'From local hero to national star?' : the changing cultural representation of the professional footballer in England, 1945-1984

Woolridge, Joyce Helen (2007) 'From local hero to national star?' : the changing cultural representation of the professional footballer in England, 1945-1984. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis investigates continuities and changes in the cultural representation of the professional footballer in England, modifying one of the major existing assumptions that there was a transformation in his public persona from 'local hero' to 'national star'. It does this by establishing the context and significance of the local player in both pre- and post-war football through the analysis of empirical data, as well as proposing a non-linear model for the development of football stardom.
Instead of the binary opposition of the local hero/national star trope, it argues that footballers' star images embody different male cultural types. Types are complex constructions, that mutate in relation to changes within football and in society.
The first two chapters analyse the results of statistical surveys of the geographical origins and careers of professionals between 1890 and 1985, concluding there was no 'golden age' when the local, 'one club' player dominated. Chapter Three examines the nature of football stardom, contending that players functioned as both stars and heroes from the earliest days of professionalism. It also adapts cross-disciplinary methodologies for using 'problematic' sources of evidence.
Chapters Four and Five analyse the three main 'types' through which cultural representations of the professional are formulated and circulated. Four discusses the hegemony of the 'model professional' type which emerged in 1946 as a democratised gentleman and national hero and persisted until 1985. Five considers oppositional types, the 'hard man' and the 'maverick', constructions of less acceptable masculinity that became prominent in the 1960s, suggesting a counter-cultural challenge, that was, however, short-lived.
The conclusion argues for a less linear, more reflexive paradigm for understanding cultural representations of post-war professional footballers and identifies possible future agendas for research.

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