Nobody’s a ‘proper’ football fan anymore
I was the only person in my halls that wanted to watch the United game in a pub
As a southern Man United fan, it could be argued I’ve got no right to be wallowing in the decline of football culture across the country as it’s something people like me have contributed to.
Cue all the “We support our local team!” and “You only live round the corner!” blarney, so I’ll set the record straight. I support United because my Dad does, I’ve been a Red as long as I can remember and in the words of King Eric himself: “You can change your wife, your politics, your religion, but never, never can you change your favourite football team.”
This weekend, I realised the football culture in Bristol perfectly encapsulates how the game has been degraded, defiled and incredibly sanitised. Despite the result and Slippy G’s marvellous performance, I couldn’t help leaving Roo Bar on Sunday with my fears about the state of football confirmed.
The pub was full of football hipsters. One fella was wearing a retro Kenny Dalglish top, and a snapback. A snapback. In a boozer. These are the kind of lads who suddenly started following Palace or West Ham to be edgy. His mates were mostly Liverpool fans (no scouse accents, interestingly enough) – home counties boys I reckon like myself – and they were the kind of lads that shout “Fack off ref!” and “Twat!” every time Martin Atkinson made a decision.
It was embarrassing, to be honest. Like a perverse mix of wannabe Green Street meets posh Alan Partridge sports commentary. I remember when I was fourteen too.
As for the Dalglish shirt, I’m all for embracing your clubs history, I’ll happily wile away the hours reminiscing about the colossus that was Duncan Edwards (RIP), or Brucey’s winner against Sheffield Wednesday in the 92/93 season, but I got the impression the Dalglish top was a fashion statement more than anything else. Lads, I feel a bit bad, I’ve never spoken to you and you might be sound enough and just over-excitable on the beers, but some of the United older guard who were watching thought it was all a bit kiddy, and it was.
I can’t help but feel this is symptomatic of the decline in passion I’ve noticed in football over recent years. Perhaps it’s all nostalgia, but when I look back, football was glorious in the early 2000’s. It was waking up to North London turncoat Sol Campbell doing keepy uppies to the tune of U2’s Beautiful Day. It was gelling your hair like Beckham and turning up to the school discos with your football shirt on. Forget chirpsing the ladies and having a spot of aggro on a night-out, it was pouring Tango on a girl’s dress because she called you Robbie Fowler. It was Keano v Vieira in the tunnel and a Michael Owen hatrick in the Germans’ backyard. I can still hear Motson – “Can it be five?!”
Now what do we have? Take Arsenal. Wilshere, Giroud, Cazorla, Sanchez – all undoubtedly good/great players, but hardly your Gilberto, Wiltord, Overmars and Bergkamp of yesteryear. It’s all so modern. I’m not talking a return to the terrace fracas of the 70s/80s, but it would be refreshing to see a bit more atmosphere at the football.
For the past two games I’ve seen at Old Trafford I’ve sat in the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and as much as I hate to say it, the atmosphere was dead.
Things aren’t any better when I play football either. I used to be good. I’ll claim that right now. Granted, I am partial to exaggerating a bit when I, like King Jay Cartright, claim to have had trials for West Ham and no, I didn’t once nutmeg Jay Jay Okocha, but I used to play for the mighty Tonbridge Angels back in the day as a tenacious front man.
I’d happily be game for a Sunday 7.00 AM start to head up to Catford/Wandsworth to get battered by Wandsworth Juniors 8-0. Now, I struggle to get myself up for a spot of halls football. One of my Wills’ teammates even told me recently to untuck my shirt when I was about to come on and pull an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and supersub the shit out of Badock Hall. I told him it’s not a fashion show, but ended up complying anyway.
Truth be told, the Badock lads were no better. There was a lot of whinging about decisions and some haircuts I never want to see again on a football pitch. Less David Ginola, more David James. Who knows, maybe I’m just grumpy and out of whack? A bit of a dinosaur, at just eighteen years old.
I went to the pub on my own on Sunday. Not a single lad from my halls was prepared to venture out to Roo Bar for the game. One lad’s even a United season ticket holder from Bolton. He preferred to stay in and watch it on SkyGo with a slight time lag. Dan Irvine, lad. You’re a red – start acting like it!
Perhaps surprisingly, the biggest football fan I’ve met at Bristol is a woman and a fellow Red. We bumped into each other on the train down from Manchester after the Palace game and it turned out she was in Hiatt Baker. Annabel, if you’re reading this, I heard on the grapevine you gave your boyfriend the elbow not long ago. I thought we sort of hit it off and if you ever want to go down Roo Bar to watch United, drop me a message. Or maybe whack me a spare ticket to a game? Will Xx