I didn’t say “Football, bloody hell?”, it was “Bloody football is hell”

31 12 2018

Sudden changes of heart are nature’s way of reminding one that one is an insignificant carbon-based unit, and therefore whatever thoughts momentarily pass through one’s conscious mind do not really matter in the vast span of space and time.

For example, the sight of footballers limbering up in Glan Conwy’s brilliant October sunshine convinced me that I missed the simple joy you feel when playing football.

Anyone that has played football knows football’s wonderful sensations. The fresh air, the verdant grass, the sense of satisfaction when foot and ball connect perfectly.

I remember my memorable goals and mazy dribbles, my penalty saves and reaction saves. I can remember how my application of delicately graceful force once encouraged a self-opinionated winger to switch wings and the occasions when I felt like an unbeatable goalie for our six-a-side side. Football joy stays with you.

The pursuit of wonderful sensations kept me playing football, like the feeling when you find a teammate with a slightly difficult to see through ball, the feeling of curling the ball past a keeper or performing a wonderful save. There was also the esoteric happiness in blocking shots, cleanly dispossessing opponents and playing the ball out of defence with calm assurance (Not my words!).

It’s funny how the memories appear to you in a splurge when you are reminded of something. The sight of two groups of males receiving expert coaching was my gateway this time; Glan Conwy were doing the one touch piggy-in-the-middle thing beloved of Barcelona and Llandudno Albion were doing speed drills.

I felt the heady rush of knowledge. I could have done something at this level! Yes I could have played on a Saturday, had I felt like it. I was capable of playing the ball out of defence with a calm assurance (Not my opinion remember), I also had a keen sense of positioning.

I’m sure that I would have found a level, any kind of level. My memory tells me that I could curl a football like John Barnes, mark like Baresi and turn like Darcey Bussell and who am I to argue with that assessment? I am not the sort of person that gives out praise willy-nilly.

Within minutes of the kick-off a character-building change of heart happened. I was glad that I no longer played football. What does the fresh air and verdant grass matter when football still contains the process that turns yesterday’s joy into today’s aches; ankle pain, aching knees, sore back and nagging pains in my hand when it’s cold.

My feelings changed as soon as it became clear the technically advanced warm up hadn’t signalled the Welsh Alliance’s move to a more technical plain. Both sides still demanded that “big heads” were needed “on this”. I visualised my ankle giving way in the sticky mud and my hamstring going twang as I was outpaced by one of them tricky wingers.

I soon progressed to feeling rather glad about never playing on any Saturday. I just couldn’t imagine feeling any joy, I mean where’s the pleasure in giving up the leisure possibilities presented by the end of a working week so you can hoof a football clear or narrowly dodge a juicy whack to your shins?

My football career may have been helped if I could have been bothered with organised football but enjoyment seemed to be elsewhere. I didn’t fall through any metaphorical net, I was interrailing through Europe when the talent trawler visited.

I was already feeling like Proust before I saw the players warming up. The smallest details near Glan Conwy’s club house, the pungent smell of deep heat in the ether and the clumps of mud that fall from football boots, placed me inside that changing room of yore.

I could see the sunlight thorough the frosted Perspex slits at the top of the wall and the marks the door had made on the marble effect floor tiles, I could see the Sellotape on wall’s wood effect panelling and the jagged edges of the hole two thirds of the way down the door.

The smell of deep heat is the memory that connects me to past happenings most quickly; the crap banter, the unspoken competition about boot quality, the feeling of not feeling my legs after a hailstorm, the harsh cold gripping me after the first slide tackle in the rain.

I’d never really seen eye to eye with organised football. Two of my more palatable memories are the pitch I took to be a normal grass pitch in Bethesda, my foot sank into the liquefied soil and reemerged with a film of shiny brown liquid. There was also a school match on a day of heavy rain, a couple of us thought it would be a good idea to get used to the conditions by warming up early, obviously the rain stopped before the match and I ended up with a heavy cold.

I’ve always hated playing on teams with people I don’t know. I was usually sat quietly, trying to change quietly, as my more confident teammates treated us to a tirade of “humour”. I wish I had been able to affect an air of confident diffidence but I was quaking at becoming their target.

I must have been blessed with a little skill because I was playing for the side but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong. I had not received the subtle schooling of north Wales’ elite junior football so I failed to develop a cocksure air or taste for humiliation based humour.

My feelings have remained. Organised football is ill-fitting boots pinching your Achilles tendon, mud splattered cuts and omnipresent scapegoating, it’s a nebulous sense of honour that convinces someone to propel a fellow human through the air with casual violence.

Organised football is listening to an opposing captain’s passive-aggressive support of his side of thugs, it’s listening to opposition wind up merchants, the sour grapes of the defeated and “Oh it’s like that is it?” from an entitled nobody.

Organised football is the pointless effort to impress disparate people thrown together by the same colour polyester and  helping cocksure humiliation experts, it’s about protecting the honour of a group you can’t abide and risking injuries for people you can’t stand.

This thinking even seeped into my lowly level of recreational football. I once twisted my spine playing in goal one Friday after school, I have countless scars from sand infected grazes after years on north Wales’ heartless all-weather football scene. Social pressure eh!

In a cosmic sense, everything is balanced, I have coped without football and football has coped without me. I know that I feel more contented as “football watcher” than “football player”. 

This is what I love about football, it allows once the space to think contentedly about the world.

By the way, I don’t know whether Glan Conwy or Llandudno Albion won, I left for the bus stop at some point in the second half.

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Everybody’s welcome

17 12 2018

Technology provides a vast ocean of entertainment for our amusement and we respect the artistic process by deleting entertainment content from our devices in a matter of seconds, even Hollyoaks requires the careful channelling of creative energy to come into being.

There’s no point in complaining about our decadent arrogance because of the inevitable reply; “Mate, mate, maaaate it’s always been like this. There have always been trends, different fashions, different styles of music, different lengths of football shorts etcetera”. They can say all that but they can’t deny that there was a time when you were allowed to keep vinyl albums.

When Stewart Lee complained about “youngsters these days” in Content Provider his words resonated. When I was younger you couldn’t find the collected works of blah blah blah with a search engine, you had to make an effort, and have the right sort of friends with arcane knowledge, to get involved in a musical subculture. I could pity the youngsters these days for missing out on a sense of gratification that took years to mature.

I happened across a football-related example whilst luxuriating on an August pavement outside Llandudno’s luxurious hipster micro pub. I sipped a luxurious drink under clouds of the deepest north Walian summer grey (Pantone 1118) and life felt alright, then three of them modern youngsters turned up to discuss their fantasy league teams with an assured air of authority.

Questions fulminated as I was forced to listen to people discuss the economic value of other people like slave owners. Did these experts know the feel of an icy blast from the Urals in the 64th minute of a humdrum league match? Did they know the stress of arriving 15 minutes into a match because a supposed two hour journey took six hours? Why is it so easy to look and sound like a proper mad football fan these days? Thankfully I had a train to catch.

