Trawler Tackles – The Fan

Posted on January 19, 2012 by

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‘Trawler Tackles’ is where Trawler writers can get something off their chests. Here, Greg and Will give their opposing views on football fandom. 

Trawler writer Greg Newcombe recently posted this on Facebook after reading a passionate forum post from a Darlington fan.

 Greg

Sitting behind a computer screen often skews your perspective somewhat. I hate keyboard warriors and there are snobby fans at every level of football, but I don’t regret my rant. This may be blind ignorance or even arrogance, but I believe that somewhere amongst my Facebook ramblings, I’ve actually got a point.

This heartfelt call to arms from a Darlington fan struck a chord with me (if you haven’t read it yet then follow the hyperlink) and led to my somewhat kneejerk outburst. It got me thinking about the number of fans that bitch and moan about their club’s performances when they’ve previously seen the very same club succeed in Europe and win numerous trophies.

Before I go any further, a number of people would have you believe this is an attack on the fans of Premier League clubs, it’s not, this is an all out assault on a certain ‘type’ of fan. I admit that this is hard to define but if you recognise any of these traits in family members, your friends, or those sitting and standing next to you on a Saturday afternoon, then maybe my original tirade wasn’t that wide of the mark after all.

I came into contact with some of these fans recently when my team, Cheltenham Town, drew Tottenham Hotspur away in the third round of the FA cup. Now this type of football supporter’s habitat (and I use supporter in the loosest possible term) is mainly the armchair in their living room, but one of the times they stop guffawing at what Jeff Stelling says and crawl out from under their rock is if their local team has a bit of success. Now Cheltenham implemented a sensibly tiered ticketing system meaning after season ticket holders, fans with stubs from the league game against Southend United would get priority over tickets to White Hart Lane.

Cheltenham Town FC travel to White Hart Lane to take on Tottenham in the 3rd round of the F.A. Cup

Now I already had a ticket but went along to the game hoping for a big crowd to boost the club coffers. The first thing I saw was a man in a Manchester United coat. It’s fine, I thought, people can support two teams. Then I overheard a group of so called ‘fans’ asking a policeman which was the home end. Resisting the urge to go over and tell them exactly where they could stick the scarf they’d bought five minutes ago before navigating their way to the wrong stand, I took a deep breath and made my way to the terraces. The whistle blew and I eventually settled down enough to enjoy some football, until the 3 morons behind me began to snigger to each other. “I thought they played good football, not the long ball game,” one said after we’d played five minutes. The others continued to refer to the players by numbers or vague descriptions because they didn’t know their names. They couldn’t even be bothered to buy a programme, at least then they’d have had some idea of who was on the pitch.

Now a lot of my fellow supporters told me it’s all money for the club and if some of them begin coming to games regularly then it’d be worth it, but I disagree. I don’t want people like this at my club; they can go back to their Sky Sports HD package and subject their families to their inane ramblings about “the bald one” and “that lanky streak off piss”.

Some of these ‘fans’ complain about their chairman or owners not releasing millions of pounds to sign the next bright young thing of European football. As they chant for the manager’s head and boo their side at half time because the score is 0–0, numerous clubs further down the footballing ladder are desperately trying to keep their heads above water.

Some clubs face a constant battle to remain in existence and a club’s financial stability can often rest on something as trivial as the weather. The smaller clubs get poorer and the big clubs get richer, as we are treated to an endless merrygoround of relegation and promotion involving the same eight or so teams due to the Premier League parachute payments.

All this while certain fans look down their noses at lower league football. The same lower league football that made goalkeeper Joe Hart the player he is today, the very same league football that saw a young Gareth Bale learn about the chalk on his boots and exactly the same league football that produced numerous players plying their trade in the Premier League today.

This isn’t an attack on fans of United and City, Spurs and Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, but an attempt to redress the balance. This is less of a Darlo battle cry and more of a toast to the patronised, downtrodden fans who sing for 90 minutes during a wet evening in Accrington. And, equally, (before people jump down my throat) to the fans of every side, at every level, who put both their team’s accomplishments and failures into perspective.

