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All that glitters

Auckland City 2, Hawkes Bay United 1
Kiwitea Street, Auckland, April 5 2015

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I was at Kiwitea Street today to watch Auckland City FC win their 6th ASB Premiership title. Without meaning any disrespect to the Hawkes Bay team who proved themselves worthy finalists, let’s be honest, the 2-1 victory to the navy blues was a result that surprised absolutely nobody.  So rather than write about the game, which you can read about in numerous other places and probably even watch on YouTube if you’re so inclined, I thought instead I’d have a feeble crack at putting this win into some kind of historical perspective.

With City’s inevitable march to move clear of Waitakere United on the all-time title list, and with the recent work I have been doing on the history of football grounds, I found myself spending a little bit of time during the match daydreaming about what exactly this Auckland City franchise’s place in domestic history might now be.

My daydream started by thinking about something football historian Barry Smith said in an e-mail to me about Blandford Park for my post about the former headquarters of Auckland Football. Of this ground, Blandford,  that I had fanaticised as somewhere capable of holding a crowd around the 10,000 mark, he said “There are two reasons why test matches were not played at Blandford Park, one being the paucity of such games in the 40 years the park served as a football venue. The other reason is the limited seating capacity, only 2,000 or so, and very little standing room.  Rather like Kiwitea Street today.”

This came to mind when the ground announcer today mentioned the crowd figure of around 1,400 for this, the flagship game of the New Zealand domestic football calendar. It caused me to look around and squint a little bit – trying to imagine that, instead of 2015 at Kiwitea Street, it was 1950 at Blandford Park. How much has really changed since the old times that we all might be slightly guilty of looking back on with rose tinted glasses?

Do we over glorify the past while failing to appreciate what we have in the here and now? Were the good old days really that good?

Will somebody one day write a nostalgic post on a blog, or future equivalent, about this mythical old long since forgotten football Mecca called Kiwitea Street, and the golden age of domestic football that was the ASB premiership? This is a question worth considering as the powers that be are rumoured to be considering moving back to a club based domestic showcase.

How do the achievements of Auckland City stack up against the dynasties of the past in the halcyon days of Mount Wellington dominating that old National League? The all-time record for most titles in the old order is jointly held by Mount Wellington and Christchurch United at six titles apiece. If we consider the ASB Premiership as part of our National League lineage, Auckland City now ties those two great clubs at the top of the heap.

But while it took Mount Wellington 14 years to reach their six titles, the first coming in 1972 and their sixth in 1986, City have achieved their six wins four years faster with their first title coming in 2005. People complained then about Mount Wellington’s dominance in the ‘70s and early ‘80s just as they complain about Auckland City’s now, but the elephant in the room of course is that Waitakere United have won the league on all of the other occasions that Auckland City FC hasn’t. This Super City supremacy has understandably led to some frustration in the provinces.

It seems to me that our current ASB Premiership is no better or worse than what we had in the olden days. It’s just different. And perhaps that’s the problem. It should be better. It should be much better. We should have come ahead in leaps and bounds since we held games like this in a 2,000 peep capacity stadium in the 1950s. Right?

Categories: NZ Men's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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