To return to my salad days, the 1990s were a simpler time of unlocked doors, cheery neighbours and the ERM fiasco. Nobody wanted vulgar displays of ostentatious football analysis so nobody “curated” a “luxury football opinion”. We may not have been able to conceptualise gegenpressing or source artisan retro shirts from the internet but oh how we revelled in the joy of the moment like troglodytes.

Imagine not caring how far Marco van Basten ran in a match, imagine not being able to cash out, imagine not hearing someone add ”mate, mate, maaaaaate” to every tenth sentence. Imagine not taking football quite as seriously.

The beautiful game’s true beauty is that everyone can interact with it in their own way. Take the ex-Brazilian international Adriano. Some of us recognise him from a past world cup, some watched him a lot, some have appreciated his goals on you tube and some would need wikipedia to find out who he is. If we go by his bare statistics (played professionally for 16 years, won titles in Italy and Brazil, 50 international caps) we could conclude that he wasn’t bad, if we could be bothered to have an opinion of course.

In the luxury opinion curation game one simply has to be judgemental so Adriano is lambasted because he wasn’t as good as his avatar on a computer game, and Andrei Shevcheko (17 year international career, over 120 goals in Serie A, European Cup winner) is breezily dismissed as an elite striker whose powers slipped away in a single moment

Decline is it? If I may be permitted to wear my “freelance sociologist in trainers” hat for a moment, my informal research into the pressing issue of “football decline” indicates that most players suffer a relative decline in speed, power or skill as time passes, it’s usually called “getting old”.

I will say one positive thing about the luxury opinion curators, at least they don’t stride around grounds brandishing Stone Thailand armpits as they parrot the inane ditties of you tube.

If I may be permitted to tilt my “freelance sociologist in trainers” hat to a jaunty angle, my research process has discovered that lots of annoyed people watch football. For example last season a Bangor fan loudly complained that Bangor were “too pedestrian”, after four hours of careful consideration I filed it under “Reflex comments that angry fans use as proof that they care more than we do”.

My next piece of freelance sociology will see me attempt to discover the identity of the group that the shouters are trying to impress.

It is gratifying to know that I am not the only one that has noticed that some people are trying too hard. A wonderful article entitled SUPPORT AS PERFORMANCE – NOT EVERYTHING IS A ‘MENTAL’ has been written. Is there anything more tedious than the knowing LOOK AT ME!!! behaviour of the fan park drink throwers and IKEA store invaders?

I don’t understand the appeal of those “fan parks”? You are already sharing an enclosed public space with people that normally give “the footy” a swerve but went along with “the vibe” because “we’ve sooooo got this mate” then some legend throws the contents of a plastic cup in your general direction.

Fan parks are the epitome of sponsored cynicism, little more than insipid communal experiences for the atomised citizens of market economies. What’s wrong with staying at home or going to a pub?

When I see people displaying knowing LOOK AT ME!!! behaviour I can’t help wondering how they developed an interest in football. In theory sports marketing provides a plausible explanation, football’s original punters fell into decrepit obsolesce years ago and Fabulous Football needs new punters to buy, literally buy, into its world.

The recent history of the Ricoh Arena could be used as a good example of sports marketing’s ability to create demand. Basically speaking cold hard business logic took a dispute with landlords, coupled it to a perceived demand for the rugby product in the midlands, and consequently Coventry City, a relatively big football club with a long history, became the tenants of Wasps, a rugby club that hails from London.

On the surface the Ricoh Arena still seems to be Coventry’s home ground; Coventry play there in front of sky blue seats and there’s a statue of Jimmy Hill and a Coventry City memorial garden outside the ground. If you look more closely you can spot the subtle signs of takeover; the stadium’s superstore only stocks Wasps merchandise and Wasps take credit for organising pre-takeover events.

Sports marketing seems to have worked here; the sporting midlands now has another set of big crowds with lovely disposable incomes and few people seem to mind that Wasps have moved to a more receptive market.

There is a caveat. This is an example drawn from rugby not football and it’s well-known that rugby fans and football fans have differing concerns; rugby fans focus on freshly ironed gilets and getting to the pub for Banter o’clock whereas football fans generally prefer coats. Football is definitely different from rugby, they say that the “build it and they will come” idea would never be tolerated by football fans.

The fact that MK Dons has fans may slightly contradict that stereotype but the concept of franchising is anathema to most fans, MK Dons are an aberration. Whilst franchising lacks widespread support too many football fans tolerate the thin end of the corporate wedge. The gentrification of half-time haute cuisine and £1000 season tickets is accepted, pay TV subscriptions are renewed and plans are made to meet down “The Etihad”, “The Tony Macaroni” and “The Emirates”.

Sports Marketing could be the cause of this acceptance because it seems to be everywhere. I certainly see the beautiful game’s version of sports marketing whenever I wear my “freelance sociologist in trainers” hat. For example I came across Sky’s football advert whilst undertaking informal participant observation as a commuter this summer.

The televisual part of the campaign featured people with excited little faces rushing to fill sofas in a gianto-stadium, as soon as I saw it I suspected that it was just the sort of froth that encouraged a certain sort of person to have a go at the old footy.

I developed similar observations after Easter Monday’s unexpected field trip to Macclesfield. To cut a long story short I ended up in Macclesfield because FC United v York was postponed whilst I was in Manchester. Only two local matches had survived the rain; Crewe v Port Vale and Macclesfield v Chester, Crewe’s match was all-ticket so Hobson’s choice sent me to Macclesfield.

Whilst there I encountered a Carling advert that claimed “Football is never just 11 v 11”.

Even non-“freelance sociologists in trainers” would be able to spot the common tone of the two adverts; “SEE YOU, YOU’RE DEAD IMPORTANT, FOOTBALL IS YOUR SPORT, SO GET INVOLVED WITH THE FOOTBALL AND GIVE US ALL YOUR MONEY”.

Sports marketing seems to encourage people to act in a certain way so it’s tempting to blame it for the behaviour of the easily led, before we join two and two together it is worth bearing in mind that people are never just willing dupes.

The adverts contain such ridiculous stereotypes that it’s difficult to see how people would use them as behavioural advice. Who actually watches football in this sort of ecstatic state?

HE’S HOLDING A BLOODY TEAPOT.

It is amazing that twenty-six years have passed since Sky invented football and they have still to work out how the fans of their sport behave. Fans are not continually on the verge of beatific ecstasy or volcanic rage, nor are we gibbering morons hooked on the buzz of watching televised football in pubs. sadly the stereotyping appears to be contagious.

Simple ideas undermine sports marketing. Firstly, repeatedly saying something is great does not make that something great. The esteem with which the sports marketing industry coats itself isn’t matched by reality. Sports marketing may motivate someone to consider something, or spread the awareness of an event, but it cannot force people to pay attention, or attend something, if people don’t want to do something, they won’t.

