Happiness – It’s Not For Football Fans
The summer break is one of the most tedious times in the football calendar. Granted if there’s a World Cup or European Championship on then things are slightly better, but generally speaking it is a few months filled with tedium and boredom.
It is made worse by the ever changing sagas in the transfer market, with Raheem Sterling, Radamel Falcao and Nathaniel Clyne already the subject of tabloid stories, despite the fact that the transfer window is still a couple of weeks away from even opening.
It is a time when supporters are desperate for any news about their club, but are then quick to complain about said news if it doesn’t live up to their expectations. Chelsea fans are scouring the internet, waiting to hear what business their club is going to do during the window. Then, when news emerges that they seem set to sign Falcao on a season long loan, they are quick to complain that he was poor at United and that Chelsea should be aiming higher.
In fact, it seems that supporters of clubs across the country are now more prone to complain about things than they are to celebrate them. Liverpool have so far signed Danny Ings, James Milner and Adam Bogdan, with rumours that the club are also looking at Nathaniel Clyne. Yet if you believed what you read on Twitter, you’d think they’d sold every player on the books and were replacing them with players from the 2nd division.
On the surface it would seem that Manchester United fans are generally happy, yet the glow of getting back into the Champion’s League and finishing above Liverpool will only last for a few weeks more. Even the signing of Depay, one of Europe’s most exciting young wingers, wasn’t met with complete joy and happiness. One Twitter user said, “Great signing. Though won’t be that attacking when we play him at right back”. A clear criticism of Louis Van Gaal’s somewhat experimental formations in the 2014-2015 season.
Of course if you were to question any of the supporters as to why they are seemingly so negative about their team, they’d merely tell you that they want the best for their club and won’t accept mediocrity. They’ll say that their job is to keep the owners on the straight and narrow; to stop the club from slipping into the middle of the road and falling behind the pace.
Yet the truth is probably not quite as generous as all that. It seems more likely that fans are just keen on complaining; that life in this day and age is all about the now.
Since the days of Big Brother and The National Lottery, people have come to expect everything to be delivered to them right away, with little-to-no work needing to be done on their half to get what they want. In life, so it is in football. Things are forgotten quickly, last week’s story is today’s chip wrapper.
Social media hasn’t helped, either. In this day and age of Twitter, trending and immediate reaction, football fans have short memories. Liverpool have, by all accounts, had a terrible season. But remember when they went on an unbeaten run and seemed like dead certs for the Champion’s League?
For a long while, Louis Van Gaal’s record at United was even worse than David Moyes’s was the season before; a season that saw him ridiculed, sacked and packed off to Spain. Ask a United fan now and they’ll tell you that things are so much better this season, yet the reality is that they only finished with 6 more points than in the 2013-2014 season, and would have been 9 points off the top four had the other teams played as well as they did the year before.
‘The now’ is just about an understandable concept for the modern day football fan, but it isn’t as important as tomorrow. And don’t even bother trying to think about yesterday – there is no fun to be had by looking at the past. Football is, as far as the moaners are concerned, all about what can be achieved in the coming days.
Sadly this vision isn’t about romance. It isn’t an exploration of possibilities, like watching a ship sail off into the ocean under the light of the moon, wondering about the lives of those on board and their hopes and dreams. It isn’t a case of fans thinking about the future of their club and envisaging trophies and street parties.
It’s about waiting for the club to buy a better player, to win a match six nil instead of five. It’s about the manager getting sacked so a new one can come in, or the owners moving on so that some oil-rich Arab can enter the football world and splash the cash around. Man City, one of the richest clubs in the world thanks to the Abu Dhabi family that bought them, have allowed James Milner to leave on a free because being a workhorse who’d bust a gut for the team isn’t good enough for the fans. If you want to impress then don’t buy a worker, buy a name.
Liverpool had decades of success up until their last title triumph not by constantly chopping and changing, but by ensuring consistency and by sticking with what they knew. In the 1963-1964 season Liverpool won the league for the first time in 17 years, yet the following season they finished 7th. Their manager at the time was a Mr Bill Shankly.
Nowadays Liverpool fans demand that Brendan Rodgers is sacked for finishing 6th the season after the Reds came within 2 points of winning the league, taking it to the last day of the season for the first time since the Premier League began. They invoke the historical ‘standards’ of the club and swear blind that Bill Shankly would be rolling in his grave at the notion of Rodgers being in charge after such a season, whilst having little to no idea what they’re talking about and completely forgetting the historical facts.
