Baby I’m Bored

20 02 2017

A slightly different version of this post appeared in an Australian fanzine edited by a nice man called Geoff Briggs.

I’ll come out and say it at the beginning, I’ve gone off the Welsh Premier League.

I feel a little naughty for admitting this in public. When you’re even slightly involved in this league there’s unsubtle pressure to support the league through its thick and thin. You’ve got help put the league on the map and so on. I can’t live this lie any longer, I have reached the end of my tether with the competition. I’m not trying to be a clickbait contrarian, it’s just how I feel.

At the start of September a freelance journalist came to our north Walean hinterland to see if we’d felt any “bounce” from Euro 2016. Aside from the anecdotes poured over agog audiences there was absolutely no connection between Bangor City and Euro 2016.

The only possible connections between the Welsh Premier League (WPL) and Euro 2016 were the rules of football and the word “Wales“. The European Championships were a passing manifestation of divine brilliance and the WPL is a moribund entity that’s evaporated my enthusiasm for leaving the house on a Saturday afternoon, or Friday evening, or Sunday afternoon.

This feeling didn’t emerge overnight, I’ve experienced five seasons of ebbing joie de vivre, I lost the last few traces of it in the gap between the magnificent Euros and cold stark reality. A combination of three things – The WPL’s nature, brainwaves and the unforeseen effects of the club licensing process – have caused the joy drain.

Firstly, “the WPL” should be re-initialised as “the BIP” (Boredom In Perpetuity). We meet the same clubs and visit the same grounds so the same club can win the title. The WPL contained eighteen clubs until the advent of 2010’s “Super Twelve”, a competition that divides into hermetically sealed sections after twenty two matches. Now there’s a top half that ends with European play offs and a bottom half that may end in relegation. Every August I dread another existential slog.

Playing clubs at least four times during a season is bad enough but during a recent season cup matches and European play-offs meant that we played Rhyl, our fierce local rivals, seven times. Even the fiercest rivalries becomes anaemic through unrelenting contact.

A run of decent league results normally allows an unlikely side to challenge for a league title but the WPL provides erstwhile pacesetters with two extra matches to catch uppity interlopers. The clubs coasting along are merely saddled with bothersome pacesetters they can’t catch. Repetition has bred so much contempt that some clubs have welcomed relegation and others have denied themselves promotion.

I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum, success and near relegation, so I have experienced the full spectrum of boredom. The spectre of relegation is humiliating in any system but in the super twelve you stand to be punished by players that you’ve faced countless times on the WPL roundabout.

When you’re title challengers there’s no light relief. The relief of a win evaporates when you realise there’s another match next week and every defeat has two simultaneous effects; you miss out on points and any advantage you enjoyed is slightly eroded by the baying mob at your heels.

When you’re “enjoying success” there’s a horrible melange of stress, a flowchart of stress if you will; Expectation stress > spectating stress > defeat aftermath stress > realising that other sides have won stress > missing UEFA prize money stress > losing players that would bring you glory next season stress. Our championship winning season of 2010-’11 contained ten absolutely awful dread-stained weeks.

Club licensing has generally had a positive effect on the WPL in terms of facility development, rule application and ensuring that clubs are sustainable but it’s also inadvertently diluted the anticipation I used to feel.

Last summer Port Talbot Town, our friends in the south, were relegated and Caernarfon Town, our local rivals, were denied promotion. In both instances there were valid reasons for the decisions but the crumbs of comfort I doggedly put my faith in – the potential visits in a new season – had been hoovered up.

Lastly, the brainwaves. Aside from the Super Twelve, we’ve had the 3G pitch football community hubs and Sunday matches. The desire to create local community football hubs based around 3G pitches may sound laudable – an all-weather pitch that can be used by the local community – but what if an area already has a local council operated all weather pitch? Isn’t the competition risking local authority employment during our times of cynically manufactured austerity? Where’s the sense of community in that?

3G pitches aren’t without their problems either; recent research has shown that 3G pitches may have worrying health effects. There’s nothing wrong with a grass pitch if it’s looked after. The FAW could fund the annual salaries of highly qualified groundsmen for each club for less than the cost of one 3G pitch.