Secondly, a carefully crafted image isn’t always a true reflection of reality. Free market propagandists tell us that a free market is the best way of organising society because it “democratises opportunity” but you cannot access the free market if you have insufficient resources. Similarly sports marketing has created an inclusive image for premier league football but poorer fans are unable access the premier league dream.

Sports marketing cannot eradicate football’s earthier qualities. On my way back from Easter Monday’s excursion to Macclesfield I noticed an A4 piece of paper on the door of a Crewe station buffet;

The football world painted by that piece of paper is a place beyond the ken of the sports marketers, a place that smells of the petty regulation of fun, League Two aggression and “No Football Colours Allowed”, 

They can market the glossy premier league jamboree all they like but football is about more than 22 sweaty millionaires, it’s about local affiliation, long coach journeys, sharing stories in the pub, trains with standing room only and other heady things. Some people are actually drawn to football by these earthier qualities, odd no?

So why do some people take an interest in football? I haven’t got a clue but here’s my best speculation. Perhaps some of their workmates only talk about football. Perhaps their friends discovered the japes one can have at the footy. Perhaps they’re following stereotypical behaviour patterns because they adore the intoxicating personalities of alpha males.

Perhaps it’s fashion. Perhaps it’s You Tube. Perhaps they once followed a crowd to see where it was heading. Perhaps they like polyester clothing. Perhaps the world is merely a stage and people are merely playing the role of “football fan”.

If the last point was true I could become north Wales’ very own Lee Strassberg with a downbeat football actor’s studio; “Luke Darling! That was wonderful! But where is your sense of realism? Where’s your true sense of self? Try to be the bored football fan, not act like a bored football fan!”

I realise that you read “everyone can interact with it (football) in their own way” some time ago so most of this post may sound a little illogical (people are only interacting with football in their own way) or misanthropic (none of these people directly impinge upon my life) but I can assure that I am neither illogical nor a full-time misanthrope.

To be honest I don’t really care why other people like football, or how they interact with the sport, because it’s none of my business.  It’s just that I prefer to interpret football’s culture in my own way and I’ve lost count of the occasions when tedious behaviour has shaken me out of a carefully constructed reverie.

For me it’s like the concept of free speech; anybody can speak but nobody is compelled to listen. I wish that other people would stick to their part of the deal that I have just implied. I am only asking for ignorance of irritating details and a bit of peace, is that asking too much?





What do you do when you’ve nowhere to go?

2 11 2018

I haven’t really been going to watch Bangor City this season. I’ve been to the odd away game in grounds I’ve never visited but I have failed to yield to the selective appeal of home matches.

Other fans have also developed similar viewpoints, For example John and Joe have offered two fantastically evocative expressions of despair.

So here we all are, a football team in blue continues to play but we no longer care. How does one cope when one feels one’s club has left them?

In my case you make threads of tweets written in the purest sarcasm. My shattered peace of mind wasn’t my only inspiration. there was also the more official social media sources.

With gaps between the tweets and the date on the left, what follows is an illustration of the first four months of the footballing season.

 

In truth the removal of the obligation to care has been quite liberating.

 

 

Now is the season of our Discontent (Part One)

 

JULY

 

July 17th (Some twitter user had claimed any critics of the present regime should bugger off to be Caernarfon fans)

– It would seem that I am now no longer a true Bangor City fan, I imagine that my wife will be delighted.

 

July 19th (The Telford match had already been called off and I was indulging in sarcasm)

– To prove that I’m not as much of a false Bangor fan as I claimed I shall go to the home friendly with Telford a week on Saturday. I’m looking forward to it immensely. Can’t wait!!!!

 

July 22nd – I can’t believe it’s less than a week until Bangor City host Telford, I cannot wait.

 

July 24th – I didn’t leave Welsh football, it left me.

 

July 28th (Football PR babble masquerading as #ClumsyHashtags began to appear in official social media output) 

– On my way to the station to get the train to Bangor. It’s just like Christmas Day! #cantbeatmatchday #youjustthatcrackleofpreseasonexcitement

Train delay, oh no. I’ll have to wait a little bit longer to to feel that crackle of preseason excitement course through me as I walk past Morrison’s. #matchdayexcitementboilingtofeverpitch #delayscantbluntthegloriouscrackleofpreseasonexcitement

We’re on our way, after a delay, it’s gonna be a great preseason day! #cantbeatmatchday #cantbeatthecrackleofpreseasonmatchesinpreseasonbeforetheseasonstarts #excitement #anotherhashtag

Off the train, on the way to my first pre-season match of the pre-season and the excitement is crackling away. Walking down the Holyhead Rd to see the pre-season! #cantbeatthecrackleofpreseasoninpreseasonbeforetheseasonstarts

So I got to the ground and what do I find? The turnstiles are shut, that’s what. The main door was locked too. It’s like there is no game or something. Why weren’t we informed. I’m too disappointed for words.  #thecrackleofpreseasondissappointmentisthebestkindofdissapointment

On the upside if I rush I might make it to St Mirren v Dumbarton now  #youhavetotaketheroughwiththesmoothinpreseasonbeforetheseasonstart

Made it just in time for kick off! #dontstopbelievinginpreseasonexcitement





Just get behind the lads, go on, just get behind the lads

30 05 2018

Get behind the lads, get behind the lads.

That’s our job, we have to get behind the lads, that’s what fans do!

Just get behind the lads.

“But one of our strikers has been cautioned by the police for tweeting racial abuse”

Look, just get behind the lads. That’s our job as fans.

“But our captain is the biggest buy-to-let landlord in the north.”

Just get behind the lads.

“But our left back abuses our fans on team bonding sessions in town.”

Just get behind the lads.

“But our manager is an insufferable bore.”

Just get behind the lads.

“But our left winger diverts his wages through the Isle of Man, Liechtenstein and the Cayman Islands in the name of tax efficiency.”

Just get behind the lads

“But one of our midfielders spoke in support of Tommy Robinson whilst he was on Question Time.”

Just Get behind the lads.

“But our vice-captain has been dubbed as “the worst landlord since Rachman”.”

Just get behind the lads.

“But our right back co-wrote an episode of Mrs. Brown’s Boys”

Just get behind the lads.

“But our reserve keeper founded a company to deal in conflict diamonds.”

Just get behind the lads.

“But one of our midfielders still likes Morrissey.”

Just get behind the lads.

“But our reserve full back like speaks like a university student…….and stuff”

Just get behind the lads.

“But one of our midfielder wears a Make America Great Again cap in post-match interviews.”

Just get behind the lads.

“But one of our strikers is a part-time DJ in a local pub but tells people, via his own you tube channel, that he curates a cultural happening that highlights the synergy between cool people, cool places and cool times.”

Just get behind the lads.

“But one of our defenders has launched his own right-wing populist party and they’ve staged a coup in Peru.”

Just get behind the lads,

“But our board members are nothing more than a plague of goodwill locusts that have already ruined nearly a dozen clubs.”

Just get behind the lads.

