Cobblers Column: Referees, Robert Peel, and Christmas

NTFC vs Bury on boxing day

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Today we welcome players and fans from Bury who have made the 150 mile Boxing day trip to Sixfields. There are some Cobblers connections in the Bury squad. Left-back Joe Widdowson made 75 appearances for us over two seasons, whilst target man Clive Platt, who unfortunately had to retire earlier this season due to persistent injury, scored seven times in 47 appearances. Chris Wilder’s assistant Alan Knill is a former Bury manager too, saving them from relegation in 2008 and then taking them to a playoff final the following year.

I have to confess, after last seasons home tie against Bury, where we lost quite comprehensively, I thought we were all but relegated. Huge credit has to go to Chris Wilder and the team for gaining 13 points from 18 in the last six games of the season.

Bury is perhaps most famous as the birthplace of Robert Peel, former Prime Minister and the person responsible for introducing police to the streets of the capital. The Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 resulted in 100 constables hitting the streets and, although initially unpopular, they did succeed in cutting crime rates.

Of course, the footballing equivalent of the Metropolitan Police are the referees and assistants. I’m sure we all agree that this is a near impossible job to do perfectly, as we all see decisions that we wouldn’t agree with.

But wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t need the police, or referees, at all, and everyone always played by the rules? Think what society would be like if we lived like that! Sadly, it is part of human nature to want to bend, stretch, or break rules when they are presented to us. We all want to do this to some degree, and dislike having outside limitations placed on us. The story of Adam and Eve, disobeying God in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of the Bible, illustrates that it is in our  nature to rebel in some way. They had everything going for them but still decided to go their own way.

For those who break laws, the court system dishes out penalties and punishments, graded to the level of the offence. Football has it’s series of warnings too, with suspensions coming for amassing yellow or red cards. After the suspension, theoretically you have clean slate and can begin again.

Similarly, many people may not realise that it is possible to have a clean slate in terms of life’s failures too. There is a mistaken perception that God is all about rules and punishments, making us feel guilty when we don’t reach the mark, but the reality is very different. Our human nature means that we are never going to be able to live an entirely blameless life, however hard we try. There will always be something that we’ve messed up however big or small. The Christmas story tells us that God doesn’t want us to be continually fretting over these things. By being born as a human, in Jesus, God identifies with us and comes close to us in the midst of all humanity’s imperfections. When we mess up, we get a clean slate with God.

It’s also good news that each 90 minutes gives the team a new opportunity to go out there and impress. What better Christmas gift to Cobblers fans can there be that a hearty win today!

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