When they came up with Sunday matches last summer it was almost my final straw. Who in the UK prefers going to a football match on a Sunday? How are you meant to relax when Monday morning’s work is clearly visible on the horizon? What about the semi-pro players that work on Mondays? We all need a day off from football.

At the start of the season I scanned the fixture list in anticipation of away days to come and discovered that all of the away games that can involve a good day out – Rhyl, Newtown, Aberystwyth – were scheduled on days other than Saturdays. Then I noticed we were scheduled to visit Cardiff Met, the only ground I hadn’t visited, on a Sunday. Thankfully they’ve relented over Sunday matches but my enthusiasm remains comatose.

There are only two sensible options; return to an eighteen club league or change the course of the future with time travel. Based on the latest news –  the clubs seems unwilling to change the nature of the league – the latter option seems the one most likely to happen.

We could back to the 1880s and set Wales on the same process of development as Scotland; a league based around one area – the Glasgow – Edinburgh Central belt – that eventually spreads over the whole country.

We could go to 1992 instead. We could convince Cardiff, Wrexham and Swansea and the rest to do the decent thing and join the League of Wales. This isn’t fanciful, Dynamo Kiev joined the Ukrainian league, Dynamo Minsk joined the Belarussian league and Hajduk Split joined the Croatian League. If it’s good enough for Eastern Europe it’s good enough for Wales!

Even with the obvious caveats – the geography of Wales prevented the development of a proper national league and the prospect of Football League promotion was always too persuasive – the only realistic prospect of pleasant change is using Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

I once owned a Manic Streets Preachers’ t-shirt that was emblazoned with the legend; “Baby, I’m Bored”, it’s a shame that I lost it ages ago because it feels rather apt. I’m not asking for much, some enjoyment is all I want, they seem to have enjoyment in the Cymru Alliance.

I’m sure that every point in this post can be refuted but my boredom feels tangible. I know change won’t happen, I’ll just have to concentrate and enjoy those conversations about films and comedy instead. Going to local football because of an almost perverse sense of duty may be the way forward.

What’s enjoyment anyway? A fleeting glimpse of a good thing that warps reality by causing unrealistic expectations.





“The angry people” by a big snowflake

11 02 2017

A very odd paradox appears to have developed in football.

Years ago many clubs were able to win trophies and people were philosophical about their club’s failure to win trophies.

Today a cynically created elite has a virtual stranglehold on success and people seem unable to deal with their club’s failure to win trophies.

In other words, people have become more intolerant of failure when there’s less chance of experiencing success. It’s all very weird.

It would seem that football and Iceland now share the same physical geography; plentiful hot eruptions. Some people are not only far from embarrassed about appearing to be dead angry they truly believe that we all need to know that they’re dead angry. Some people evidently dwell under the delusion that they deserve happiness more than others.

Anger, anger, anger, it’s everywhere!

Booing abounds and banners soon follow. Social media often hums with you tube videos of FAN TV ranters. Managers blast everything, commentators become incredulous, pundits simmer and tabloids bark. It’s lucky that we’re not living in the New York of Ghostbusters 2 otherwise the flowing molten anger would coalesce into something supernatural and foreboding.

Obviously the situation is not this simple. It only feels like everyone is permanently angry because shouting irritants are more noticeable. I imagine that the majority of football fans are similar; hopeful of witnessing something fantastic but willing to accept the mediocre and the mundane out of habit.

Football does that to you, as soon as you discover it’s creases childlike innocence is washed away. Players aren’t perfect, other fans are boring, managers are annoying and analysts are irritating. For the majority of fans good moments are like occasional day trips to fantastic destinations; gleaming memories to be cherished.

Those interested in football obviously connect with it on an emotional level. Despite the implication of their bellowing shouting irritants don’t care more than quiet people, every football fan cares about football otherwise they wouldn’t be interested in it. You wouldn’t apply the same logic to other areas of life. I may passionately care about recycling but I’m not going to start shouting and balling on You Tube about my council’s policy on refuse collection.

Emotions are intrinsic and private until expressed. Most people can choose whether or not to externalise their emotions. Some situations require externalisation – a danger lurking nearby, someone causing grave offence – but most of the time it isn’t required. Why do some people feel the need to draw others into their self-referential soap opera by sharing momentary football frustrations?