“But the football world is now little more than a cynical homage to Thatcherite logic. It’s two millionaires arguing over a throw in, it’s match tickets with prices in three figures, it’s imperialistic giganto-clubs replacing the alienated fans from their local communities with tourists that offer strident opinions on trains, it’s a media that won’t let you think about anything else, it’s an industry continually expectorating PR flim-flam. Football is now a moral vacuum where the only measure of worth is the illusion of success.”

Just get behind the lads.

“But what about the morally relative jargon that’s employed to obscure the pandemic cheating?”

Just get behind the lads.

“But what about our well known internet fans? One of them says that we can’t doubt him because he has an moral MA in the Sociology of the false number 7, an apparent MPhil in Football Analyticalness and a virtual Phd about Franco Baresi’s running gait whilst wearing asics boots. Needless to say he will have already had the last laugh at least 96 hours before you’ve heard the question you worthless cretin.”

Just Get behind the lads.

“Right then, I’m Offski.”

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just get behind the lads.

Just Get behind the lads.

Blah,

Blah,

Blah,

Blah,

Blah,

Blah,,

Blah.

Blah.

In other words, never silence them analytical sensibilities.





Well I wasn’t expecting that!

27 12 2017

Let’s imagine that people once predicted football results without the warming embrace of the thrusting venture science of looking at football-related numbers.

Honest guvnor it happened just like that, we didn’t have no venture science to fall back on, you can trust me on that guvnor.

People like me Nan predicted football results for forty years trying to strike it rich on the pools, even your humble narrator and his equally humble friends predicted football results on a fixed odds coupon from time to time, and none of us had no venture science.

Back then everybody predicted them results without no venture science.

It’s mad ain’t it guvnor, we still gave it a go even without them numbers of science behind us. 

You couldn’t keep us down guvnor, we was happy go lucky we was. We was all in the gutter but some of us was looking at the stars

Consider two things that happened in the last few weeks.

The first was the production of this tweet; “Arsenal Expected Goals 5.01 Man Utd Expected Goals 1.82″. I didn’t discover the tweet after the match but I still had the following thought “That’s uncanny!!! The final score was Arsenal 5.01 Manchester United 1.82. If only I could go back in time and put £100 on the result”. If only I could go back in time!

The second was the resumption of the social media debate between the proper football Neanderthals and the thrusting venture scientists that look at football related numbers. It was all Jeff Stelling’s fault because he had the unmitigated gall, if not sheer audacity, to be one of them typical proper football Neanderthal types. He doubted the efficacy of the concept/phrase called “Expected Goals” in a particular context.

Naturally like all other proper football Neanderthals I was aware that a concept/phrase called “Expected Goals” existed. I naturally presumed, like all other proper football Neanderthals, that it referred to the number of goals that one expected to see in a particular match. Presumptions get you nowhere so I fired up google’s banter engine.

It seems that Expected goals is……

“…a metric which assesses every chance, essentially answering the question of whether a player should have scored from a certain opportunity.

Put simply, it is a way of assigning a “quality” value (xG) to every attempt based on what we know about it. The higher the xG – with 1 being the maximum – the more likelihood of the opportunity being taken.

So if a chance is 0.5xG, it should be scored 50% of the time.”

Unless I have grasped the wrong end of the metric stick “Expected Goals” appears to be more than just a method of determining the number of goals that one expects to see in a particular match, it also involves the scientific knowledge of knowing whether a player should score when they find themselves in a position that appears to be a goalscoring position. What a breakthrough!

For a century and a half we proper football Neanderthals have been lumbering around in the dark distinctly unable to tell whether a chance should, or should not, have been scored. Now it seems that we had better pipe down because society finally has a scientific way of determining whether someone should have scored or not from a particular goalscoring position.

Mate, mate, mate, let that sink in, proper football Neanderthals have been quite literally wandering around in the literal darkness of literal football ignorance. Yeah mate let that fact literally sink in.

AND LO they did tweet “THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY” and other social media phrases. AND LO, it did sink in.

For the last century and a half us proper football Neanderthals have allowed players to blithely run around without the correct knowledge, we simply have not been able to tell whether a goal should have been scored or not in a given situation.

Well begone thy darkness, begone!

For now we can see the light!! Rejoice!! Rejoice!!

If I weren’t a proper football Neanderthal I would be really, really angry at those bloody proper football Neanderthals for subjecting us all to the terror of their deeply unscientific football. If only they had been furnished with simple understanding, if only they had been able to assess whether a player has the ability to score goals or not.

I think I need to let that sink in a bit more mate, all those wasted years mate, all those years, wasted! WASTED! I definitely need to let that sink in a bit more mate.

I am telepathic so I know what you’re thinking

“Mate mate mate what do you expect from your proper football Neanderthals? Decisions have never been part of their job descriptions. They’ve literally NEVER had to make decisions about players based on a comparison.

They’ve literally never had to look into the eyes of young hopeful and literally say “I’m sorry Son but you just haven’t quite got it. We wish you all the best for the future.”

You start to ask yourself how could they literally be like that, then you literally remember that they are proper football Neanderthals and they literally can’t tell which players literally haven’t quite got the skills required for a career as a professional footballer.”

Do you know something mate? You’d be correct. Your proper football Neanderthal can’t make decisions based on judgement because they’ve only gained a lifetime’s craft knowledge in the specialised employment sector called association football.

Praise Be!

It’s only thanks to the scientists from the thrusting venture science of looking at football related numbers that we can now predict football results with any level of scientific rigour.

I look back at the time before scientific rigour and shudder. How did we have the audacity to try and predict results? How did we have the audacity to enter betting shops with just the hope of future riches to guide us? It fair makes my blood run cold. How did we cope with that darkest of dark places?

Predicting football outcomes!!! What a breakthrough!

Let us gaze at the glorious idea of “Expected Goals” and hail the breakthrough!

Let us hail all of them science type people mate!!

LET US ALL LET THAT SINK IN TOGETHER!!

AND LO they did tweet “THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY” and other social media phrases. AND LO, it did sink in.

Having said all that, knowledge in this area would be extremely useful for coaching staff, as the BBC article says

“To the naked eye they were struggling, but xG was identifying a team that would improve soon,” said Duncan Alexander, Opta’s chief data analyst.

“Lo and behold, around matchday 12, their fortunes changed, with the team starting to score at – and above – the expected rate. This led to them actually performing better than their xG said they should have in their eventual stroll to the title.”

The concept of “Expected Goals” could help player development. For example it could provide the pictorial tools to support coaching like “Have you thought about standing here instead of there?”. It’s an obvious thing to say but performance in a particular match situation could be improved by thinking about that particular match situation, especially when you may be able to call on data.

I can see how the data may inform tactical thinking. It is extremely difficult to control every aspect of a match but individual incidents in specific regions of the pitch, i.e. the penalty area, can help to determine a result. Relevant data about those regions of the pitch may provide insights.

While data is useful within the work environment of football but I am not sure it is much use outside that environment. Coaches have to analyse options and possibilities dispassionately but fans only need to hope for the best, in other words coaches can directly affect match situations but fans cannot.

