Hands up who has been throwing bottles at the television during those adverts for the FA Cup on ITV this season? Well, Mark Critchley has been, and he has been kind enough to share his rage with us. Follow Mark on Twitter by clicking here.
Heh. We’re a right bunch of cads, us lot. Don’t know about you but parking in the players’ entrance, knocking a scotch egg about and holding whimsical cup draws with a bag of Haribo Starmix – well, that’s just our ‘banter’ on a bad day. When we’re not giggling ourselves shitless however, we’re knocking our skulls against the real issues. ‘Striker’ or ‘centre-forward’? What’s a 2-2-3-1-2? What are we supposed to tell the wife? We’re football supporters, y’see. This is what we do.
For those still blissfully ignorant of Keith, Ian and Andy, theirs are the baseless chuckles and lad-gurns which sandwich ITV’s sponsored FA Cup coverage – itself a tumbleweed blowing on from the previous weekend’s genuinely laughable Match of the Day. Whereas however, the irreproachable beam of a bone-idle Alan Shearer goes some way to apologise for him not knowing his arse from his Edin Džeko, this gang of rampant shitheads, decked out in stubble and sports-casual, are indefinitely offensive. Not only do they try to sell you a crap car you don’t want on your time, and suffocate their promotions in either unfunny bonhomie or anorakish chin-stroking – they pose as football supporters whilst doing so.
On this form, we’re apparently a bastardisation of chortling, irrational airheads trying to get our texts printed in Nuts magazine, and ersatz managers with an opinion on just about everything. Keith, Ian and Andy have got their programme, their burgers and their lucky pants. The very car they’re discussing Cardiff City’s title credentials in is probably being run on their own farts. That’s just typical Keith, Ian and Andy – and these men are just typical football supporters. But is this what we do?
Erm, no. In fact this hackneyed mould is one most fans look to avoid, and would mock any downright dingus who chooses to employ it. A sense of understanding and recognition on a terrace is, in my own personal experience, something effortlessly achieved through simply having been there, a reality which makes the garish endeavours of those influenced by the ad men even more ridiculous. Eating a half-time pie is as much a way into football’s cultural credibility as interbreeding is into the Royal Family. We would not be amused.
Indeed, by Keith, Ian and Andy, we aren’t. Same goes with those po-faced plebs who call 606 whilst waiting for Mum to finish the sock wash, as well as Betfair’s ‘Front Room Five’ – the apparent results of a madcap experiment to see what would happen if thirty-something white males actually did have their vocal chords biologically wired to their bollocks. When a representation of football supporters is there to be made, you can bet your bottom Bovril that the mainstream media will get it wildly inaccurate. How do they? And how dare some fans buy into it?
In his series of articles for The Guardian entitled ‘Football Into the Nineties’, the ever-lucid David Lacey darkly summarised the treatment of fans during the late twentieth century as “crammed in the Fifties, cajoled in the Sixties, condemned in the Seventies and killed in the Eighties”, whilst recommending they be “cosseted, not coerced” in the decade that was to come. Armed with hindsight it’s possible to conclude the Nineties saw a concoction of both. The supporters’ mindful acceptance of the Taylor Report brought about the demise of identity card proposals, fencing and improved crowd management against the introduction of atmospherically inert but safer, all-seater stadia. Like the dog who ate the birthday cake, fans remorsefully entered football’s new commercial environment under BSkyB and the Premier League a few years later, only to have to sit down and shut up. That is, if you could still afford to.
That’s been our lot ever since, and any deviation from such placid behaviour is not only reprehensible according to her Majesty, but the goggleboxed media too. Last month’s Tyne-Wear Derby saw 17 year-old Sunderland fan Ross Millar irreversibly sour the event in the eyes of the refined when he outrageously pushed Newcastle United’s grown man Steve Harper to the ground in the mad heat and unadulterated beano of his team’s late equaliser. Harper, a stocky six-footer, did not sever any one of his sizeable limbs in the process. His head did not roll off his neck and spontaneously combust. His spinal column did not melt. Harper simply got back up again.
Millar, after Steve Bruce (presumably running crazed on his favoured juices of ‘loyalty’) had gone as far as to perform a citizen’s arrest on his own man, was arrested and detained by police. So far, so unseemly; but for some, it wasn’t enough. BBC Radio Five Live’s Monday Night Club, agitated in chief by that criminal justice sage Steve Claridge, condemned the digression and largely advocated his lifetime banning. The previous evening, Colin Murray’s regular weekend chucklevision Match of the Day 2 had employed smarmtastic inverted commas like some sexually repressed blubber-balls character in an outdated American sitcom when referring to Millar as a ‘fan’ – as if stepping onto a pitch and nudging someone twice your size is as morally contemptible as war. What’s more, the same programme’s footage of Wilson Palacios’ appendages being annihilated by the 22 year-old Rafael da Silva was laughed off by Murray, who explained in the way only taxpayer’s money can, that ‘we were all young once’. All of us, except Ross Millar.
Despite apologising profusely and attempting to do so in person during the days that followed his arrest, it was a 17 year-old football supporter against the world. A moral conglomerate of managers, ex-players and pundits threw their lot with the authorities and gave a united castigation to the lad, totally facilitated by the media. That’s the media – the same media who told Millar to buy the shirt, the subscription, the programme, the burger, the scarf, the car, the crap car, the crap car he doesn’t want – and all on his time. And just who are those three streaks of piss trying to sell it to him?
Ah, Keith, Ian and Andy…
They are not football supporters. ‘They’ are not what we do. They are our docile, consuming image posited by avaricious ad execs and creative directors paid to gratuitously over-caffeinate themselves – those who slap the buttocks of the dead-eyed auctioned hooker that is a post-1992 supporter, and slide a tenner in the crevasse whilst their at it. But we’re not that easy. In reality, we are the mass of an exclusive but unpretentious subculture. Although at times tribal, we share our own in-jokes, minutia and ply-wood bow ties. We are a friendly bunch, and we’re something they’ll never quite ‘get’. One day, we might get as mad as hell. One day, we might not take it anymore.
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