Thinking about how you express yourself in public is as much about common courtesy as protecting dignity. While not all football fans rant and rave, there is an angry fog in football’s climate. We can’t blame football for the fog’s existence, expressing emotional “LOOK AT ME, ME, ME!” anger seems to be a societal issue.

Some people have carved out political commentator profiles based on this type of angry you tube commentary, people film other people when they’re angry so they can tweet clips and Laura Keunssberg makes people really angry. Everyone is angry.

Anger by itself isn’t the problem. For example righteous anger as a force for good, as in John Lydon’s famous lyrics “Anger is an energy”, motivates you to try and improve something. The problem is solipsistic nihilistic anger and its corrosive effect upon society.

Take the EU Referendum. The result was partly attributable to solipsistic nihilistic anger; the anger of “a forgotten underclass“, the anger about the “EU’s undemocracy” and the anger about “immigration“.

Enter the Voice of Reason;

“I’m not sure about that, you’re just a bad loser!”

Fair enough, let’s look at an example from north Wales. Dissatisfied voters in the constituency that contains north Wales’ biggest employer, the Airbus plant, were so angry about the EU they voted Leave. You don’t need to be a bitter remoaner to consider the potential problems created by this display of anger.

By helping Leave to win they may have started a chain of events that leads to the end of the Airbus production in north Wales. The clues are there; Airbus, a European consortium formed to compete with American companies, wouldn’t exist without the EU and major hints have already been dropped about possible future plans. I imagine that Airbus’ potential closure would cause great upset.

The victory enjoyed by the Leave campaign happened partly because ranting populist politicians were given free rein to cynically ferment anger before the referendum. These self-declared anti-politicians took the situation – our cynical government’s unnecessary austerity – and played on justifiable fears by bending their old rhetoric to suit their goals, you know like any old politician does.

Naturally some people were stirred into anger by the general atmosphere and seductive rhetoric of a certain point of view. Consequently a change in the UK’s relationship with the EU became the panacea for all our problems.

During the horrible referendum campaign we saw the normalisation of intolerance and the belittling of justified concerns in debates. A common tactic – something known as “whataboutery” – was used to cloud debate. various non-sequiturs were added and many spurious “Well what about them?” comparisons were made.

If you doubt the logic of all this consider the following question, would Leave have won if the angry ranters had not been granted a normalising volume of exposure? Three years ago a possible EU referendum just wasn’t on the political radar.

It’s difficult to say what will happen know, at best we’ll suffer the retrograde fantasy of a “Global Britain”, at worst we’ll endure years of traversing through a quagmire of labyrinthine negotiations to end up in an even more inward-looking unfriendly society.

The Voice of reason chimes in;

“Come on, you’ve got to “GET OVER IT!!!” The referendum happened and democracy won!”

Yeah but it’s like this voice of reason mate. We didn’t see the righteous anger of 1945, the anger that created a better society with a practical version of a better country. Last June voters were motivated by the nebulous fantasy of a better country and solipsistic nihilistic anger. I’m amazed that some people honestly thought that by voting leave a fairer Britain would automatically rise from our austere environment?

I have two main issues with the referendum result. Firstly, the “democratic will”. How are we meant to respect a result caused by the 37% of the eligible electorate (or 27% of the total population). Call me a stickler for details but I’ve always thought a majority had to be at least 50.1%. Secondly, a generational political decision of seismic significance took place in a fetid atmosphere of rancour and bluster without the requisite thought..

Is our present course of action the safest course to take? Can we trust this result?

The Voice of reason renters the fray;

“You’re just an anti-democratic clown looking down your nose at your inferiors.”

It’s not that simple. Consider the people that may have changed their minds once they realised what their choice entailed. Consider the people with morning after regrets on the 24th June. Consider Leave voting farmers that still want EU funding, Consider Leave voting areas that rely on EU funding. Consider the interviewees that said “What’s the EU ever done for this area?” as they were interviewed in front of a community assets that only exist because of EU funding. Consider the Question Time audience members that had changed their voting intention because they’d seen the EU’s apocryphal straight bananas in a supermarket. Consider the interviewees that said they voted out “for the adventure” as though they was picking that month’s city break.

How do these people feel now? We are about to undertake the biggest constitutional upheaval in a generation on the basis of this? How are we to respect this result so meekly and so blithely?

