Friday, 27 January 2012

Canned Laughter

The scene is set. 

It is the dying seconds of an important game against your most hated rivals - a locally-born lad has come on for the last few minutes of the game and manages to jump higher than all around to meet a searching cross, closes his eyes and hopes as he makes contact, he has done enough to steer the ball towards the net.

The crowd rises expectantly, collectively drawing in their breath as the goalkeeper flails his arms to reach the ball, but to no avail - it evades him and arrows towards its destination untroubled. An almighty roar goes up from three sides of the ground and one of the greatest sights in football begins - the pure, unadulterated GOON - every fan is in a momentary state of ecstasy: jumping, bouncing, dancing, cheering, hugging, back-slapping, arm-waving - all in a glorious, chaotic, un-choreographed sea of colour...

where's wally?...
(photo from , thanks)

....until they are suddenly snapped out of this delirium by the the blaring sound of Song 2 by Blur rattling its way through the stadium's antiquated pa system. or Chelsea Dagger, or that one by those two swiss blokes I can't be bothered googling....

CHA-CHA SLIDE.....move to hop this time....

the delirium then becomes a mass sing along of the dumbest denominator. duh der der der derrrrrr der.........woooohh hoooooohhhh...............der dada der dada der dada der-di-dah...........etc etc - the pa guy had been sat there, waiting for that moment, finger poised over the red button - bang! - apocalypse now - thousands swaying to the music, pumping their arms along to the beat with ridiculous grins on their faces.....STOP IT NOW!!  The enjoyment and exuberance of that single, precious moment that is a goal - the holy grail and raison d'etre of football - has been hijacked and homogenised into a sterile product.

Why? The practice is less proliferate in the Premier League and more noticeable lower down the scale - is it a ploy to pad out the lack of crowd? Do those fans really want it? What has helped the club make the decision to do this?

Board meeting: "you know what would really get the crowd going? After we score, we could play that annoying song by the fratellis, make the whole stadium dance along - that would really raise the atmosphere" - er, no. Scoring the goal has just done that.

Seriously, what could make the feeling you get as the ball hits the back of the net more euphoric? Certainly not a mass sing and dance-athon to pre-recorded music - let the fans celebrate on their own. Let them goon about and go crazy. Let them make such a racket in their area of the ground that it swallows up the silence that seeps out from the opposing fans - NOTHING can improve that - not even Song 2.

when the music's over, turn out the lights...
(c/o Portadown Football Club Website, thanks)

I once attended a basketball game, years ago, at the then "Nynex" Arena in Manchester. Knowing me, it was probably a freebie. There I was, attending with the hope of working out whether I could find any enjoyment at all in a sport where both teams score points with virtually every attack, when the music hit me and made me jump. This was not just music for every basket scored (by the home team only, of course), nope - it was music to accompany an attacking play, or music to rally the crowd and the team when they were under the cosh. This was live sport, being played out as if it was on my xbox. to a crappy soundtrack. I hated it, obviously.

(That reminds me of the story I once heard that at Watford, if there was a particularly low attendance, there used to be a crowd chant played over the crackly pa "....cczczczczzc...COME ON YOU HORNETS...czcczccrackle fizzz...." as the team attacked - someone please let me know if that was true)


It is a worrying trend that has somehow lasted. It's time to take the power back and say no. No, I am not going to celebrate on demand. I recently saw a tweet from Grimsby Town fans that were bemoaning this very aspect of the game and saw that they are trying to get a campaign going in the hope that the club will listen. Now - let it be known that Grimsby Town have scored more goals at home than almost every other team in Europe this season -therefore, they have had more enough of a taste of this tacky phenomenon to make a judgement - you never know, the club may just listen to their thoughts - try and help them along - have a look at the campaign here: Ban the Music