Concepts such as “Expected Goals” have been sold as part of an analytical approach that will provide layman with a more refined understanding of football. On a fundamental level this idea has potential. The understanding gained through study allows human society to evolve, everybody is capable of understanding society through study, therefore everybody is capable of understanding football by studying it.

The academic study of football would probably require a level of time and effort that most people would be unable to devote but fans wouldn’t actually need to produce data because the media would probably digest and present research.

Therefore in principle the process of study would allow fans to understand more about football. I can see the potential in debunking commonly held attitudes about typical terrace scapegoats. Before we move on too quickly it’s worth considering whether the information provided data concepts actually adds anything worthwhile to a layman’s understanding of football, can fans benefit from data concepts?

Imagine your side lost 2-0. It won’t matter how much detail the stats convey, or how many times you look at them, your side would still have lost 2-0. The scoreline, and perhaps a brief match report, will tell you all that you need to know. There’s a choice to make; accept the score or howl at the moon as an appeal to the deity of football fairness on the basis of favourable match stats. Football has never been concerned about the fairness of outcome, somebody has to lose after all (unless there’s a draw).

Concepts like “Expected Goals” gild a lily that doesn’t need to be there. Aside from providing a slightly clearer view for betting purposes fans cannot do anything practical with the statistical knowledge.

Knowledge about what could, or even should, happen becomes pointless when a match ends with a different scoreline. The fact that scorelines often differ from predictions immediately calls the utility of a metric such as “Expected Goals” into question.

If the concept of “Expected Goals” had never been conceived it would not matter in the slightest, most fans do not need extravagant methodology to prove what they can recall from memory. Let us look at the following quote from the BBC article;

“So if your team is performing above or below expectations at the start of the new season, a look at their expected goals difference could tell you whether that run is likely to last.

And it may also be something worth thinking about the next time your striker misses what you always thought of as an easy chance.”

Fans will already know when their team plays well, whether a season has been below expectations, which players make a difference and which sides are the strongest in their division. These ideas are hardly new, they’ve been around since the 19th century foundation of association football. It’s not hard to pick theses insights up, you just have to follow football,

OOOOH SCIENTIFIC “Expected Goals”!!!!!! Get you, with your magical powers!!!!!

I’ve managed to notice that fans are also able to recognise what happens in individual situations, I haven’t done any research like, I have just noticed by looking.

Let’s imagine that a particular striker is standing in their typical sort of position, a similar position from which you’ve seen him score many times. You know that when the ball is crossed you could be milliseconds away from seeing a goal. You can picture him striking the ball cleanly and the ball flying past the keeper. The football dopamine factory is in full effect during the milliseconds of anticipation between the crosser’s leg moving backwards and the ball flying through the air.

Now imagine that just before the perfect cross lands on the proverbial pre-decimal coin the striker slightly loses his footing in the slippery conditions, so when he connects with the ball he scuffs it well wide of the goal. You don’t need an expert venture scientist to explain why the striker missed because you saw the striker slip. QED or something.

The naked eye can see the effect of a momentary loss of concentration, or when crosses are slightly too fast, or defenders are marking too tightly, or when strikers stumble slightly. Surely we don’t need a complicated theory to explain what we already know. Like I said earlier I haven’t done any research, make of that what you will.

LET THAT SINK IN MATE.

I appear to have been light years ahead of the curve, I already knew that van Nistelrooy would score more than Gary Neville and Ian Rush would score more than Alan Hansen and Ian Wright would score more than Steve Bould. If I wasn’t so humble I’d ask the Nobel committee to consider my thesis entitled “Expected Passes That Set Up Goals” for next year’s Nobel prize in the thrusting venture science that looks at football related numbers.

I don’t want to blow my own trumpet here but I would be a shoe-in for the award for I doth have a PhD in thinking up stuff what is bleeding obvious. As part of my submission I will tell the Nobel committee about the people of Llandudno; they often crowd around me in order to touch the hem of my garments and tell me that they would love to have the level of intelligence and sophistication like what I have got.

Greater knowledge can lead to greater enjoyment but bare statistics only explain so much. A misplaced pass has the same statistical worth whether it happens just outside a penalty area or near the halfway line. Stats can tell us that a side with 75.4% possession lost a match by conceding injury time goals but they can’t tell us why did that happened, which is the most interesting bit.

The concept of “Expected Goals” appears to have more explanatory power than bare statistics but it still lacks utility for fans.

There are two main reasons, firstly it’s pointless to expect something in football because uncertainty lies at the heart of the sport and secondly, people are attracted to football by emotion not logic.

You can roughly predict general outcomes but it would take a genius with preternatural abilities to continually make correct predictions. A friend that regularly bets on horse racing once told me that football’s inherent uncertainty is the reason he didn’t bet on football results, there are just too many things that can go wrong.

The flow of matches is dictated by the fluid interaction of single events that can alter the course of a match in a split second. A player could slip, someone could pass the ball to the wrong player, a player could stand in the wrong place, a goalkeeper might fumble a cross, a defender’s concentration may wander momentarily. Football’s nature means that similar mistakes don’t always lead to goals.

Uncertainty sounds messy and random but the uncertainty created by football’s inherent drama is the thing that draws people to football, can you imagine how boring it would be if all matches ended in the predicted score?

The proponents of ideas like “Expected Goals” imply that greater enjoyment will come from greater enlightenment but an attachment to football’s vibrant culture is something that people feel on an emotional level and I doubt whether it is possible to explain an emotional attachment with data.

We know what we feel when we see flowing moves, superb skill, precision shooting, great comebacks, unexpected goals. Fans can get behind their side and roar them on, or make the opposition wilt, and we don’t need a detailed scientific outlook to do that.

We all know what it feels like to long for a result, or to taste the glory, or to feel mesmerised by history, or to feel a sense of belonging, or to enjoy the camaraderie, or to hear the stories. We know that the match will probably be dull but there’s always the hope that we could see something fantastic. A recording of a memorable match can enable you to relive the feelings, looking at data won’t elicit the same response.

Let us consider Wales in Euro 2016.

Let’s start with the data perspective. Ladies and gentlemen may I present the minutes in which goals were scored in Wales’ matches between September 2014 and July 2016.

Euro 2016 Qualifiers

Wales – 13, 22, 23, 26, 45, 50, 50, 77, 81, 82, 86
Opponents – 6, 36, 71, 90
 

Euro 2016

Wales – 10, 11, 20, 31, 42, 56, 67, 75, 81, 86
Opponents – 13, 50, 53, 56, 61, 90

Now let us turn to idea of an average score, the “Expected Goals” if you will, from those matches;

  • In the qualifiers the average score was Wales 1.1, Opponent 0.4 (10 matches, 11 goals for, 4 goals against).
  • In Euro 2016 the average score was Wales 1.6, Opponents 1 (6 matches, 10 goals for, 6 goals against).

According to the Venture Science of Looking At Football Related Numbers we should have been able to take the knowledge indicated by the above information and prepare ourselves for the unexpected joy dans la belle France, the average scorelines have a degree of similarity do they not?