Prudence demands that the potential consequences for British society AS A WHOLE are considered thoroughly before any action is taken, whether people are belligerent remoaners or an easily pleased patriots everybody will reap the outcome. Have we considered the potential consequences thoroughly? I’d suggest that we still haven’t and the vote happened eight months ago.

The tone of the debate is shown by a single example. When the spectre of defeat loomed large the arch anti-politician Farage claimed there should be a rerun in the event of a 48%-52% remain victory, now that he has enjoyed his own 52%- 48% victory Farage is strangely reticent about offering us a chance to eliminate the doubt enshrined in a narrow victory.

It’s odd that that some people decided to subject us all to irreversible major social upheaval without going through a long thought process. The referendum was a once in a generation choice, rather than a general election that can be reversed the next time around. If people had thought about the issue a bit more instead of becoming automatically angry at the sound of two vowels we may have gained another result.

The electorate are ostensibly rational human beings not helpless simpletons. Yet some were wilfully unconcerned about the potential problems that would result from a certain choice. To put it another way, some chose to saddle everybody with the outcomes of a decision they couldn’t be bothered to research properly. These people chose the view of the angry populists spewing easy solutions for complex problems and we’re all about to pay the price.

The Voice of reason renters the fray;

“See I told you, you’re just an anti-democratic clown looking down your nose at your inferiors.”

Go on then, we’ve all get to “GET OVER IT!” so everything’s alright.

On the other hand……….The campaign may have been short of practical information but that’s no excuse. It’s our duty to become informed citizens. There has always been information available about the EU and there were calmly explained you tube videos explaining the pitfalls of choosing Leave before the referendum. The videos were shared extensively on social media.

The EU is certainly not perfect and it never has been but if you look at the EU with the dispassionate mind of someone weighing up the best course of action you might see something different from the harsh words of populism.

You might see an institution that was conceived by people who had experienced the effects of two viciously destructive world wars, people who naturally thought that it might be better to work together on issues than restart old enmities. You don’t have to be an expert historian to know that the competition between nation states caused two world wars.

When viewed in this way the EU could be seen as an attempt to find a better way of doing things rather than living through the endless repetition of old mistakes.  That sounds pretty sensible to me and it is still the EU’s main motivating emotion, peaceful relations are still better than war.

The Voice of reason renters the fray;

“Yeah but what about the out of touch Euro-bureau-crats! Brussels Dictatorship imposing laws upon Britain!”

Yeah whatever. Any political body can formulate bad laws but what’s worse? A British government pursuing pernicious welfare reforms or the EU trying to harmonise high production standards in European factories? The EU’s government is no better or worse than any other government.

In terms of decision making all EU members have say in terms of the council of ministers because it is composed of nominations from the member states. Seeing as some issues are bigger than the borders of countries perhaps it’s often sensible to deal with certain matters on an international level. For example pollution doesn’t respect national borders.

Thankfully the UK is no longer the centre of a constantly sunlit empire, we’re a collection of relatively small land masses off the northern coast of Europe. Consequently it’s more sensible to have narrower aspirations than our stridently bellicose past. The UK is part of Europe so it makes sense to become involved with the countries that are close by. Surely it’s more sensible to work with those close at hand?

The Voice of Reason again

“Yeah but we didn’t have a vote then, so we need a vote now. WE DIDN’T WANT BRITAIN TO CHANGE”

Change is not to be feared, society does not remain in aspic because various process make change inevitable. Jarring changes cease to jar eventually; my grandparents’ generation struggled with decimalisation yet my generation knows nothing else. It’s the same with Britain membership of the EU. Positive change should be embraced, a good idea from there, a better way of doing things from over there etc. Change does not have to result in the automatic loss of culture, culture adapts.

The EU has not destroyed national culture, Italy, Germany, France and Holland have been members of the various pan-European organisations since the beginning and no sane person would claim that they have become homogenised into a single area. Italy is still unmistakably Italian, Germany is still unmistakably German etc.

Is immigration the tangible problem that it’s made to be? People mentioned the pressure placed on education, housing stock and the NHS but our central government could solve those issues if they were so inclined. People say they’ve come to steal our jobs and steal our benefits but they can’t do both.

