“Your name please?” “Sharongooner.”
“And your mission?” “To talk about football.”
“Qualifications?” “I have a brain and breasts.”
“Hang on…. there’s someone on the other line, we’ll get right back to you”
It isn’t that bad all the time, we have come a long way, and there are others out there with brains and ballbags who I can converse sensibly with about football and feel my opinion is appreciated, and never feel patronised. But football is still full of unbelievable fanatics who are so tunnel visioned I’m intrigued as to how they get any enjoyment out of life.
Football is first and foremost a ‘game’. A competitive game between two teams of men (for the purposes of this article, which is about mens football) who have a sporting talent which involves controlling a globe shaped object made of leather. Put that simply you would quite rightly wonder how this has been the cause for murder, fighting, racism, divorce, and all other sorts of horrors in its many years of history. Some people live, breathe, and die football to extreme extents. And for those who do not like or understand the game, they only ever refer to that element of it, and use that as some sort of justification to tar all football fans with the stereotype of being knuckle dragging hairybacked, culture starved ogres. Even Glinner (He kinda runs twitter, he wrote the fantastic Father Ted, is quite level-headed and up with politics and current affairs) on twitter one evening tweeted “Football fans, they really think the world revolves around them”, and I politely pulled him up on that and got nothing more than a “harumph bla bla” reply. I hate that fans have given us this image, you really only have yourselves to blame, and it has often been the reason I refuse to engage with many Arsenal fans online because I cannot stand the way a lot of you abuse your freedom of speech, even amongst yourselves, never mind towards other people.
I am quite open-minded about it all. I was born in Glasgow and was christened a Rangers fan. I imagine if you are born to a football family in any of the big cities or towns in the UK who are home to big teams the same happens there, and you often have no choice in the matter but you grow to accept it, and eventually love it. We moved to Essex when I was 3. When I was 7 and playing with boys, they said I must pick an English side to support. In my corner of Essex it is very mixed, but the team of choice is usually between West Ham and Spurs. My boy mates were all West Ham and Spurs so out of the air, I plucked Arsenal (showing that even at such a young age I refused to be influenced by the majority) and I stuck with it. None of my family supported them and none of my friends. My dad’s adopted English side was Liverpool, but rather like me, he just likes any good game of football, but to his horror I also started supporting England. I lived in England, so I liked them, that was all there was to it as far as I was concerned. I still loved Scotland, and I still support them now. Luckily they don’t play each other often.
I have been to the Emirates about 8 times. The seat I sit in costs something like £47.00 (that rounds down to 50p a MINUTE if like me you run a tight ship and like to weigh things up). It’s a beautiful ground, the first time I went I remember being struck completely dumb when I got up the stairs and descended to my seat. My eyes were blinded by the greenery of the pitch, the echo of the noise (yes, there is noise, so shut up), all my senses were at fever pitch, it was just amazing. It is a rare treat when a ticket comes up and I value it deeply. But I cannot go regularly, and I compensate my need for a fix of live football by supporting my local team, Harlow Town. I go to most home games, away ones when budget allows, and we have great fun.
So, just to recap, I support Rangers, Scotland, England, Arsenal, and Harlow. I also supported my lads team for 7 years until he outgrew it and replaced it with FIFA on the Playstation. Now, because of all this I get so much abuse; How can you be a true gooner? How can you be an England fan? And so on. My answer is “because I can”. I don’t have a problem with it at all, but others do and if they choose to get their shorts in a wedgie over it, that is up to them.
I adore watching Harlow and being a part of the whole footballing family. We are literally at the bottom of the pyramid, we faced ruin two seasons ago when two major shareholders went through a bitter divorce and the club became part of the settlement. The heating bills for the stadium didn’t get paid, the players wages were withheld, the floodlights failed, and we were begging for someone to come along and help save our club. One Tommy Cunningham came along like a Knight on a stallion and did just that. A man with a rich footballing brain, a sensible investor, a string of excellent contacts, and smart shoes. We are now clear of debt, and are currently in a play off position that will hopefully see us escape out of the Ryman League division one north.
Darlington were not so lucky. There were a lot of elements involved in their demise, and I don’t believe the rest of football should bail them out, (as much as that would be an amazing gesture) but I just wish people (and players of the big clubs) kept at the forefront of their minds that without these clubs there would be no premier league, there would be no Thierry Henry playing in England, there would be no Arsenal, no Man Utd, no Spurs (your season’s looking good). We are all part of the footballing pyramid, the fans, the players in the lower leagues, the sky sports and ESPN subscribers, the shirt buyers. But I really have had enough of the blinkered, so called fans of the big clubs assuming dominance because they attend games. Remember clubs like Darlington, Harlow, Halifax, Wimbledon, Kettering Town. All pieces to the jigsaw that makes the beautiful game just what it is.
My heart goes out to the hardcore Darlington fans, the few thousand who have stuck by them through to today. I hope for them, that they do come up with a positive plan and arise from the mess and the rest of football should feel the same.
I also like cricket, but I will talk about that another day.