A review of supporters by Sir Hardly Anyone with grateful thanks to Sir Pelham Wodehouse
Latest addition: Sheffield United
What’s it like being a football supporter?
Although it is commonplace to suggest that football supporters are stupid, most in fact have brains enough for two – a necessary evolutionary step that enables the average fan to be able to disentangle the absolute rubbish spouted by your average football pundit or commentator and work out what his gibberish actually means.
Journalists and Arsenal
Certain journalists (for such beings, I regret to say, still do exist despite the advent of digital media), tend to make the same old same old remarks over and over again. When speaking of Arsenal they suggest that each game contains ‘all the old Arsenal errors just made in a different order.’
Such entities have probably by now fallen through cracks in time like the Daleks in Doctor Who who on buzzing forward in order to exterminate all and sundry suddenly find the ground beneath their rollers getting a bit soggy. But if any still survives they will not be able to make such charges against the Arsenal of 2017/18 for Mr Wenger has out manoeuvred them all, not least by having the team make different errors but in the same order. Pretty damn stupid it will make them all feel, I’ll be bound.”
Now the individual teams… (Arsenal are at the end).
Concerning Bournemouth supporters, many an experienced undertaker has been deceived by their appearance and started embalming on sight.
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION
Visiting Brighton and Hove Albion’s ground in the graceful and tranquil village of Falmer in East Sussex one rather expects to be offered a cup of tea in a room with large arm chairs, crackling logs on a fire, shaded lights, the scent of buttered toast, and the general atmosphere of leisured cosiness.
It is quite a shock to find that they actually have a football stadium of the contemporary nature.
At Burnley, people give you a look. It is a nasty look. When I went there it made me feel as if I were something the dog had brought in and intended to bury later on, when he had time.
It has been well said that an Arsenal supporter who goes to Chelsea and expects a warm and civilised welcome is rather like a man who goes to the top of the White Cliffs of Dover, drops a rose petal down over the edge and waits to hear the echo.
If one walks about London you will sometimes see bent, haggard figures that look as if they have recently been caught in some sort of powerful machinery. They are those fellows who ended up in Selhurst Park by mistake and pleasantly asked a passer by for the quickest route back to civilisation.
Everton is one of those clubs where one can look at it, and understand the broad, general principle of the notion of rising up and throwing Liverpool FC off its perch, but one can’t help getting somewhat baffled at the way in which the owner is trying to put the plan into practical effect. Rather similar to Hamlet in fact. As for the fans, many an experienced undertaker has been deceived by their appearance and started embalming on sight.
I have met but one Huddersfield supporter, which is not surprising for they are not a common breed. He looked rather like a man who, having spent his entire life chasing rainbows and dreaming of the return of Herbert Chapman, had suddenly turned round and found Sir Patrick Stewart sitting in the stands, screaming abuse at any passing Chelsea player who came within 100 yards of him.
Looking at the Leicester supporters last night they seemed a rather melancholy-looking bunch. Generally speaking they had the appearance of men who has searched for the leak in life’s gas-pipe with a lighted candle.
I have to say that when thinking of Liverpool FC I tend to experience the sort of deep depression of my spirits which afflicts the average character in novels of the 1930s.
In such books, as you will recall, a gritty northerner puts in a solid day’s work of stealing food from his grandmother, torturing his father-in-law, beating up his wife, and throwing any passing children into the infested canal, only to return home to find the neighbour has ransacked his house and drunk his alcohol.
A football supporter who professes allegiance to Manchester City (for such people, I regret to say, do exist) made the nasty remark about an article I wrote in Untold Arsenal recently saying that it contained ‘all the old excuses using different words.’
He has probably by now been arrested and put to work in a salt mine or whatever it is they have in Manchester these days but if he survives he will not be able to make a similar remark about my latest commentary. For with the superior intellect that comes from being a follower of Arsenal, I have out-manoeuvred him, putting in all the old excuses using exactly the same words as last time. Pretty stupid that will make him look, I rather suspect.
Concerning Manchester United fans, I may be wronging them, but I have an idea that they are the sort of supporters who expect the dominance of English football as a right. Certainly I have heard some of them speak favourably of Napoleon in this regard.
So what with one thing and another they do tend to get themselves into a jolly old frenzy of entitlement. They see their club as the pinnacle of the footballing aristocracy, and every other club as a being supported by a bunch of lower class loonies who live in such wholly unacceptable places as, well, for example, Manchester.
NEWCASTLE (part 1)
There is something sort of bleak about about the supporters of Newcastle United. Their tone of voice for example is rather as if they have swallowed wind blowing in from the North Sea, and it is now trying to get out.
I think part of the problem is the way they take breakfast in the region. I must say that for myself, as a North Londoner born and bred, it’s only after a bit of breakfast that I’m able to regard the world with that sunny cheeriness which is the preserve of the North London man and which makes us such universal favourites. Indeed I’m never much of a lad till I’ve engulfed the statutory croissant, the traditional muesli with blueberries and a beaker or two of coffee topped with soya milk.
NEWCASTLE part 2
“Look man, I haven’t got it in me to have breakfast today. You drink it.”
I recall going to Sheffield United’s ground some years ago. As I approached there came from the neighbouring road the sound of hoof-beats of a galloping group of beings and within seconds a number of United supporters whizzed in.
I once attended the AGM of Southampton FC wherein the chairman made a speech. It was, by and large, one of the dullest speeches I have ever heard. The chair, a certain Ralph Krueger, spent three quarters of an hour how he had come to be at the club and how Gao Jisheng had taken the place over, when a simple apology was all that was required.
Stoke City supporters are by and large gluttons for punishment. The other day I found one staring at himself in the mirror.
“As we grow older and realize more clearly the shortness of life and the limitations of what impact we, as journalists can make, I came to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to annoy Arsenal fans by denying the reality that Stoke City is an institution based entirely on using criminal assault to destroy the careers of talented footballers.”
I did think of getting a group of supporters together to go to the away game at Swansea. Finding several people interested I approached a travel agent on the subject to see how it might be done.
“You would not enjoy Wales, sir,” he told me. “It is fundamentally unsound.”
Watching Tottenham at Wembley in their pre-season game was rather like one of those social gatherings where one coughs twice before speaking and then decides it is perhaps best not to say anything after all.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
West Bromwich Albion supporters are now something of a case unto themselves.
Upon meeting they may say, “You see the Albion yesterday?”
To which the reply is, “Bostin!”
“Bostin!” replies the first
“Bostin” rejoins the second
“Bostin,” repeats the first.
After that it generally seems rather difficult to go on with the conversation so they leave it at that.
WEST HAM UNITED
When West Ham first moved to the tax payers stadium, there was quite a bit of jollity among the supporters, I felt. Regret at leaving the old ground but happiness at bigger crowds and better facilities.
These days however if you ever catch one leaving the ground the best you get is what might be called a downcast look and perhaps a sombre nod. The sort of nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, “So, you’re back from Moscow, eh?”
AND OF COURSE ARSENAL
At the age of 13 or 14 most Arsenal supporters, having seen their team win a few things, acquire a worldliness and depth of understanding of both football and the rest of life, which allows them to handle difficult situations, and the ups and downs of being a supporter.
For Tottenham fans however, not having won the league since 1961, it is a demeanour which, if he is lucky, a man might be manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.
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You might also enjoy The Arsenal History Society website, with its daily anniversary file.
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