Up front you’ve got the prolific yet elusive Banksy alongside striking partner Pablo ‘Bend It Like’ Picasso.

Across the middle there’s Besty weaving his magic on the left, no nonsense Lowry and Chow in the middle and Hockney popping up on the right. At the back, Cocteau, Rothenstein, Nash and local hero Harold Riley hold the line in front of City legend Trautmann between the sticks.

Not a bad starting XI to face all-comers at the new Football is Art exhibition, which has opened its turnstiles for a season in Manchester city centre. And it’s well worth a visit for any lover of the beautiful game and the art it has inspired. Up ‘in the gods’ of the majestic National Football Museum, a well-curated collection of football-related pieces takes you through our nation’s century-long love affair with the game.

Tournament posters, oils of flat-capped, terrace supporters, sculptures and interactive 3D artwork using Google Tilt Brush all help to recreate the beauty, drama and passion of the sport.

But is football art? Are players artists? Can art capture the sheer raw emotions of being at a match? That’s the question this excellent and varied exhibition tries to address. Huge quotes printed on the wall will help you make up your own mind.

First up, former Aston Villa boss John Gregory barks: “What the f*** is art? A picture of a bottle of sour milk lying next to a smelly old jumper. To me it’s a load of s***. I’d say football is art.” Then there’s ex-Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who offers: “Football is an art, like dancing is an art – but only when it’s well done does it become an art.”

Have a long walk round and decide yourself, but be warned, there are no pies at half-time.

By Phil Pearson

Main image: Banksy, Football Terrorist 2001 Spray enamel paint on wood. Image courtesy Andipa London © The Artist

Football is Art is on at the National Football Museum in Manchester until October 27, 2019.

Free to city of Manchester residents, otherwise £10 adults, £5 children which includes a year-long access to the National Football Museum.