The Grumpy Old Fan now resides elsewhere at grumpyoldfan dot net - please come along there, have a read and say hello!

All posts included on this site have been transferred and the new site is still regularly updated...

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or good old-fashioned email - let me know how I'm doing and that I'm not alone.....

Also, scroll all the way down the blog - and maybe read some of the posts on the way down- (see what I did there? clever, that) to the list at the bottom of the page, for some really rather decent reading material from other bloggers and sites.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

It's all happening over there!......GRUMPY OLD FAN HAS MOVED...

There has been a new home for the general football-related morosity of the Grumpy Old Fan for a month or so - over at grumpyoldfan dot net.

If you have found this version of the site, which is no longer updated, please do come round and have a nosey over the fence, maybe even post a comment!

The older posts on this site have been transferred to the new site also.

Since moving to the new home, there have been grumps and groans on the state of modern football-fandom - half and half scarves anyone?!?!?!, tales from South-East Spain on supporter-owned initiatives, a wonderful picture of a 4-way work tie, the Catalan influence on the Spanish national side and more.

See you there!


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The times they are a-changin'

Thank you for happening along to this blog - please feel free to mooch around and have a nosey. For the full grumpy experience, however, please go to my new blog site grumpyold fan dot net, where these posts will reside along with newer rants and articles.

Many thanks,


Wednesday, 30 May 2012

One in Ten

This is McFootball.

659 million fans. 1 out of every 10 human beings.

As I travelled home last night, I read the "news" (once Eden Hazard had let everyone rest easy on their seats rather than perching on the edge in excitement) - it was a rather slow news day - that Manchester United were gleefully telling anyone that would listen that they had 659 million fans worldwide. Oh, and that shows that the Glazers, like Guinness, are good for you.

Following the capitulation in the league, leaving bitter cross-town rivals as champions.

Following Chelsea lifting old Big Ears, in a year that United were appalling in Europe.

Following another year of mounting debt and a £71 million-sized black hole and the news that a long-term target and ego of the year chose to live in London, rather than the North.

Following all these and more, was the wonderful news that all is well at Old Trafford, cos we have considerably more fans than anyone. Richard Arnold, United's commercial director, might well have been sticking his tongue out and waggling his hands around his head, shouting "na na - na, na na", I'm not sure - but that is the vibe that I get from reading this.

"We finished the season in first place, and city finished winning on goal difference," he said. That's second place then, mate.

"Competitors come and go. The one thing that remains constant is Manchester United," he continued to opine, going on to tell us what a great job he and the club were doing to win fans all around the world, because United are so great.

Now, I gave my season ticket up about 6 years ago. I saw that lovely Rooney volley against Newcastle in the last game I attended as a paying customer. Since then, I have contributed the princely sum of £3.50 to the club, in the form of a pint of liquid refreshment a couple of years ago, whilst there as a guest of a friend at my one and only time in Old Trafford since.

That is about 350 pence more than about 658.5 million of those fans then. Put together.

Yet these fans are courted, cherished and celebrated. This is McFootball. The big challenge now is not to look after the local, long serving, paying fans - they will probably be there anyway, buying tickets and going to games.  No, the chalenge is to come up with ideas how they can make a few more of those millions spend a little more of their hard-earned on chasing the United dream, buy the tv plans, spend at the megastores and look ubercool in red.

Except this grand, old club club, as we all know, is much less than cool. Probably just about the most uncool football club on the planet.

Mind you, despite how sad it is that United have to report such "findings", they are obviously not alone in doing so. Take FC Barcelona, everyone's current favourite club, no?Alongside their wonderful current brand of football, they go around telling the whole world how great they are, usually just in a game of one-upmanship aagainst Real Madrid, how they are "mes que un club," Along with this recent upward trend in the actual footballing-stakes, they have found an upsurge of millions of admirers around the world that posture in their shadows and laud them as the greatest ever, wishing that every club could be run in the same way - from tactics, to academy (oh La masia, of course) to business (without actually knowing too much about any of them in a lot of cases). Despite all this - they are also held up as every inch the coolest football team. I find it all a bit mawdling, to be honest.

