Tag Archives: NTFC

Cobblers Column: What would Jesus say to Ched Evans?

For the Dagenham programme on 17th Jan.

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After much speculation, Oldham Athletic have announced that they have decided against signing striker Ched Evans to play for the club, after staff and their families were, quite appallingly, subjected to threats from members of the public who disagreed with their initial decision. Evans was not a usual signing. He was convicted in April 2012 for rape, and was released on license in October last year after serving half of his five year sentence.

A lot has been written about him in the last few weeks with questions and arguments varying widely. Should he be allowed to continue his career as a professional footballer? Whatever happened to criminals having served their time? Or are some crimes so bad, that convicted criminals should be barred from certain prestigious professions? Should finding work post-prison be dependent on an apology and admission of guilt? Others are questioning whether his actions actually were rape in the first place. As I said, the arguments are aplenty and I’m not going to rehearse them all here. Needless to say, this whole sorry situation, so easily avoided, has ruined his life as well as that of the woman involved. For the purposes of this column, I am assuming that the jury made the correct decision in finding Evans guilty.

As a minister, it is my job to apply what the Bible has to say to us in real life situations. What would Jesus say to Ched Evans? And what would Jesus say to us in regard to the story?

There is an incident in the Bible where a woman was brought to Jesus. She had been caught in the act of adultery, which was against the religious laws. They wanted to stone her to death (or at least to trap Jesus into saying so). It is worth noting that the man caught committing adultery with her was not accused, exposing the double-standards of the people involved.

The woman is scared and awaits her judgement. Jesus shows compassion, whilst at the same time, upholding the law. First he says “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone”. Hearing this, her accusers started drifting away, aware that they too are guilty of something or other. Soon there was no-one left to condemn her. Jesus then turns to the woman and says “I do not condemn you either, go and sin no more”.

There are a couple of points here. First, the woman appears to be repentant – she is sorry for what she has done. Second, Jesus forgives her, but expects a change of lifestyle. So the good news for Ched Evans is that forgiveness and rehabilitation are possible if he is willing to repent, but the response to forgiveness is to change. None of us know the contents of Ched’s mind or soul, however, we have not heard much in the way of repentance from Evans, who maintains his innocence. Added to this, the actions of his supporters in harassing the victim are despicable. Ched needs to “call off the attack dogs”, admit his part in the saga, and commit to a new way of life. But the invitation from God to a new life free from the past is there for him as it is for all of us.

There is another interesting application from the Bible story above. When Jesus said “let those without sin cast the first stone”, the people, previously out for blood, started drifting away. There is another part of the Bible where Jesus is talking about judging others, and is quoted as saying “Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

We may not have committed rape, or been convicted for anything, but the likelihood is that we have wronged others or messed up in some way or another. There are parts of our own lives that need addressing – this goes for everyone.

The point is not that we shouldn’t judge others, but before we judge others, let’s take a good hard look at aspects of our own character and work on those. This is likely to make us more compassionate and forgiving towards others.

Let’s hope that the guys continue their good form and make light work of Dagenham today!

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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!

Cobblers Column: Thanksgiving

From the NTFC vs Stevenage programme on 22nd November.

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In the last couple of weeks we’ve had some things to be thankful for at Northampton Town. The victory over Wimbledon saw us end a five match winless run in the league, and added to that we witnessed Alex Nichols’  first Cobblers goal since his return from that awful career-threatening injury sustained in a win over Port Vale in October 2012. Being out with injury is always difficult, and the extent of Alex’s injury must have put doubts in his mind as to whether he would ever play agin. But thankfully, after a 21-month rehabilitation, we are all delighted to see Alex back on the pitch and scoring goals.

For the Americans among us, this week is an important one. On Thursday they celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday which they regard as almost as important as Christmas. All over the country, people make plans to get home to enjoy family time over a turkey lunch, usually served with roast potatoes, green bean casserole and with pumpkin pie to finish. Some supplement their main course with something called Sweet Potato Casserole – sweet potatoes, mashed with cream and sugar and topped with marshmallows. Yuk.

The very first thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 between the first white settlers and the Wampanoag Tribe in the new settlement of Plymouth, Massachusetts. The previous winter had been very hard for the settlers, unused to such temperatures and without the knowledge of farming in that new climate. Many had died the previous winter, but during 1621, the Native Americans had shown the new settlers what to grow and how to cultivate the soil. Following an abundant harvest, the two groups celebrated together and gave thanks for the produce that would see them through the next winter. After the previous year, thankfulness was the only appropriate response.

Being married to an American, Thanksgiving has been a part of my life for the last ten years. This year we’ll be celebrating with our church community and others from the neighbourhood, enjoying the company and food. We’ve made it a tradition that we each go around the table and name one thing from the previous year that they are thankful for, however big or small. Sometimes people are thankful for a new job, new friends, relationships, or family.

