Joe and Barry remind us why football is still the people’s game

Day of his life: Joe Danforth with Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal
Day of his life: Joe Danforth with Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal
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There are times when you wonder about football.

Wonder if its all gone a bit too mad, too cynical, too big.

Fans who want to knock seven shades out of each other, players who brazenly cheat, ticket prices going through the roof, cynicism unbounded.

But then comes something or someone to remind us why we loved it in the first place.

People like young Joe Danforth and Barry Hines.

Joe had the best day of his life on Saturday, the day before Barry Hines had his last.

Connected only by coincidence, location and a love of the game they offer us reasons to keep faith with the sport that brings delight and despair to so many.

Wednesdayite Joe, aged 10, has a rare condition known as CHARGE syndrome. He’s profoundly deaf, visually impaired and has had several life-saving operations.

Doctors told his parents Martin and Nichola that Joe would never walk.

But he led out the team he adores at Hillsborough on Saturday to bring a tear to every eye that saw him.

Writer Barry died a day later aged 76 after a long battle with illness. But he left us with such gems.

Barry Hines created Billy Casper and the story of a boy and a kestrel in his book A Kestrel For A Knave.

In co-operation with film-maker Ken Loach he gave us a scene of such vividly poignant sporting hilarity that it will never be forgotten.

There’s no crowd, no elite athletes, no stadium but the world conjured up in the football match scene in Kes is one of cinema’s most magical moments.

Brian Glover plays the bullying narcissist teacher Mr Sugden running a school games football match and gave us the immortal line: ‘I’m Bobby Charlton….Denis Law’s in the wash this week.”

Barry, from Hoyland Common, was a good footballer as a lad, representing England Grammar Schools. He was also a follower of Barnsley FC.

He spoke to the Star many times over the years but back in March 2006 he gave one of his most in-depth interviews before the Alzheimers that eventually took his life had got a grip of him.

That people of such contrasting generations and circumstances should invest so much emotion in football reminds us that it’s not just about media madness, money and medals.

It’s about people like Barry and Joe and everyone who shares their love of the game.