More than a club? You are just another football club, Senor Barcelona. Just like any other. You just happen to have hit a very purple (and blue) patch. Unless by "more than a club", you are counting all those basketball and hockey and whichever other teams bear your name and whose trophies reside in your museum. Perhaps more than just a football club, then.

Old news, but I found the Unicef shirts a little too much to stomach as well. Nice gesture, but we all know it was only to soften the blow of them realising that they had to act like every other club and sell the space on the front of the shirt like everyone else. Do a quick two-year hit for charity, everyone loves us, then BANG, and the dirt is gone. We can sell to highest bidder as the ad-free shirt no longer exists.

"But we represent a whole nation, the nation of Catalunya" is another attempt to justify the claims - the Espanyol fans that share your city put it quite well "Qatar is not Catalunya" - the shirt went to the highest bidder, no matter where the money was coming from (and there are plenty of rumours about the Qatar Foundation to cause worry).

Furthermore rumours abound that naming rights of the Camp Nou are under discussion - giving more credence to the thought that everything has a price in McFootball. History, tradition - even coolness.

Not got a particular axe to grind with these clubs. Just McFootball. But like our favourite fast food, we all love our junk football as well.


Friday, 25 May 2012

Withering Heights

Fine lines cause crow's feet around the eye of the beholder.

To my tiring eyes, Chelsea were about three minutes away.

Then again, one poor spot kick away.

And then again just a lottery penalty kick away.

Just those, tiny, tiny incidents away from losing the champions league final with the most withering and weak of performances I have witnessed in a Champions League final.

The kind of display that would have made their supporters scratch their heads and hang them in despair thinking, WHY?

It us understood and right to be applauded if you can beat the finest team Europe has seen for many years over two games,home and away, as they did with Barcelona. In those circumstances, use any means at your disposal, negative or otherwise. Of course, there can be as much to admire in defensive work as attacking.

But WHY get all this way to a one off final and then spend the whole match solely ensuring that the other side didn't score. And not even (perhaps Ashley Cole aside) doing very well at it -  surviving, as they did, with a chance in the lottery of penalties, only because their opponents had forgotten something important when bossing a game. Namely, how to propel the spherical object they have been passing around over the correct part of the white line and between the uprights.

With their shooting boots on, Bayern would have been well out of sight. Even without them (how many has Gomez scored this season? and how?) Bayern finally broke through and -but for an admittedly superb equaliser by Drogba once chelsea realised they ought to make a fist of it - Chelsea would have signed off from one of the biggest games that most of those players will ever be involved in, or wore replica kit and shinpads to, with a pathetic pffft.

This was Chelsea, let us not forget. Not Worksop Town. A team with the likes of Drogba, Torres, Lampard and Mata at its diposal. This was also a Bayern Munich shorn of its first choice central defenders. And although they got to the final and obviously a decent team -Barcelona at their pomp, they are not. (I realise that neither are Chelsea - but they surely had more to offer than that.)

Yet we awoke to stories of brave Chelsea heroes and pleas for interim manager Di Matteo to be given the job long term. "What more does he have to do?" are the cries of the permanently stressed out London press.

Or even - "this is how England should play in Euro 2012 and we can win it!"

It has brought to mind a certain derby match "title decider" that Manchester United gifted to Manchester city. United would not play for a draw - "never done that in my life" said Sir Alex. But the sight of his side ceding territory and possession and dropping deeper and deeper to defend the status quo was sadly not indicative of his statement.

Those fine lines appear again, though. But for a lapse of concentration on a corner, United would be champions now - and it would be down to a performance not unlike Chelsea's last weekend, and most unlike a United performance. A disappointing and withering attempt at getting a draw - but was that more understandable because only a draw was needed?

Fair play to Chelsea, though. Their name is on the big old trophy and despite being a million miles away from the best in England this season, they are the Champions of Europe.
We probably could have dispensed with the 120 minutes of football match, though, and gone straight to a penalty shootout.