In our culture, we often find it quite easy to find something to complain about. But, constantly dwelling on what doesn’t go well can lead to stress and unhappiness. When we start taking even a short time to remember the good things in our lives, we can find this immensely freeing, as we realise how many of the things we enjoy we do so out of an act of grace. I’m sure we can all list quite a number things – family, children, partners, experiences we may have shared – that we are extremely grateful for, and, when we think about it, these are often the things that we have not had too much direct influence over in the first place. The birth of a child is a prime example. When that little life is introduced to us for the first time, we are bound to think beyond ourselves, to the bigger picture and Source from where that life came.

GK Chesterton wrote “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.’ ~ GK Chesterton”. We all need happiness in our lives. And we all need wonder. In sort, gratitude helps us realise that life truly is worth living.

Cobblers Column: Who are they?

For today’s match day programme for the game against Accrington Stanley
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I can’t be the only one who, on hearing the words “Accrington Stanley”, immediately associates it with a Scouse accent and an advert for milk. Milk, as the advert informs us, is what Ian Rush drinks, and, according to one little boy in the advert, without drinking milk he wouldn’t have been good enough to play for Accrington Stanley. “Who are they?” exclaims the other little boy. “Exactly!” comes the reply.

At the time the advertisement came out, in 1989, the club were in the Northern Premier League, and there is no reason to assume that I, as a young boy growing up in the North East, would have heard of Accrington at all but for that campaign from the Milk Marketing board. The club finally gained promotion to League Two after becoming Conference Champions in 2006, 44 years after a previously dissolved club with the same name (the predecessor to the current club) was forced to resign from The Football League due to bad debts.

“Who are they?” is not a question you would ask of Accrington Stanley today, having maintained a solid position in the division for each of the last seven seasons. In fact, you will not find many in football who will write off the chances of their opponents, whoever they are playing. Just as you should not judge a book by it’s cover, we cannot look at the history of a club and infer anything about the result on a given day, especially given two clubs in the same league. I’m sure Chris Wilder and the squad are approaching this game as any other, with the greatest of respect for the opponents.

Most of us remember the moment when an unemployed 50-year-old amateur singer from West Lothian, shy, bullied as a child, and diagnosed with Asperges Syndrome, took to the stage of Britain’s Got Talent and blew the judges away. What was so powerful about her performance, apart from her excellent singing voice, was that it overcame the misconceptions and initial judgements of people watching. Susan Boyle didn’t look like she should be able to sing, so most of us had written her off before she opened her mouth. Many of us didn’t respect her as a person until she had proven what she could do. Boy, were we wrong about that!

I’ve been guilty of this too, as a student teacher during my PCGE course when I was struggling to teach my subject to disinterested secondary school children (I never did get the hang of teaching). I remember being surprised as I saw someone I had graduated ahead of the previous year doing much better than me. He was someone who looked about 16 and whom, I’d judged, lacked confidence, yet there he was controlling a class and inspiring the pupils. I didn’t expect it. I had written him off and at the time, I’m ashamed to say, showed a lack of respect for him.

Respecting others in football begins with respect for people – for each person we come across day by day. Each person is an amazing creation of God, and when we take the time to look, we can discover that too.

Go on, watch it. You know you want to:

Cobblers Column: A new Start

I’ve been asked to write a column in the Northampton Town F.C. match day programmes for some of the home games. Here’s todays offering for the game against Mansfield.

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sixfieldsI’m sure no-one will disagree with me when I say that last season was difficult for Cobblers fans. A poor start, some injuries and a bit of bad luck led to us spending 7 months in relegation zone. We ended on a high after our great escape and a good run of form at the right time, and condemned poor Bristol Rovers to life in the Conference. They only spent 70 minutes in the relegation zone all season, but it is the place at end of the season that matters. 

But that was last season, and here we sit at the start of a new one with a new sense of optimism. We get to start again with a clean slate. Mathematically at least, everyone has the same chance of finishing in the promotion places. Last season is history.

It’s not often we get to start again with a clean slate in our own lives. Our history, good or bad, becomes part of us and it follows us around. Cleaning our slates is more difficult. Grudges get picked up and are hard to shed. Reputations are hard to restore. Actions cannot be undone. There may even be things we want to erase.

Difficult but not impossible. For a new start, we need to acknowledge our past in order to start again.  Words like ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I forgive you’ can help heal relationships. ‘I made a mistake’ can restore integrity. ‘I don’t hold it against you’ can help us drop grudges. These recognise the past without making light of it. The past does matter, but we do not have to be bound by it. We can make steps towards a fresh new beginning.

Like all of you, I will be cheering the lads on this season, starting today with the visit of Mansfield. Last season is history and I’m sure we’ve learnt a lot from it. This season we have a whole new opportunity.