A silver lining to year 2016?

It was clear by the summer that 2016 was in danger of becoming one of the most momentous in living memory, now that is beyond doubt.

Wednesday, 30th November 2016, 8:23 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:43 pm

Not only has the world lost some of its most recognisable characters since January 1, including Fidel Castro, David Bowie and the greatest sportsman of all time, Muhammad Ali, but billions are holding their breath while President-elect Trump decides which of his outrageous pre-election promises he will keep.

All that is before we get into Brexit territory, an issue which will surely be spoken and written about for centuries to come.

It has been dubbed the year that Liberalism lost the argument to the Right, with many decrying the fact that the world seems to have become a less forgiving place almost overnight. It is at times like these that folk come over all nostalgic and hanker after more innocent times although it seems that history might not be all it is cracked up to be.

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Although there is still a huge market for 1980s nostalgia, the decade which I used to hold most dear is looking increasingly less romantic than it once was.

The reputation of policing from that period is being systematically unpicked through the ongoing investigations into what really happened at Hillsborough in 1989 and the continued calls for an official probe into the clashes between officers and miners at Orgreave several years earlier.

But it is the almost inevitable continuing revelations about the abuse of children which continues to taint the legacy of the decade when communism fell and the microchip came into its own. It is almost as if we have become numb to the evils of paedophilia but the news that possibly hundreds of young footballers may have been molested by coaches some 30 years ago is no less shocking than the horrors of the Jimmy Savile scandal. It has taken a lot for ex-footballers, now in their 40s, to waive their legal entitlement to anonymity but their bravery does a service to all of us,

As a keen follower of the game since I was old enough to tie a rubber band around a pile of Panini stickers, the former professional players who have publicly bared their souls in the past week were names I vividly remember. That familiarity made their anguish all the more real to both me and, I will wager, to millions of others who share more than a passing interest in our national sport.

The latest scandal which centres around Crewe Alexandra, once regarded as a production line for top quality footballing talent, looks certain to spread further across the game after the police and the game’s authorities appealed for any victims to come forward.

A former Crewe coach has been jailed three times for his crimes but it would be wrong to assume that the problem was purely down to one man. It would also be wrong to assume that the spectre of child abuse is something which we can dismiss as an historical problem. Although safeguarding measures have improved immeasurably, paedophiles are the most determined of offenders so football, and society in general, must learn the lessons of the past to ensure today’s young players receive the protection their predecessors so clearly didn’t get.

If we achieve that then it could be that 2016 might not turn out to be the write-off that so many of us consider it to be.