A collection of disparate migrants hasn’t got enough collective economic power to influence wage levels. The “market economy”, or rich people, do that. People mentioned the loss or dilution of our culture but in the past politicians like Enoch Powell made similar inflammatory claims and so-called British culture quite clearly didn’t die. In short Enoch hasn’t been proven correct, immigrants have greatly enriched British society.

The Voice of Reason

“BUT BRITAIN WILL BE BETTER OFF OUTSIDE THE EU, THAT’S OBVIOUS!!!”

Well, no political decision exists in a vacuum and most of them have unintended effects. Can a sovereign Britain demand to be respected by other countries simply on the basis of a few politicians saying “Of course Mercedes will continue sell us their cars or French and Italian vineyards will continue to sell us their wine. They won’t walk away from this market!”?  How can anyone say with clarity what is going to happen? Do all divorces end well? The EU will impose post-Brexit tariffs so European producers could just easily as abandon Britain as keep trading with us.

The post referendum revelry reminds me of something I experienced in Year 10. Our PE teachers divided our two classes into Team A and Team B. Team A were considered to be the cream of the crop, more luminously skilled, more windswept and interesting etc. Naturally I scraped into Team A by the skin of my teeth.

For some reason we decided to carry the Team A and Team B scenario into our lunchtime game instead of picking mixed sides. Team B won the lunchtime match 1-0 thanks to the jammiest goal you’d ever see. To them went the spoils, to us went the bruised egos. They wouldn’t countenance a rematch despite our frenzied attempts at negotiation. ”We won, that’s all that matters”. Luckily this was the time before conversation stoppers like “End of.” I don’t mean to belittle the victory of the Leave side but when I think of their gloating the pettiness of smug teenage logic comes to mind. Sadly the situation is a bit more serious than the petty trifles of my salad days.

This is the problem with acting on solipsistic nihilistic anger, whether it’s football, politics or whatever else it tends to cloud things. With the referendum we’ve let a single vote, in a period of almost extreme public agitation, determine our future because too many people believed the easy words of the populists.

It’s not so much that we lost, I can take losing; I’ve only “won” three general elections in my life. The problem is that we lost because enough people didn’t think it was necessary to consider the issue properly. Tweeting “GET OVER IT REMOANER!!” simply isn’t enough for our democratic health. We deserve better than that.

We deserve to have properly informed political debates. We deserve better than elected politicians using fantasy aspirations to guide us. We deserve better than a British Prime Minister venturing cap in hand to unsavoury leaders.

The Voice of Reason ejaculates again;

WE WANT A “GLOBAL BRITAIN”?

But we already had twenty seven partners in the EU and we’re part of the commonwealth.

The Voice of Reason….

“IF YOU LIKE THE EU SO MUCH WHY DON’T YOU GO AND LIVE THERE!”

If I had the chance and the means I’d be off before you could say “Begone snowflake bad loser, disrespecter of the 37%”.

I know the words you’ve just read are the bitter words of impotence and that “there’s no use crying now”. We have to accept and GET OVER IT because we can’t change the democratic will of 37% of the British electorate.

I realise that I’m a treasonous traitorous snowflake for having an opinion, so be it, hollow name-calling is the least of my worries. The country I have lived in for the entirety of my life no longer feels like home.

I have spoken to friends from Europe since June and none of them understand why, or how, Leave won the referendum. It was like a mania swept the country and it doesn’t exactly make you hopeful about what may happen around the metaphorical corner.

So, I may be a treasonous traitorous snowflake and I may no longer have a country but it matters not, I have books to read. quality music to listen to and a Sopranos boxset to devour. It may not look like it but I have also partly disengaged from a situation that was expertly depicted by The Simpsons years before it happened in Britain.

This was the referendum campaign

This is my attitude now, on the days that I’m not in shock or annoyed by the outcome.

We may have unleashed a society of perpetual moaning about garden fence heights, encroaching conifers and the sort of people from Number 26, “See I told you they were weird when they moved in dear!” As far as I’m concerned the Leave voters can have the cesspit of mean-spirited pettiness they have created.

Consequently it’s back to football.

There are too many angry people claiming an interest in football. It’s odd that these people are never angry enough to consider giving up the cause of the anger. It’s baffling that so many people seem unable to deal with the basic facts of football. There are only three possible outcomes of a match and you’ll never win all matches. When you think about it, in the present context football doesn’t really matter a great deal at the end of the day Clive.

