Munich 79 jersey, but if that should ever happen, it will be done for decorum and not dollars!
Here’s a list of the 10 most expensive signatures in the world
- George Washington’s Acts of congress – $9.8m
- Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – $3.7m
- John Lennon’s Murderer signed LP – $525,000
- Babe Ruth’s Baseball – $388,375
- Jimi Hendrix’s Contract – $200,000
- Joe DiMaggio & Marilyn Monroe’s Baseball – $191,200
- Albert Einstein’s Photo – $75,000
- Jimmy Page’s Guitar – $73,000
- Jesse James’s Photo – $52,000
- John F. Kennedy’s Newspaper – $39,000