The fact that we obviously didn’t know what was going to happen shows the limitations of concepts like “Expected Goals”.

Even a cursory analysis of the data tells us that most predictions would have been wrong; during the tournament Wales were not only more potent, playing four fewer matches but only scoring one goal fewer, they also conceded more second half goals. This impression is also reflected in the average scorelines.

All data has limitations, in football it is more useful as an indication of what happened rather than as a signpost of what will happen. But then football results of the past have never determined future football results.

In terms of Wales at Euro 2016 bare statistics cannot even begin to explain what happened because they cannot begin to explain what it felt like to witness the events. Watching Wales play in Euro 2016 was the sort of fantastically bewildering experience that any football fan would enjoy.

The utter joy of qualification did not transfer into expectation. Not even the most positive Welsh fan would have even been able to conceptualise what actually happened in France, and that includes those that bought follow my team tickets.

Data was useless for mental preparation. Wales’ pre-tournament form guide told us that they lost their last four matches, and one of those was a week before the first match yet they reached the semi-final. Hopes, dreams and general football knowledge would have been as reliable an indicator as the data. The only thing we could have expressed with any degree of certainty is the idea that Wales might score and they might concede.

Not even the simple knowledge what happened when Wales play against the same sides helped. The qualifiers against Belgium yielded an aggregate score Wales 1 Belgium 0, when the sides met in the Quarter Final Wales beat Belgium 3-1 in one of the most memorable matches Wales has ever played. The first two matches are unable to explain the third. I still feel warm and fuzzy when I picture Hal’s Cruyff turn.

Data can’t explain what it felt like to see Ashley Williams’ equaliser, or Hal Robson-Kanu’s skilful finish, or Sam Vokes’ late header and it certainly can’t explain the once-in-a-lifetime experience for those in Lille or the open mouthed joy for those that watched on TV.

To underline the point further let’s consider qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup as well. From Euro 2016 to Euro 2016 to World Cup 2018 qualifiers the average score only changed slightly; from Wales 1.1, Opponent 0.4 to Wales 1.6, Opponents 1 to Wales 1.3, Opponents 0.6. 

The similar average scores suggest a similar experience yet the three stages caused distinctly different emotions. The first stage had the glory of an historical qualification, the second stage had the glory of an unprecedented semi-final, the third stage had a very irritating defeat caused by Ireland in the most important match.

In other words the knowledge from the Euro 2016 qualifiers didn’t prepare us for didn’t prepare us for Euro 2016 and the knowledge from Euro 2016 didn’t prepare us for the World Cup 2018 Qualifiers.

I may believe that facts and stats don’t really add to a fan’s enjoyment of football but in our gossamer skinned times people actually enjoy using stats on social media to prolong pointless arguments. I quote verbatim;

“Mate mate mate, you can’t challenge me for I have the right to free speech. THAT’S “ME”, YES ME.  I HAVE THE RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH. I’m entitled to my opinion mate and it happens to be better than your opinion mate. You know sod all about football. Get over it SNOWFLAKE. LET THAT LITERALLY SINK IN MATE”

Verbatim and ad nauseum, the reduction of football to a never-ending struggle to finally prove which judgement based opinion is the bestest ever mate. They’ll use anything in these social media spats; Net Spend, Shots, Possession. Look at me, Look at me, Look at me.

It’s like some people have forgotten that data does not predetermine the future. A player can play against the same club twice and play well in one match but play poorly in the other, or they can eradicate the mistakes from the first match by the time they play the second, confidence can be regained in the intervening period.

Anybody with a semblance of football knowledge can make rough predictions, fans don’t need data. Knowing that a side has error-prone keeper from watching Match Of The Day highlights is as enlightening as a set of data. Emotions and experience prepare fans for football outcomes rather than data.

If somebody wants to interact with football on the basis of a statistical relationship that’s fine and dandy, it’s between them, their conscience and their free time, it matters not a jot. I just wish they’d keep it to themselves. The thrusting venture science of looking at football numbers has become yet another example of football’s imperialistic tendencies.

Football should be a hugely enjoyable diverting pastime that’s reasonably important to those that are interested but it seems to have developed an extreme sense of self-importance.

I try to ignore the tedious flotsam and jetsam but other people won’t allow me and football continually encroaches too far into my peace of mind. Take last weekend, I was getting ready to go to Rotherham when I caught the short BBC Breakfast News report about the previous night’s Arsenal 3 Liverpool 3 match. The reporter told us about culpability, mistakes and pressure rather than a “clearly exciting and pleasant way to spend a couple of hours”. It was as if somebody needed to be held accountable and punished

As Thom Yorke once sang, I’m a reasonable man get off my case.

I read “Expected Goals” and foresee a new stick to beat a team with.

“I know mate, won 2-0 but our xG was 4.2. That’s not good enough mate! He’s gotta go!”

I foresee the whimpering of data acolytes.

“Mate, Mate, Mate, It’s not my fault the cretin scored in the 83th minute instead of the 9th minute. He’s a proper football man at heart and didn’t know that most of his own goals come from the 8.4-11.7 minute window within the hidden trapezium of max. goal scoritude.

Stats don’t lie mate. Stats don’t lie. He’s just a proper football Neanderthal mate, he’s basically a performing monkey, a lab rat.”

Mate mate mate football doesn’t really matter.

Isn’t it enough to know that football runs by the internal logic of its own nature? It’s like the man on the When Saturday Comes message board implied, you don’t need to know the serial number of pantones to be affected by the beauty of art.

LET THAT SINK IN m7.





It’s cliched to be cynical at Christmas

24 12 2017

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. a half season ticket for MK Dons.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. tickets for a match where both sides wear away kits.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me….three dog-eared protest placards written in felt tip.

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. four deeply serious pundits around a deeply serious table.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me….FIVE banter bus companies.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. six hundred people willing to buy the season ticket I relinquished in protest.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. seven thousand clichés.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. eight players tag team fouling.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. nine insipid newbuilds.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. ten showboaters engineering contact.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. eleven hours of build up.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me….twelve away fans in identical baseball caps and khaki polyester coats doing the provocative outstetched arms dance they learnt from that you tube.

On the thirteenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. attention fatigue.

On the fourteenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. fourteen angry phone in radio shows.

On the fifteenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. fifteen hours of build up.

On the sixteenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. sixteen rearranged matches.

On the seventeenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. seventeen thousand tweets already tweeted.

On the eighteenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. a club with eighteen players out on loan.

On the nineteenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. nineteen HD views of a foul that wasn’t a foul.

On the twentieth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. twenty hours of build up.

On the twenty first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. twenty one needlessly judgemental commentators.

On the twenty second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. a book about films.

That’s the thing about soul mates, they know exactly what you like.





That would be an ecumenical matter

15 11 2017

Once upon a time I took a binary view of certain sides. Negative experiences were the key, as soon as I witnessed the fans of a particular side doing something offensive or cringeworthy they were beyond the pale.