When you analyse the process that leads to the so called undying love for a football club it begins with a simple choice; the choice to become interested in a particular club and that is all. Why are individual capable of free-thinking and unburdened by predestination unable to stop their behaviour in an area they’ve chosen to become interested in? Why become angry about a choice you made? You can change your mind, unlike the EU Referendum.





Happy New Year, same as the last

22 01 2017

I love festive football. There’s a chill in the air, a cheer in voices and you’re unsure which day it is. It’s lucky that the Radio Times adds the day to the edge of the page.

Films, tangerines, nuts and football, what a time of the year! You don’t even notice Mrs. Brown’s Boy’s insultingly odious sentimentality or Eastenders’ needlessly depressive fug. I always think back to the joyous time when you could round off a Christmas Day’s TV with The Untouchables or Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I love Christmas because I loved Christmas. I love festive football.

It’s a time of wonderful sensations; the feel of new socks on cold feet, the disappointment caused by the misleading garment specifications on the website that provided your new coat and the sound of a joke with someone you haven’t seen since the last New Year’s Day match.

A Boxing Day match is served to me and it feels relatively good. The rough edges have been smoothed by Christmas cheer. By the final whistle I’ve realised that it’s no better or worse than usual. New Coats, New Socks, same feeling.

The result is immaterial. I’ve still got days off and a trip to Derby the next day. It’s cold but my cold nose reminded me I was alive. What a victory I’d seen well, well I’d seen a victory.

A Piers Morgan tweet about Aaron Ramsey floated out to my timeline. I thought I’d muted the arrogant popinjay. Here comes the block!

It’s Derby on an extra bank holiday. I broke my journey to buy some wax for my new coat in Birmingham. Derby’s an ok place to visit, I suspect that I could call it home. The away fans’ pub offers a welcome toilet break and a quizzical stare or two. It would seem that Birmingham fans have shamelessly ripped off FC United’s songbook.

The ground is better than TV had led you to believe. A middle aged away fan sat in front of me, he wore his jaunty scarf like a World War One fighter ace. There was a flag for every home fan. The match was cold, there was little to stir the soul but it didn’t matter, I still had days off and I’d finally seen a match in Derbyshire. I reached the station in time to get the train home. I may have found a technique to hurry along with cold feet.

The year draws to a close, it is a chance to end a chapter and draw a line in red pen. It’s a natural end to a unit of temporal resolution.

It may be the natural end to a unit of temporal resolution that may have included the death of your mother, political devastation through wilful ignorance and an ominous takeover of your football club.

You may be glad to see the back of the year but you’re nothing special. You’re merely an insect riding a spinning sphere of rock in the infinite void we call space. Nobody cares what you think or feel.

Anyway it’s out with the old in with the new ya miserable get!!! Cheer up and get the drinks in!

New Year’s Day always has the same feel, quiet contemplation. I try to open myself up to waves of hope, what will the new year bring? Positivity rears its head from the undergrowth. A new year, a new unit of temporal resolution, a new chapter in life’s story, new tales for your memoirs.

Stillness lends the first day of the year the air of a prelude to something good, a pregnant pause before the ascent to a better existence, a better life. This year you’ll do it right. The diet, the outlook, the holiday.

As you stand with your mates at the away match in your hometown you know that  this year we’ll do it right, we’ll win the title, we’ll get to Europe,, we’ll win the play-offs, we’ll avoid relegation, we’ll sign some decent players in the transfer window, we’ll keep the same form, we’ll beat teams again.. We’ve had good days since August, we’ll have good days again.

Then you watch Llandudno score a goal that looked preventable. There’s the familiar lurch in your stomach, whereupon the pangs of disappointment neatly segue way to the familiarity of acceptance. Everyone wears a Spirit of ’58 hat.

It turns out the new year is just the same as the previous years in which you’ve existed.

2016 – Watch Football in Cold weather, feel bored, can’t feel fingers.

2017 – Watch Football in Cold weather, feel bored, can’t feel fingers.

I’ll miss more Wales matches, Bangor won’t win the league and Farage’s face will be on the news every day.

You’re still a mere insect on a spinning sphere in the infinite void we call space and still nobody will care what you think or feel.