That is why Mr Abramovich does not seem to be rushing to give the job to Roberto. He will feel that his money should be buying something a little more certain. Not a Euromillions ticket.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

you can't be neutral on a moving train

A great spectacle for the neutrals.

Last weekend’s ending to the premier league season will have many words written about it, eulogising the greatest ending to a season ever, etc. Some will be succinct, others poetic. Some will be bitter and others will gloat.

The words above may not appear verbatim, but there will be an inference to that theory - that the pair of matches involving the Manchester clubs, the to-ing and fro-ing of the league title, right in to the dying seconds - and the relegation battle and "race" for third place - whilst being varying degrees of heaven and hell for the various sets of fans, was great stuff for the watching neutrals. But is it truly possible to be neutral when it comes to football?
Even at a park game on a Sunday morning, I will instantly take sides and find a reason to root for one rather than the other - they look a bit portly and ageing, I'll back them; that team's kit looks too much like manchester city's, hope they lose; the captain loves the sound of his voice too much, go for the opposition - I can't just sit or stand there and watch without investing some interest in to it and picking a team.

The FA Cup Final was a dilemma. Year by year I pick a favourite team in the final - but 2012? I have no time for Liverpool, yet the modern Chelsea also turn my stomach - or some of their players...or one at least...

It never used to be that way with Chelsea for me - perhaps we know too much about today's players and it taints our opinions. I would have chosen Chelsea for the win without hesitation in the past - I used to like those Zola and Vialli chaps - hell, we all did, didn't we? Further back in time, I always thought it was quite becoming - nay exotic, almost - that they used to have a striker with a girl's name. (Kerry Dixon to the under 30s out there).
Still. When it came down to it - rather them than the old enemy. Can't brush away all that history.

Champions League Final - thought there might be a chance I could be neutral on this one, until I heard the "breaking news" that John Terry, despite being suspended, would be allowed to lift the trophy should Chelsea win (insert loud shouts a la Jim White on Sky Sports News for full effect). Deal sealed, come on Bayern.
The Europa League Final - well, the whole of Britain seemingly wanted Athletic Bilbao to triumph. The Channel 5 coverage of them sweeping all-comers aside (once the country had woken up to the tournament, when the high-profile Manchester teams dropped in to it) was a joy to behold. We all had new darlings to root for and to cheat on our other halfs with.
So, was there anyone who was actually neutral on the "greatest final day" in this, the Premier League's "greatest ever season"? I haven't met anyone that has any slight interest in football who has purported to be neutral this last weekend. Yet the whole Manchester duking it out for the title scenario ought to have only got the city of Manchester excited, oughtn't it? Shouldn't it have been a strictly local affair?
No longer. And not just because of the "Anyone But United" mentality that usually ensures neutrality goes out of the window. No - QPR gained a whole new raft of fans for the day, Sunderland too.

But then, the whole country has disliked Manchester United for a long time now, creating this ABU nation. We all know someone who claims to support them and spends many moments rubbing noses in the fact. The geographical location of fans is a weak argument in the modern game, but it still has the power to upset - especially when so many local clubs are suffering. The "club's" commercialism, polarising manager and relentless pursuit of silverware in this televisual age have all added to the mix, creating friends and enemies simultaneously in very large numbers.
Pretenders to the red throne have come and gone over the 20 years of the Premier League (I know football didn't begin then, but it is the accepted yardstick for the all conquering tv era), but United have come back time and again - I'm sure that most of the country have prayed for one challenger to stick and to really threaten the United dominance. Be careful what you wish for.

The Mancunian Way

Mancunians seemingly appear to have a chip on their shoulders. It manifests itself outwardly in a bravado and cockiness. A belief in always being right - or at least, not caring if anyone thinks they are wrong. A fast, clipped style of speech, with shortened vowels, the local tongue serves to make the listener think that the speaker is supremely sure of himself and what he is saying. It also serves to differentiate the true mancunian from those in the various mill and hill-towns that orbit the city.
One thing that causes them consternation is that there is another large industrial city 30 miles away that the world seems to love more. The scouse wit, music and football are the modern disputes, where trade and industry once stood. But for all the bravado and hipster talk about Mancunian music (which I love), Joy Division, New Order, the Roses, Happy Mondays, Oasis, Hollies - the Beatles trump them every time (and I'm not even a fan).
To the greater reaches of the country, Manchester feels left out and tries to propel an image of coolness after years in the doldrums. It clings desperately to an image of the hacienda and the baggy revolution of the Madchester scene, whilst trying to project a more modern image to the world as well. The victorian powerhouse still feels that it is owed a debt from the time it was the city that made the money that London spent.