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Super cider Sunday

Here we are....
about to embark on a "clash of the titans" weekend, a weekend with immense title ramifications hanging on it, a weekend of the kind that Sky really likes to get into a lather about, throwing superlatives around the place like SUPER-confetti, despite the fact it is still only January. As my old mate Dave would say, it is a "Super Cider Sunday"  (which works much better in the spoken form, than it does in the written word, sadly).
[side note: Dave sits across from me at work, and as I write a couple of notes (basically the title) for this - it is lunchtime - he has just polished off two large Greggs baguettes and is tucking in to the first of two jumbo sausage rolls, merely hours after a McDonalds breakfast - the man is a titan, and a heart attack waiting to happen ]

not cider
Notwithstanding the excitement that QPR-v-Wigan is going to offer this weekend, the hyperbole surrounding "super cider sunday" is probably justified at the moment - the idea of North London-v-Manchester to keep fans separate and balance out the fixture list has given us a boon this season. Sixteen goals between the two games at the beginning of the season - half that number would be just as appreciated in this round of matches - and who would bet against that happening, what with the current form of the four teams involved...intriguing.

Having disparaged the game between QPR-v-Wigan in that last paragraph - that match could actually be just as intriguing - Joey Barton's assertion through twitter that QPR are now finally organised is a bitter moan at the man who took him to Loftus Road, Neil Warnock. Whereas Wigan look like a team in desparate trouble from one week to the next - but are still only two points behind 17th place. So can "Sparky" rally his new troops?

Elsewhere, for those with differing tastes to cider, fallen giants West (we won the world cup) Ham take on Nottingham (we won the european cup twice, don't call us Notts) Forest in a virtually top-v-bottom clash in the championship that looks like a doozy of a game; Wycombe and Rochdale lock horns in a relagation clash in League One - and let's all not forget to check on reprieved-for-a-short-time Darlington in the conference  - hope they get a good attendance for their match against Fleetwood, with their patched up team:

Darlington-v-Fleetwood team news

enjoy the weekend - whether cider is your tipple, or not...


Monday, 16 January 2012

Replica shirts

Clone Wars do you feel like a player?....

They are a sign of allegiance.
They show you are part of a crowd - or different to the norm.
Worn as a badge of pride at belonging, or as two-fingers at those who are not with you.

They are big-business walking advertisements - a decision to advertise on which can be so delicate, that a company wishing to do so will go to great lengths to check who they will be upsetting when they emblazon the front of the bright coloured polyester mesh shirt - sometimes sponsoring more than one shirt to ensure they stay on side with all parties to a divide (see the old firm).

Not so many years ago, I used to live much closer to Manchester city centre - in the area of the city that was the original home of Manchester United, Newton Heath. Not the most salubrious of suburbs, but we lived in a nice house, on probably the nicest street, we thought.

The area still has links with United. A number of streets are named after some of the Busby Babes that perished in Munich, the library is covered by a wonderful mural featuring red-shirted footballers alongside links to the past major suppliers of employment in the area, factories and engineering. An old bus route, the 53, also runs through the area, all the way to Old Trafford. The only reason I could think of for that route would be to connect the two areas once the move was made by the club back in 1910 to Old Trafford from Bank Street in Clayton. I am very happy for any local historians to put me right on that theory! Red shirts were the norm, as far as I could tell.

Only half a mile or so from United's Bank Street home, an area ripe for regeneration next to Clayton, Bradford and Newton Heath became the site for the commonwealth games - and so it was that some noisy neighbours moved in to the locale.

Before it was decided that as a family, we would head for the hills, we shopped at the supermarket opposite the commonwealth stadium. On many occasions, following city's move in to the ground, I became aware of what I thought was the club's plan to attempt to become the pre-eminent team in the city. The club had a deal when taking residence at the stadium, that meant they would take the gate receipts equivalent to a full Maine Road (some wags may question if that had ever occurred) and anything over that ceiling would be the council's. Perhaps, I thought, as a looked around the supermarket at the large number of then "laser" blue shirts, this is their apocalyptic idea...


From nowhere, in this predominantly red area, city fans appeared all over the place. Red pubs closed down and reopened as blue. Chippys and shops took on city-related monickers....I had become cast adrift in a sea of blue...

One particular journey to the supermarket, I became blocked in an aisle by a family of city fans. A straggly-haired Rick Wakeman lookalike, his big-boned wife and four snotty-faced kids barred my way - all bedecked in blue replica shirts. Everywhere I looked, there were similar groups of twos and threes in blue - they were slowly going to repopulate and change the demographic of Manchester greatly by raising large, sprawling families of city fans, all apparently born with CTID tattoed on their backs and a rather touching phoenix and three stars on their chests (what are those three stars actually for?).