At least there’ll be new trainers to buy, and more festive football to look forward to.





It’s a wonderful beautiful game!

10 04 2016

Imagine that one Saturday afternoon Claudio the angel gazes down from the celestial plane and sees your humble narrator getting his flymo out of his shed instead of getting ready going to a match.

Knowing your humble narrator as he does this behaviour would strike Claudio as rather odd, being the football season and all. Claudio is a positive sort so he would feel the determined urge to guide your humble narrator back to happiness by travelling down to Earth to ask your humble narrator; “So why do you feel so disillusioned with the beautiful game?

And so our story begins……

Your humble narrator doubted the veracity of the reality he seemed to be experiencing until the assurances of transmogrification and teleportation. He grudgingly accepted the chance to reassess his jaundiced view of “the beautifulest of beautiful games”.

Almost immediately your humble narrator and his celestial companion found themselves in the house of someone that was about to book tickets for a premier league football match. They stood in the background, invisible to those without the power to connect with the spiritual plane, while the man used his phone, he was four weeks away from his desired match.

His resigned air came off in waves, his shoulders spoke of a long wait. He was number 4 in the queue, he checked his computer’s screen for cheap train tickets on the required date. He was number three in the queue, he drummed on the table. He was number two in the queue, he checked the club’s interactive ticket finder on the other tab. He was number one in the queue, he said “Come on!! Come on!!!” under his breath. Then the agent finally asked the golden question.

“Hello sir, how many tickets would you like?”

He was so giddy he can hardly let the words escape from his mouth.

I’d like Two £59 tickets and a £25 ticket for my son please.”

“What’s your customer number sir?”

“It’s 12568”

“Oh I’m sorry sir I’m afraid you haven’t accessed enough privilege points for this match.”

The phone goes click and a taut wrinkled forehead is smoothed. Claudio says “Well, that’s just bad luck.”

Within a second Claudio and  your humble narrator are on the steps of a premier league superground. Everyone is very excited, well who wouldn’t be after spending so much for a ticket!!! A corner kick is about to be taken. They look to the left because two teenagers are singing “We pay your benefits, We pay your benefits!!” towards their northern visitors that won’t possibly be able to hear their social commentary.

A person to their right obscures the view of three others by thrusting a grammatically incorrect bedsheet banner upwards. Several people film the corner kick with electronic devices. “Why is that happening?” asks Claudio. “If I had to guess I’d say the narcissistic impulse to turn their lives into a social media opera” says your humble narrator. Claudio picks up a programme, flicks through it and comments; “What is an Official Lubricants Partner”?

“Oh it means they get a lot of money for acting as a corporate mouthpiece”.

Luckily nobody saw the floating programme. Claudio thought about your humble narrator’s point, looked around and said “Look at how pleased the crowd looks.” Two grown men arose from their seats to taunt the nearby away fans with outstretched arms.

They are suddenly outside another ground, a crowd surrounds a man with a microphone. Everyone seems very angry.

“What’s this we see here?” Claudio asks,

“It’s called FAN TV and we need a computer to view it.”

Your humble narrator and Claudio suddenly appear beside a table with a computer on it. The television is on and it’s showing a match. Caludio knows that your humble narrator doesn’t really watch football on TV anymore but still enquired; “Don’t you want to watch the match?

“No thanks, I can’t seem to get into a televised match these days.”

“Why not?”

“Everything’s annoying. The commentators are annoying, the co-commentators are annoying, the presenters and pundits are annoying, The ex-pros justify cheating with their cynical moral relativism and every match is a corporate sales device with logos everywhere.

Everything’s loud and brash and everyone’s got to be excited about everything all the time. I can’t really stick the highlights programmes either, they’ve all gone downhill. Match of The Day shows more of the pundits’ pointless analysis than match action. Who really cares if soandso was 2 yards too far to the left at one point, it was a bloody goal.”

“Someone like you shouldn’t be moaning, you should be happy. These days there’s more football on TV than ever before and it looks even better than ever……”

“Wall to wall coverage just makes my alienation stronger, you’re made to feel as if you’re obliged to care about this stuff. I’m not being forced to care by an excitable twat.”

Anyway, let’s get back to the point, what is FAN TV?” enquired Claudio.

“I like to call it “football’s latest phenomenon of mass irritation”.