Anyway, you can all piss of back to your Sky+ boxes now or instead, give Will’s counter argument a good read and make up your own mind.

Will

Growing up, my ‘local’ team was Brighton and Hove Albion. My dad would take me to the Goldstone once or twice a season but, being an avid Portsmouth supporter, he would also take me to stand on the terraces at Fratton Park. Regardless of which ground I ended up at, for me it was never a case of going to watch a particular team so much as it was a case of going to watch a football match.

I owned a Brighton shirt, a Portsmouth shirt, and a Man United shirt which I would wear in rotation, totally oblivious to the outrage that such pantheistic worship would elicit among ‘real’ fans. My Man United shirt was a prized possession, not because I loved Man United, but because I loved Eric Cantona whose name and number I wore proudly on my back. I’d followed him since his arrival at Leeds and when he moved to United, he convinced me that it was possible to support a player and disregard the petty notion of ‘teams’ altogether. One day at primary school, in an effort to defend my promiscuous ways, I asked my classmates: ‘are not teams but the arbitrary facilitators of the poetic sporting spectacle that so beguiles us?’ (or words to that effect). This did not help matters… at all, but it did encapsulate my feelings towards football at the time.

A few years later, a set of protracted circumstances led me to start following Chelsea who I now identify with very strongly. Despite my own conviction regarding this matter, my chequered history of spectatorship/shirt wearing would no doubt lead hardcore fans to label me a ‘plastic’ or a ‘tourist’. Accusations such as these seem to haunt a great deal of football fans and play into a fear of not passing muster, of being outed as a fraud. This is certainly one way to account for the pleasure that so many of us derive from a near-autistic exchange of statistics.It is, after all, a practice that provides an empirical basis to ‘fandom’, a phenomenon which, if (like me) you are unwilling to get a tattoo of your club’s crest, can be difficult to quantify. For this reason, there’s a certain comfort in supporting your local team or a lesser team – you can be safe in the knowledge that no one will challenge your decision or demand that you prove your credentials.

In some quarters (generally the lower leagues) there seems to be a kind of romanticised notion that the poorer the quality of your team, the more genuine your supporting of them is. The more atrocious the game that you sit through each week, the more you must like football. To me, this is not football fandom but another beast altogether, a beast that stalks the same territory as national pride – it is a sworn allegiance borne of consequence and a perceived duty. This is not to say that everyone who supports a team outside of the premier league or the championship or the football league is a moron with no interest in sport – on the contrary, I believe that the investment of emotion and some sort of affiliation with a club forms a crucial component of a heightened experience of football consumption.

It is, however, a component that is fundamentally bolstered by its flip-side; the talent, skill and artistry of the game. For this do not merely read: step-overs, overhead kicks, 20 minute tiki-taka passing moves etc. Although these sights are undeniably titillating to behold, I derive an almost perverse enjoyment from the finer details of high quality football such as watching a 30-yard diagonal pass that is controlled perfectly (and with apparent ease) while its recipient simultaneously pieces together a 360 degree picture of the surrounding situation, or a crunching, goal-saving tackle in the box that needs to be (and is) timed to perfection to prevent the concession of a penalty.

Maybe I’m spoilt, but I do not believe that my anger or disappointment when Chelsea play badly, or draw, or miss a penalty, or get knocked out of the Champions League is any less legitimate than any other football fan’s. I would even go so far as to suggest that the fact that I genuinely believe that my team is good enough to win the world’s premier competitions means that the agony and the ecstasy is significantly intensified. In my book, it is the synergistic moment when emotional fandom and the virtuosic sporting spectacle converge that delivers the ultimate football experience.

Having said that, if I was given the choice between watching an awful game of football that I was incredibly emotional about or an incredible game of football that I was awfully blasé about, I’d take the second option every time. And if I could afford Sky+, I’d be more than happy to piss off back to it and watch the aforementioned game in pausable HD.

Where do you stand? We’d love to hear your opinions…

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Posted in: Football