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HELLO ALBERT, HELLO SPION KOP!
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HELLO ALBERT • ISSUE 28

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Editorial
Fans or Supporters?
Goran Who?
A View From The West Stand
Culture Clash


FANS OR SUPPORTERS?

I've never subscribed to the word “soccer”. There’s only one type of football. Not the rugby type or the American type, or even the Gaelic type, but proper football played with the foot and a round ball. Some players in the modern game seem to take the definition far too literally by being insistent on using only one foot for kicking and one for standing. Messrs Beckham and Merson are perfect examples of the art of one footers and contrive to contort their bodies and stride patterns in such a way as to ensure the ball is always kicked with the right foot, which in their case is indeed the foot on the right. We have one or two lesser exponents at the moment. Footballers by name with the operative word being foot. You’d think that with all the practice they get, they would attempt to use the other foot, and perhaps give us a laugh once in a while if nothing else. I mean it’s not like trying to write with the wrong hand is it? Or perhaps it is. Should Bobby Charlton and Trevor Brooking (to name two) have been called feetballers?

THE PEOPLE’S GAME

Football isn’t just confined to the Premiership, or even the Nationwide though. It’s something we can all do. Anyone can kick a ball. But we can’t ever compete or compare ourselves against the top professionals like in athletics, where even the biggest names enter road races and cross country events.

We can never get to play football against them. We can only watch, sometimes in envy, sometimes in hero worship, some times in sheer frustration and sometimes in despair. But it’s impossible to be indifferent if you are a football fan, because it’s in your blood. I’m talking (or more accurately, writing) about real football supporters here. Not the good time Johnnies who have tagged on to premier league clubs because it is fashionable (and expensive). Where will they be when the bubble bursts and a number of clubs now at the top find themselves bankrupt because of the excessive wages paid to one footed players? Will they be paying players petrol money and having bucket collections to get a loan player? I think not. This is not to decry the dedicated devoted fan of a big club who has been simply priced out of the market as the game (sorry, industry, because that’s what it is now) has got richer and barely accessible to Mr Average working man and especially his kids.

A HOPELESS ADDICTION

You’d think that these deprived fans would go and support another team close by. A team from a lower league. One where it’s cheaper and actually offers the freedom to stand. One that really needs your support (financial) because it’s struggling to survive. One where the players actually earn less than the fans (check the Deva car park if you don’t believe me). But no. It simply can’t be done because a football fan is more often than not destined to be the fan of just one team, not football in general. Be it through an accident of birth, parental influence or sheer bloodymindedness, one team it is and one team it will be. It’s a life sentence. No remission. OK, sometimes house moves, followed by a long period of deprivation and severe withdrawal symptoms may cause an otherwise unthinkable switch in allegiance. But even then, it is generally to a team in another division, so that loyalties are unlikely to be compromised.

In the old days (ageism creeping in), you could claim to support the club by virtue of a scarf or bob hat. You could even get a shirt that approximated to the team’s. Now, of course, replica shirts (plural) are de rigueur. Home, away, last season’s, this season’s, classic, retro etc etc. “Come on you blues” becomes quite difficult if your team is now predominantly white, with a yellow away strip because of the sponsors’ requirements. Yet fans still buy them to demonstrate their support, and if they can’t play with their heroes, at least they can wear the same strip, even if it is XXL size. Shorts are not an option for other than junior sizes for obvious reasons.

And because we are fans we behave like fans. Like the electric type, we blow hot and cold. And are as changeable as the weather. “We’ll support you evermore” is sung in victory or gallant defeat, whilst “you only sing when you’re winning” echoes from the opposition ranks during a particular abject performance punctuated by boos, whistles and cries of “rubbish” that has you vowing “never to come and watch this lot again”. We will call for the sacking of the board, the team manager or even the office cat in times of despair. But where are we next home game? At home watching Grandstand? No way. We are all hooked. Addicts. It’s a habit we can’t kick, even with one foot. And we share our addiction. We are in the same seat, or on the same step on the terraces every home match, because we are a territorial lot, worthy of any sociological or psychological study. We need to share our joys and misery with the same faces week in, week out. We may not know them socially. But through the recent years of adversity there has been a bonding and new friendships have been made. And for two hours, about 25 times a year, they are our friends, our allies, our mates.

GRATEFUL FOR SMALL MERCIES?

At our level, we are not waiting for that elusive premiership title, although a trouble free season would be a welcome experience. We all long for that once in a lifetime experience. That special event that we can look back on for years and say "I was there". We go every week in the hope it will happen. Never in the expectation. And when it does, it is fantastic and makes it all worthwhile. A very small return on your investment of time and money, maybe. But I keep going because I am frightened of missing that return, whatever it is. Vale Park and Brisbane Road provided wonderful memories of this turbulent season. Carlisle (both games) still give me nightmares.

The 2-2 draw on Feb 14th 1995 against our “local rivals” on their own patch with 9 men almost made up for all the other bitter disappointments of that relegation season. We still talk about it after all these years. Lifelong supporters of Doncaster and Scarborough would understand more than most, but try explaining that to the new breed of Man Utd. or Chelsea fans. They probably wouldn’t understand.

Les Smith - chairman Chester City ISA


ISSUE 28 Editorial
Fans or Supporters?
Goran Who?
A View From The West Stand
Culture Clash
 
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