My time at university led to a real dislike of the England side. My preconceptions about academia unravelled as soon as I discovered that students preferred buying cheap posters to discussing higher matters over a few beers but the most dispiriting discovery was the atmosphere around football matches and the air that surrounded tournaments.

I like to think that my Celtic periphery chippiness had nothing to with it because I witnessed plenty of annoying incidents; groups of lads singing songs about the IRA or German bombers, university football team drunks using karaoke equipment to abuse Irish people, university football team drunks abusing French students for celebrating a goal, the very heated discussion between my Brazilian friend Carlos and someone that said “Yeah, but he’s saying WE cheated.” as if I’d naturally agree, two loud specimens using the composition of World War Two’s alliances to decide which side they should get behind in a particular match. I could go on, and on, and on.

I knew I could minimise opportunities for annoyance by avoiding certain places at certain times, hence I stayed in to watch the England v Germany match in Euro 2000, but I couldn’t hide from the cloying tournament atmosphere that transformed my fellow students into football supporter clichés.

The clichés were loud in 2002’s Leicester University. I may have felt differently if interest had been limited to the people I’d befriended that year; a group of us decent souls had congregated in The Ratcliffe Bar, or “Rat Bar”, to watch football.

We were from all over place; Greece, Jordan, London, Coventry, Manchester, Ireland, Belfast, Switzerland, Brazil, Scotland, Merseyside, even Wales. I liked this time a lot, it was communal and convivial and nobody was ever angry about a result, I remember striking up a friendship with an Arsenal fan from Islington. The crucial England v Greece qualifier may not have been popular but the joy locusts arrived for the world cup and occupied every square centimetre.

I despised the easily led for encroaching on our preserve. I despised their shrieking and shouting, their ersatz excitement and fake disappointment. I despised their fashionable emotional tension and spirit crushing breeziness “Well you had to go and support them didn’t you”. I despised their arch postmodern jingoism and irritating look at me behaviour. I despised the likes of Chris Evans for popularising that sort of thing.

On one hand I caused my own discomfort because I kept going to the Rat Bar. On the other I wanted to watch as much of the world cup as possible. My options were limited by simple facts; I didn’t have a television in my room, we were miles from the rest of the university and the Rat Bar was part of our halls of residence. The only choice was limited to the unwelcoming TV Lounge or the palatial Rat Bar. I didn’t see why I should miss out because of the irritating people, if I managed to see Japan v Russia on a wet Sunday I was going to watch England v Denmark, I mean who were these interlopers to deny my human rights?

I already disliked Chelsea because of the political affiliations I’d seen their fans display on documentaries but I had to wait until December 2003 to see Chelsea fans at close quarters. During the afterglow of Aston Villa’s League Cup Quarter Final victory over Chelsea one of the Chelsea fans adressed “You ain’t ever been to the San Siro mate……….What’s that?………… That weren’t even in English mate” to nobody in particular. A couple of others reminded us that Chelsea had recently been purchased by a rich person by singing “Shall we buy a team for you?”.

Chelsea may not have won the league for forty nine years and Villa may have been Champions of Europe but what did such “details” matter to missionaries from the centre of civilisation? And lo! They did they spread the gospel of plutocracy to the heathen areas what only did make the industrial revolution. And lo! They only gone and seen their team get beat guvnor! All hail the centre of civilisation and its ability to attract plutocrats!

I already disliked Rangers for the same reason I already disliked Chelsea. When I visited Ibrox I found tangibly hostile environs; scowls, scarves that demanded a disbelieving second look and less than subtle use of language on flags. For they are “THE PEE-PUL”, and some other people just aren’t “THE PEE-PUL”.

I disliked Halifax Town after their fans visited north Wales. On both occasions inflatable sheep were thought to be just the witticism for an area with a relatively low population density. They was much pride, pride in inflatable animals, pride in a joke that upwards of three hundred strangers will see, pride in a pub discussion, “EEEEEEEE that’s dead funny that is son. That’s A REAL Bobby Dazzler of an idea son. Let’s get t’ sheep from t’shop on’t way to north Wales………..Martin ‘ave yer heard about Colin’s idea? It’s a real Bobby Dazzler!!!!!!” Something told me that they “only say it like it is”.

In the ‘80s my Dad used to take me to Llandudno Rugby Club on Sunday afternoons.  I still fondly remember the details; the smell, the brickwork, the tables with dimpled copper effect tops, the Proustian sounds of the pool table; the coin mechanism’s metallic push, the release of the ball rack, the collision of balls as they rolled and the cue ball’s high pitched thud as it returned to the back of the table. They had an ever-changing selection of crisps and their glasses of coke tasted better than the usual.

It would have been utterly blissful apart from one small issue; an opinionated Leeds fan was often there. Years later another opinionated Leeds fan reminded of these rugby club Sundays when he held court in the pub I liked; “I’ll tell you why Emile Heskey is the worst ever striker to play for England mate”. Mate. Mate, maaaaaate, I do not want to know.

I disliked Rhyl and Caernarfon because of their fans’ Bangor hatred. When I arrived in Wolverhampton I took an almost instant dislike to Wolves because there was an irritating fan on my course. When I was in Leicester I wanted Spurs to lose every match because of some annoyingly loud people that watched football in the Rat Bar. I disliked Real Madrid as soon as I became aware of their history but it wasn’t until I watched 2000’s champions league final with a haughty fan in my friend Mikes’ house in Wolverhampton that the dislike became notable. I disliked Lazio for the same reasons I disliked Chelsea and Rangers.

That was all then baby. Hate is out. Dislike is yesterday’s news baby. Don’t hit me with them negative vibes!

I have returned to a more pleasant era, a less judgemental paradigm. I can say with some certainty that I never truly disliked anyone because of their football allegiance in the halcyon ‘80s.

By secondary school I looked and sounded like a football obsessed kid. I followed Liverpool’s fortunes on account of the sew-on patch I bought from a toy shop when I was about four. I talked about football, I had the kits, I went to matches, but I never really hated Everton or Manchester United. I remember hoping Liverpool would win rather than wish defeats on others. Other kids may have given the impression that they felt strongly but I’m not sure they actually did.

I wish I could have expressed myself better, or given a different impression, but adolescence is supposed to be an uncomfortable time as you find your feet. Some of us only felt confident speaking about football and even then we lacked the expressive skill to go much beyond (Insert Name Here) must be crap because he doesn’t play for us”. I may have taken some defeats personally and offered the odd barbed comment but the words were hollow and I didn’t mean anything by my tone of voice. I knew that the supporters of other clubs were my friends. Any badinage was probably as much about the social mores of adolescents as anything else.

I don’t remember vitriol or visceral loathing but then there was no pressure to get involved. We weren’t surrounded by football, there were no “Superficial Saturdays” or pull-out football sections in newspapers and you had to visit a bookies to place bets. You were lucky to find interesting football magazines.