So, the fact that the city of Manchester has probably long punched above it's weight in our London-centric country, has created the character of its people.

United were obsessed with catching Liverpool on titles. Knocking them off their perch. It hurts that the years of domestic success have not propelled them too much closer in European terms. manchester city now have that obsession. They want to be top dog in the country and they have the resources to make it happen. That it will come at the expense of their cross-city rivals will make it ever sweeter for the fans.
Voices are heard on the morning commute - "it's really good for them, because they haven't won the league for so long..." ; A caller to Talksport yesterday morning revealed that he was overjoyed for them, as he had a great affinity for city, even though he was a Huddersfield Town fan. His reasons? Denis Law left his club for city and his own team once lost 10-1 to them.
The blue-half of Manchester have long enjoyed being the plucky underdog. Everyone's favourite clown, they have been loved because of their glorious failures as they stumbled in the dark reaches of the oppressive shadows that are cast by the powerful monolithic presence across town. "God loves a trier. They deserve success for all they have been through over the years." Like a little lap-dog, they have consistently revelled in this petting, believing everyone liked them more. They very nearly fell for their own joke against QPR, until the true superstar in the team, with no real knowledge of this byline of city tradition, stepped up in the dying seconds.
I don't expect this feeling towards them to last too long. A sea-change is occurring, with them encouraging jealousy and dislike at an astonishing rate, like a lottery winner flashing his wad. Because, if you think that a new name on the trophy is refreshing and it is great that the reds are to be usurped by the once plucky underdogs, then just watch this lot go.

Beware all now that there are two Mancunian clubs at the top. The ABU nation could quite easily become the ABM nation - Anywhere But Manchester. After all, Manchester not only has the former-richest club and perhaps biggest club in the world as a resident, but also the new richest club in the world and latest Premier League champions.

If the blue moon really is rising, the mancunian streak in their fans will let everybody know about it all too soon. Like United's fans they will be brash, bold and loud. But rather than the loveable Eddie Large and Curly Watts of the past, they really will be the Gallagher brothers of the now (x40-odd thousand.) They will also multiply and replicate throughout the land as their success continues.
A match-goer at Goodison Park informed me that there had been a loud cheer during Everton's game against Newcastle United, at the news that QPR had taken the lead against manchester city - his reasoning was that their fans were already getting up his nose (of course, to offer balance, later Sunderland fans enjoyed the schadenfreude of seeing the last-seconds drama of the blues tearing the title out of red hands).
Remember the lemon-sharp bitterness of Mike Summerbee last season after Rooney's overhead kick won the derby? He embodies the fans that have suffered for years at the hands of the reds - they will revel in this glory (and they do have every right to, I can't deny them that). Remember Niall Quinn's most biased of co-commentary slots during the derby last month? On the red side - remember Gary Neville's one-eyed United playing days and hilarious tantrum resulting in a sending off a few years back? And Alex Ferguson's flippant "noisy neighbour" comment. All results of the Mancunian pressure cooker as the temperature has slowly risen.
The repercussions? United will do everything possible to stem the blue tide - it was only goal difference this time, no panic stations just yet... so if the two are to duke it out at the top of the table regularly, a mancunian monster may well have just been created.

If you managed to be before, you may not be able to be neutral any more and may have to make your choice - who is the least worst? Perhaps though, the best idea for all non-fans would be to try and learn to become completely neutral  - let their rivalry become parochial and localised and everyone else can just ignore them? Or you can hope that a third team or more can join the fun - imagine the sky coverage on the final day then...

Whatever. I wouldn't be able to be neutral - if I didn't have one already, I'd have to pick a side.