At the end of the 1940’s the acclaimed novelist/poet Samuel Beckett wrote what many people believe to be his finest work – Waiting For God – a play centered around a couple of Macclesfield Town FC supporters who pass their time on an internet message-board patiently awaiting the news that former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler has, as widely tipped, been named the clubs new manager. It was once famously voted “the most significant English language play about a mid tier Conference side from the North West of England of the 20th century.”
The plot revolves around the two aforementioned fans of the Silkmen who, with nothing better to do with their lives, choose to while away the hours online (especially impressive given that at the time it was written the internet as widely now known was roughly fifty years from coming to fruition) pontificating on the scouse striker’s possible merits, whether given his millions made in property he was considering buying the club outright, and jokily mulling over which of Fowler’s former Liverpool team mates would be suited to roles within the backroom staff (in an example of Beckett’s famous gallows humour the job of ‘tactical intelligence’ was given to Jason “I’m not that hungry” McAteer).
A lot has been made of the absurdist nature of the play – much of which stems from the idea of a football club with nobody at the helm continuing its business of retaining players and selling others on to rivals whilst potentially placing its hopes of promotion and long term survival in the lap of a man whose only previous experience of management was at Muangthong United in Thailand. Indeed throughout there is the suggestion that perhaps Fowler is more reputation than actual substance – his rejection of a penalty he had falsely won, his ‘Spice Boy’ image complete with cream F.A. cup final suit, drug taking goal celebration, and online beefing with ex-pros all stand out clearer in the mind than anything he has actually achieved in the game beyond a fast hattrick against a pre-Arsene Arsenal. This idea is neatly summed up during the first act when one of the two supporters asks what exactly ‘God’ will do for them when he is appointed. “Oh… nothing very definite.” is the rather desperate reply.
Then there are the existential elements to consider. How does a supporter of a club like Macclesfield continue to function whilst in possession of the knowledge they will likely never achieve anything of real note? A common recent criticism of the monied clubs is they lack ‘history’ which seems to mean that within the Premier League era they had previously failed to win a major trophy. Where does this leave a club like Macclesfield with not even a hint of a major trophy in their past and no realistic chance of attaining one anytime soon? Do they have no history? No future? Are they merely a ghost fart of a club lingering only ever in the now?
Perhaps the managerial merry-go-round is one of the places they find help in dealing with this crisis of existence. The discussions and arguments created by a managerial vacuum are a way of convincing themselves that there is a point – that the next person to take possession of the job could just be the one who completely turns it around regardless of what obstacles he would face in the process. The ‘what-if’ is a far preferable scenario to be faced with than the ‘what-now’ that follows when whoever takes the hot seat inevitably fails to live up to the task.
The two characters spend the majority of the play pondering over the possible scenarios that might play out when God arrives because the reality – that the club, having already failed in an expensive gamble on a dodgy manager unproven at that level, are now planning to gamble on a well known former player unproven at that level – is too much to bare.
At the end of the play someone purporting to be Macclesfield Town chief executive/laughing stock Jon Harris arrives to post an announcement that no decision is due upon the naming of a new manager due to indecision over the transfer budget or some such nonsense but that there would definitely be exciting news the next day. In response the two disappointed fans angrily announce their decision to stop supporting the club in favour of a more worthwhile pursuit.
Everyone in the audience watching, however, knows that the two fans will remain. Refreshing over and over the news page of the clubs official website. Still yet waiting for news. Still yet waiting for God.