It all got me to thinking, me, not having bought a replica shirt since the age of 17. What makes a grown man want to squeeze his ever expanding lump of lard stomach into a gaudy piece of polyester and become a walking billboard? Kids I can see it. Despite the annual cries of the likes of the Daily Mail against the price of the said item, 30-40 quid seems a bargain for a piece of clothing that will hardly ever be off their back, still looks the part when dirty and doesn't need ironing. (Have they seen the price of kids shoes, lately, and how long they last with the way kids grow?)

And names on the back? Again - all kids have football heroes, and if they are not going down the route of the kids name and age on the back (again, the likes of the Daily Mail would probably warn against that in this stranger-danger age) then they are going for Rooney, or Silva, or Bale, or Torres....ok, maybe not the last one... But grown men? There they are, mid-40s walking round with the name of a player half their age printed on the back of an ill-fitting replica shirt - why??? Does it make you feel like a player when you prise it on?

Yet there is this feeling that they have to be bought to show allegiance - to show everyone you are a red, a blue, a dale fan, a tyke, you are leeds.... give me a simple, understated polo or a nice cotton t-shirt with a small marking any day - although even then...

Whilst I rant on about that - there is also the issue of wearing shirts at inappropriate times and places.

Naturally, as a testosterone fuelled youngster, straight after a heavy defeat, heads must be held high and shirts must be worn - proud in the face of adversity, but a Manchester United shirt in Leeds city centre is never a good idea, nor a Sunderland shirt in Newcastle, I'd wager - we all know the no-go areas - I once had the insult "SCUM!" screamed at me whilst walking through Sheffield city centre as a naive 16year old in my replica -  but how about another no-no and pet hate of mine?

I'll furnish you with an example to highlight it.

A blue friend of mine was perfectly appropriately upset that his beloved team had been knocked out of the Carling Cup semi-final (this was before they had broken their 35 year no-trophy hoodoo, remember, so they were "that far" [holds finger and thumb an inch apart] away from a trophy). In an effort to stay well clear of the match, come Final day, he foolishly agreed to be dragged along by his better half to the monolith of consumerism that is the Trafford Centre - merely a couple of miles from Old Trafford. It was surely a safe-haven on a day that the local team were at Wembley, where he could hide and forget football existed for a day...not so. To his utter amazement - and I believe him, for the record - during the actual match, there were people milling around the shops wearing their prized replica United shirts......DURING THE MATCH - A CUP FINAL!!

There are times when you can't get to the match. Times where money and circumstance just won't allow - but how can you seriously be walking around the shops wearing the home-town team's replica shirt during the final - with no public house in sight, even, to say you were on the way to watch - surely, of all the issues surrounding replica shirts - that is the biggest fashion faux-pas of them all.


Saturday, 7 January 2012

3rd round FA cup weekend

FA Cup 3rd round weekend is already upon us. Now, of course, run over a ridiculous number of days. What was once one of the most exciting days of season- is it now just getting in way of  the league? -- grumpyoldfan99 (@grumpyoldfan99)
Or is that just a premier league take on things?

Do fans of lower league teams now already out of the cup even care about the rest of the tournament, now they are back to league duty?

Did we always hold the cup in too high regard anyway, perhaps because of the age of the tournament?

Rest of the world don't really give a monkeys about their cup competitions. Managers placing more emphasis on league survival and crowds appear to be down each year, with even rumours around of city not selling out for the Manchester derby cup tie.

Surely, though, it is a chance to dream of glory, for those still in it - let's at least hope for some upsets to keep it interesting and allow some of those dreams to flourish.


Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Grumpy New Year end of the world as we know it...

In a bid to make more regular posts and to encourage interaction - but also to keep the blog as uncluttered as possible, I am experimenting with using a google+ page to extoll my grumpiness.

I thought I would put little snippets of interest on the + page and keep longer musings on the blog pages.

Clicking the red g+ buttons scattered above and at the side of this post should take you to the page, where you can easily comment, insult, follow and interact - or you could click here: