Where passion is a fashion

11 05 2011

On Monday I was casually food shopping in Llandudno’s premier supermarket. I was casually minding my own business in the sauces and condiments aisle when some inconsiderate creature walked into me. This creature was wearing last season’s Manchester United shirt. I would have turned around to remonstrate but I was distracted by the name on the back of his shirt; “CHAMPIONS”. “CHAMPIONS” had been issued with the squad number 19. I sidled over to him to ask if he knew that “WELBECK” had been misspelt on the back of his shirt. He didn’t appreciate my eye for detail.

I made for home while he frantically grasped for a witty retort. 3 hours later I went back to the supermarket for the bottle of milk I’d forgotten. The inconsiderate creature remained, trapped in a fug of befuddlement. I saw him, he saw me, he moved towards me then started to open his mouth but thought better of speaking, as one often does when they are unsure about what to say. I left him developing his worry lines.

Yesterday I arrived home from work to find that a United supporting friend of a friend had re-tweeted the following on twitter;

“three mistakes by the keeper and the scousers are at it again. #gonawintheleaguenextseason
Later in the evening I found that a friend had added this picture to his facebook profile;

Then it hit me!! I was walking in United wonderland!!!! Manchester United are about to surpass Liverpool’s total of league titles, or to put it in tweet form (from a friend of a friend);

 “Liverpool have took out a #superinjunction to stop the press from publishing an image of Ferguson kicking them off their fucking perch”

To think that United fans have the cheek to call Manchester City fans “The Bitters”. North Walian United fans appear to be rather bitter about Liverpool’s erstwhile success.

On Sunday’s journey down to Llanelli Ian and I struggled to think of reasons why most people in north Wales can justifiably claim a strong connection with Liverpool or Manchester United, or any premier league club for that matter. Buying a polyester shirt and wearing it to a pub doesn’t feel a strong enough reason to profess complete devotion as any tosser can do that. 

By shopping for their football identity they are propping up the whole edifice of hype and bullshit. I find it hard to believe that anyone still chooses to glorify success in this morally grey version of football. So “their” gang of millionaires is now more successful than another gang of millionaires, big deal. 

Of course north Wales’ United fans don’t see it like this. Knowing them as I do – I’ve worked with plenty over the years –  they don’t see supporting United as a choice. They think United is actually part of them, something “in their blood”. They seem to think this club from 80 miles away it’s a reflection of themselves; when United are doing well, they look better to everybody. If anyone dares to cast doubt upon their fandom they are given short shrift. You can’t just tell them that purchasing a mass-produced United shirt and talking too loudly about football doesn’t make them fully fledged Stretford Ender from the 1980s. Watch them become quite irate if you persevere!!!!!

If you ever have the temerity to do this (and I suggest you do) you are met with a memory that would shame a laptop. Every slight they have encountered against the good name of Manchester United Football Club PLC (or is it “limited” now?) during their lives has been logged. The slights will be returned with interest when the opportune moment arises. By doing this they will prove that to prove they are proper fans to everybody; “Why else would I be arguing eh?”. The score-settling will involve the twisting facts like a twelve year old. Take the picture above, an almost off the cuff Liverpool banner is well remembered 18 years later.

On one level the picture of the two banners looks like harmless fun, an off the cuff Liverpool banner has a retort from a United fan with a long memory. However the use of this picture by my friend shows the problem with north Walians co-opting Manchester United. A lot of them seem to believe any rumour whatsoever if it makes the “dirty scousers from self-pity city” look bad. They seem to think that Kenny Dalglish used the sentence “We’re Liverpool and the perch is ours” as a mantra. In fact Sir Alex Ferguson was the first to mention “Fucking Perches”, odd no?

It’s as if they feel doing all of this somehow matters in the scheme of things. For example the buying of the shirt. I hate to bang on about the bloody shirt but it has a quasi-religious significance to them. Firstly they think shirt bestows magical powers like Jim Carrey’s Mask; because they have chosen to buy this shirt they can slag off “dirty scousers”. It turns the most mild-mannered of people into gibbering buffoons. Secondly the shirt has mind control facilities; they seem to think that wearing the shirt on the mean streets of Colwyn Bay somehow actually matters to Manchester United.

All they are doing is stirring up unnecessary antagonisms and legitimising the capitalist exploitation of the name Manchester United. The gesture of buying the shirt requires no more effort than a walk to local shops yet they think wearing it gives them the right to act like a proper fan. These people don’t truly care about football, they are simply following fashion.

I appear to be different from the rest of north Wales. I had a schoolboy infatuation with Liverpool FC yet I can still see that Manchester United is a great institution in football. I am reading Denis Law’s autobiography at the moment and the charming sense of time past comes across. I watched the drama “Munich” on BBC one over Easter and was affected by the loss of life, the sense of human waste and lost promise. Last week I saw clips of United winning the European Cup at in 1968 and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the style of that team.

It’s sad that more “football fans” in north Wales don’t see United  and Liverpool like this, we don’t really have any business caring after all.

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