I received a few comments when I wore a replica shirt so a sense of rivalry existed. In the summer of 1985 an Everton supporting family friend called the eight year old me “murderer”, in jest of course, because I was wearing a Liverpool shirt.

A more pleasant example occurred in 1989 when I went to work with my Dad on the Monday morning after Liverpool had lost 4-1 away at The Dell, I forget the reason why. I was wearing a Liverpool shirt so one of his workmates spent part of their lunch hour gleefully repeating the scoreline. I didn’t react and he noticed that I didn’t react. Thank god for shyness, as without that little mental distance afforded by low self-confidence my life may have taken a different path; if I had seen the attraction of responding to comments I could be driving the banter bus by now.

I’m sure there were irritating football fans, the rugby club Leeds fan for example, but they were less noticeable (at least to me). I can see how proximity to away fans enabled match going fans to develop an ill-feeling towards certain fans but there was no way that non-match going fans could develop intense hatreds. Social media didn’t exist and if you saw fans of other clubs in your home area they’d probably be just like you.

Everything seemed quieter. You couldn’t create an impression of fanaticism and the bluffers’ social media shorthand didn’t exist. There were no giant car window stickers or other look at me merchandise and you couldn’t share knowing jokes or memes within seconds of match incidents. Imagine not being able to visualise the banter bus.

The tabloids may have discovered the joys of lampooning England managers by the late ‘80s but the media’s general tone was more relaxed, for example television covered less football in a calmer manner. If you look back at old clips of Match of The Day or The Big Match you’re immediately struck by the sedate pace and calm delivery.

My Dad’s instinctive dislike of ITV must have clouded my view of Brian Moore’s turn of phrase because when I watch repeats of The Big Match he seems to be the antithesis of our continual cacophony of hyperbolic adjectives. “So United had a day to forget…Now it’s over to White Hart Lane for today’s second match, your commentator is Martin Tyler….”  Sometimes the highlights programmes didn’t even feature pundits. Football without opinions! I could live with that.

The coverage may only exude sepia-tinged goodness because there was less football on TV. If we were re-immersed in that time we may find the coverage more annoying, the more switched on fanzine writers certainly noticed things were rather staid. However we can’t deny that this old style of coverage transmits a quaint charm when compared to our time. The closest the late ‘80s-early ‘90s got to the hyperbolic path was Elton “Live and Exclusive” Welsby but that looks disarmingly warm on you tube. An untelevised football competitions is now an anomaly.

Aside from my unfortunate forays into binary territory football has always been more of an ecumenical matter for me and it feels good to have finally returned to that way of thought. Reality isn’t the same as the evidence that causes snap judgements so naturally my once steadfast views have changed.

I have developed a soft spot for Wolves and long realised that I don’t really care about Halifax or Spurs and  I don’t mind Rhyl FC these day. When I went to watch Chelsea their fans seemed to be just like every other club’s fans. I’ve been to watch England twice since university and noticed that the majority of England fans were the same sort of people that went to watch Wales. I was a Welsh fan in the home end for one of the matches and the Geordie that sat next to me twigged that I wasn’t supporting England, consequently we spent the match chatting. He could have been my dad.

I go to enough matches to get a feel for things and I’ve realised that I see the same sort of people everywhere. I hear the same patter, I see the same styles of clothing and footwear. The same things happen everywhere; people laughing, people sheltering, people rushing to the ground, people leaving early to catch trains, people queuing. The only changes are the colours of scarves and designs of replica shirts.

I see people chatting everywhere. They could be childhood friends or university friends, work colleagues or season ticket holders thrown together by fate, they could even be people that first met on a bus to an away match. Whatever the reason one thing is clear; there’s a tangible sense of humanity. There are obviously years of friendship in the conversations. When I went to watch QPR’s League Cup match in August I was surrounded by people that had actually missed each other since the end of the previous season.

Most football fans are the same, in the same way that most people are the same. Therefore it’s individuals, rather than clubs or the associations people have with clubs, that present a problem. No club is immune from attracting individuals you’d prefer to avoid. I do my best to avoid the following archetypes.

The obvious morons. Even with a padlocked twitter account their outpourings always find me. You name it I see it; inane drivel, sexist crap, racist rubbish, godawful political views, stupid tweets, casual crassness. Why do they advertise? Ignore, block, block, mute, block, ignore.

The loud people. They’re everywhere; Trains, pubs, buses, on the street, in the barbers, in the pub, in work. Loudness on the way to football is to be expected and you can walk on by or change carriages. You can’t ignore match based loudness as you’re stuck with the “Look at me!!!! I’m so passionate!!” person for two hours. We all care baby, that’s why we’re here. Thankfully you only see them every other Saturday.

The bluffers. Why do some people stand around in a Super Sunday pub pretending to laugh at an alpha male’s comedy stylings? Why do some people pretend that they understand football? Why do some people claim to have a better insight that mere mortals? There’s no shame in admitting that you’d rather be doing something else.

The attention-seekers. Somebody recently labelled Manchester City as “Shark Team”. Whether this was a little embroidery or a linguistic device from a non-British journalist the phrase should not have led to fans parading around in shark-shaped inflatable headwear. We can do better than a lot of fans thinking “I’m a joker me, I’ll play along with the media’s idea of what it is to be a football fan!!”. We can do better than creating demand for the next great marketing scam. We can do better than holding a homemade sign for the cameras. Twitter has a lot to answer for.

Those that get involved with “working class street movements”. Their assertion of moral leadership is completely false because they clearly don’t realise that everybody, even scruffy leftard snowflakes, abhors the end result of terrorism. If they were really bothered about “standing up for the working class” they’d be marching against austerity or helping to organise a general strike. Mate, mate, mate you’re not saying it like is at all.

The poppy people. “Look mate all I’m saying is, if he don’t mind earning his money in a country that’s overcome by a mania to be seen to commemorate something rather than actually think about the historical event itself and the historical conditions that caused it, then why don’t he go back to where he came from mate? Am I right? I’m only saying it like it is mate”. It’s hard to think of an autumnal football period without thinking of people booing James McClean for his democratic wish not to have a heat pressed symbol of cynically engineered social pressure that doesn’t inhibit athletic performance applied to his shirt. Luckily I’m old to remember the time when players could get away without wearing them, well I am older than eight years of age.

The judgemental premier league fans of north Wales. I remember one of them at a birthday party I went to. He had just got in from a Liverpool away game. I had his number, I could read his face, I could see that he was judging us; “You haven’t been to the match today therefore I am considerably better than you”. Mate, mate, mate anybody can buy football tickets.

I still dislike certain clubs, Rangers, Real Madrid, Lazio, anything with a connection to Swiss energy drinks or blue sky corporate thinking, anything that’s become a self-worshipping monolith. I still want them to lose instantly but I try not to generalise about their supporters.

Irritating people are not club specific, they are everywhere. It is pointless to hate a club because they have irritating fans because it’s highly probable that your club also has irritating fans. Imagine that irritating people are drawn to the same football club as you, embrace enlightenment.








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