The Price Isn’t Right
The simple fact is that something needs to change. Premier League grounds are no longer the cauldrons they used to be. Unless the big boys come to town virtually every stadium in the country settles into a quiet, settled venue as soon as the game kicks off. Only the travelling fans tend to make any noise, with chants of “Is this a library?” and “Where’s your famous atmosphere?” becoming somewhat commonplace.
Rival fans were happy to mock Manchester United recently when the club explored ways of getting a better atmosphere in the ground, including the introduction of a ‘singing section’. But the reality is that every club could do with exploring such things.
It would be more than fair to say that the Premier League is pricing the normal fan out of the game. The younger generation, who might be more prone to enjoying a pre-match drink before getting in the ground and singing their hearts can no longer afford to go to the game. Instead the corporate clients who sit in the comfortable boxes until after kick-off or well into the second half are replacing them. Or, worse than that, the well to do fan who is now more used to watching football on the television than in the ground.
Tickets are now so expensive that fans are more inclined to go to the ground and demand to be entertained than to actually support the team. Perhaps that’s another part of why fans seem to be so angry and quick to complain. They’re spending so much money to be there they no longer think of themselves as part of the experience, but merely a consumer who wants to be given something in return for their money.
What Can Be Done?
This summer shouldn’t be about transfer stories or about fans wanting more and more from their club. It shouldn’t be about people lamenting the performance of their team last season, or about demanding the removal of their manager. Football fans have done enough complaining now. Football fans need to remember that they are supporters. The word is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as being, “A person who is actively interested in, and wishes success for, a particular sports team”.
Think about that: a person who is actively interested in a particular sports team. Not actively critical of, not constantly sniping about, but actively interested in and hopeful of success for.
This summer should be used to reclaim the word ‘supporter’. Whilst there’s no World Cup or European Championship to distract us, whilst there’s seemingly no more managerial changes due to take place and disrupt things, let’s get back to basics as far as supporting our teams is concerned.
If you go to the ground then take a couple of minutes to ask yourself some questions:
- Do I sing the songs with everyone else?
- Do I get off my seat and cheer when my team does something good?
- Do I pick up other fans if they are rude or abusive towards their own team and it’s players?
If the answer to those questions is “yes” then you’re on the right track. You’re doing things the right way. But if you said no, perhaps you’ll say yes to these questions:
- Do I shout abuse at players that play for my team?
- Do I boo if the team isn’t good enough?
- Do I swear and shout at the manager?
- Am I the type of person who sits in silence when I’m in the ground?
If those questions seemed to resonate with you more, then maybe it’s time to ask yourself ‘why’? Why do you do it? What do you get out of it? Why do you go to the game if you’re so full of hatred and anger? Isn’t it about time that you just stopped? If you’ve got a season ticket and don’t want to lose it, why not see if a younger member of the family or a neighbour wants to go instead?
Making A Difference
The simple fact is that supporters can make a hell of a difference. If you don’t agree then why don’t you ask Chelsea players how they coped with the atmosphere at Anfield in the Champion’s League semi-final in 2005? Or, more recently, the Belgium players how they felt to play in a wall of Welsh noise in the European Championship qualifier game at the Cardiff City Stadium?
Fans can not only roar their team on and help them to win massive matches, but they can also put the opposition off their game, make then lose their concentration. They can influence the referee to give decisions their way, fearing that they’ll be ripped limb from limb if they don’t. It’s an irrational fear, of course, but if you’re a football fan then you want the referee feeling afraid for his life.
Here’s the thing, though: it’s not just the massive games when the fans matter. Your voice is just as important if your team is facing Norwich as it is if you’re up against Arsenal. Imagine what your team could to if a stadium full of tens of thousands of people were screaming their lungs out, determined to push their team on to victory in every single game.
If you know you haven’t done enough when you’ve been at the ground then spend this summer asking yourself ‘why’ and figuring out what you can do to change it. Fans can make a difference. You can make a difference. Your singing isn’t just something for the cameras to pick up so it sounds good on Match Of The Day. It can be the difference between a loss and a draw or a draw and a win. It can win your team a penalty or stop the referee from giving away a free kick. Make no mistake, your singing can win your team points.
So take the summer and think about how you can improve what you offer your team. Think about how your mates can help you make a genuine difference next season. Share this article with them, get them to ask themselves the same questions you just have.
Football isn’t the opera or a trip to the theatre. It isn’t about sitting in comfortable seats and watching what unfolds in front of you. It’s a visceral, heart-thumping experience, full of energy and angst. It’s a time to get involved and attack the opposition, not the players that represent you and the dreams you have for your team.
It’s time to get off your backside and get involved. Sing, shout, cheer and drive your team on, give your players that energy boost that could help them fly into the tackle or take the final shot.
Most importantly, though, it’s time to support.