By Tony Attwood
There is an article in the Guardian about the return of crowds to football grounds. The essence of it is that clubs can’t take the season ticket income for next season for granted, and that is fair enough.
But the article includes the line, “Typically reserved pensioners bawl from main stands, be it in Kilmarnock or Kettering, because football isn’t about inhibition.”
OK an interesting observation to the effect that many of us do change our personalities when we go and support our team. But it is a bit annoying, in that there is nowhere in Kettering for anyone, pensioner or otherwise, to bawl from the main stand, or even the touchline because there isn’t a ground in Kettering. Kettering Town play in Burton Latimer.
Worse, this is not some recent thing. It happened ten years ago. Double worse, it wasn’t part of some upgrade of the club following a takeover by a billionaire. The club has been through two other grounds since leaving the town that gives it its name. The writer might have bothered to check. It would only take five seconds.
Now this will seem a ludicrous comment to put on an Arsenal blog (although I have actually seen Arsenal’s under 23s play Kettering at the original Kettering ground, at the northern perimeter of the town). But I put it in, because it is central to my complaint about contemporary football journalism.
Football is about detail, and I think to most football fans detail matters. That’s why some of us obsess about our club’s past. It’s why I spent a year unravelling the story of Henry Norris’ takeover of Arsenal in 1910, trying to find out if he was the devil incarnate, or a benefactor who paid off all the club’s debts and guaranteed the bank loans that made the move to Highbury possible.
That’s why I got rather worked up with a piece in the Daily Mirror, under the headline “Inside England’s match fixing scandal that involved Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal” by Simon Mullock, Chief Football Writer of the Sunday Mirror. Arsenal were not involved in that scandal, and indeed there is nothing in the article to suggest they were involved. Arsenal’s name is just slotted into the headline because, well, in the worldview of the Mirror, if there is sludge on the loose, let’s lob some of it at Arsenal.
And my point is, if I happened to spot these errors straight off, how many other mistakes are there in the piece that I did not notice? A dozen? And how many nuances are false? Quite a lot I suspect. For the article continues, “Returning to football will be an emotional experience for many, whose Saturday matchgoing rituals could have lasted for a longer period than anything else in their lives.”
Well yes and no. Because although the writer doesn’t write specifically about one club or another, he might have noticed that for Arsenal fans, and those of some other clubs, we haven’t had a Saturday matchgoing ritual for years. And when he talks about going to the match being “habit” we haven’t had that for years either.
Because we’ve had games moved to Sunday and Monday most of the time, (as well as those Thursday matches for the past few years) and when we have had a Saturday game it has been at anything from luncthime to dinner time, the latter utterly screwing up my saturday evening’s activities as our social lives have been knocked to pieces, not least because many of the date and time changes have been left to quite late in the day.
And this is what gets me about these scribblers. They don’t actually know anything much about the experience of watching football, as a fan, and yet they constantly try to tell us what we feel and what we think.
So, just in case Ewan Murray is reading, let me tell him, the football experience for many English fans is nothing like the experience you are fantasising about. It is primarily about being messed around for the match, and then reading ludicrous and untrue pieces about football through the course of the week in the daily and sunday papers.
Now I suppose Ewan Murray does have a bit of an excuse as he is actually the Guardian and Observer’s golf correspondent, “with added responsibility for overseeing coverage of Scottish football.”
Which is interesting as Kettering is only 14 miles from Corby, wherein a third of the population are of Scottish descent. And for a while Kettering Town FC after leaving Kettering, played at Steel Park in Corby.
And what makes the fact that he couldn’t be arsed to look up where Kettering play all the more annoying is that he later starts to tell, “Those in the boardrooms” how they should be handling football and how this or that approach would be “remiss”.
Let’s try it the other way round. It would be remiss of football journalists and the newspaper’s publishers to think it is ok to think they could advise clubs on how to behave, if they can’t even be arsed to look up which town a particular club plays in.
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