Right on cue they find the clip featuring the Arsenal fan with a bee in his bonnet;“It’s all about the net spend, mate“. They watch angry fan after angry fan, all of them lost in a murderous rage. Claudio was about to ask something but your humble narrator jumped in.

“See that load of crap, that’s people with opinions. Well bugger me with a fishfork, a person…..with an opinion! Big deal, I’ve got one of those, I can hear my own opinion in my own head as I say this. Why the bloody hell would I want to share that? More importantly how would hearing my opinion improve anyone’s life? These angry after defeat ranters have been football’s background noise for a couple of years, the immature attention seekers need to be ignored not given a public platform.

Caludio meekly said “They’re only people expressing opinion though aren’t they?”

“Yes and FAN TV is merely the tip of the Iceberg, let’s look at social media.”

Your humble narrator took Claudio on a tour of twitter. Claudio was immediately rendered speechless by the bestial hated and bellendry confronted him. He recovered to pose a question;

Is it like this often?”

“All the time. It’s a never ending river of human detritus and pointless stupidity. The worst aspect of it is that everyone dismisses their own gruesome behaviour as harmless banter.”

“Yeah but those what do you call those things?…..memes, they’re harmless.”

“They’re not harmless, they’re proof of a society that’s easily pleased with itself. Too many gobshites think that getting the “pithy last word” is a major achievement. Too many gobshites are labouring under the misapprehension that they’re a character in a crappy American sitcom. And another thing, the jokes are shit as well.”

“Yeah but some of the other stuff is useful surely, what about those football stats people”

“How can you explain the beauty of a succession of balletic movements with a string of statistics?” 

“Yeah but these people are harmless.”

“I suppose they are really but Claudio the point is that I’ve grown weary of it all, the tweets, the FAN TV, the proper TV, the newspapers, the perpetual excitement, everyone shouting at each other, the continual “what about them….” arguments, and it’s all deep fired in the banter. I don’t need to read or experience any of it the knowledge that it exists is enough to blunt my interest.

There’s no escape from it. They won’t let you switch off. If you only limit yourself to taking a small interest, like checking social media for 5 minutes, they will somehow still mange to besmirch that with the banter.”

“Really?”

“Yeah they won’t let you switch off from it.  A few weeks ago I had time to kill before I caught a train so I went to the nearest pub for a quick drink. There were four lads around a table. They were loudly chatting about football and their ACCAS whilst looking at the betting apps on their phones. It was wall to wall banter. I was gritting my teeth after two minutes. Football is drowning in the fucking banter, I’m sorry to swear, but I’ve been worn down so much I’ve started  talk myself out of going to matches.”

“Ah yes, this is where I came in, let’s go to one of those matches that you go to.”

Your humble narrator and Claudio appear at a Welsh Premier League match, it was the fifteenth match between the same opponents in three Earth years.

Your humble narrator told Claudio that he should keep an eye on the ostensibly semi-professional number four in blue. Needless to say the clumsy attempt at a sneaky foul on the number seven in red wasn’t too far away, naturally his encore was an attempt to get the number seven booked by diving three minutes later.

Within another five minutes they saw phenomenon of “the communal hey” eight times. Your humble narrator assured Claudio that’s this incantation was merely a tactic employed by ostensibly semi-professional teams to try and pressurize the referee into seeing things their way rather than an ancient fertility rite.

Claudio saw one of the managers signal to one of his ostensibly semi-pro players to venture to the furtherest side of the pitch from the bench. 30 seconds later he had a new role; the player that was being substituted. They both saw how he proved the elasticity of time with his pedestrian tribute to the sloth!

So Caludio says “Ahhhh, I see why you’re disillusioned now. This ostensibly semi-professional football supposedly represents the antidote to paucity of moral cleanliness in “proper football” but it’s merely a pale imitation of “proper football”.”

“Yes, that’s it perfectly. To me, the events that we’ve just seen, that is football, the infuriating and soul destroying pandemic called football. That’s the reason I’ve started to wonder if I could do without football. The vague air of dissatisfaction probably started with the time I wanted to go to a match somewhere and I was obliged to go through the hassle of buying cheap train tickets and the rigmarole of registering to buy match tickets for a particular match. When the awaited day arrived I was confronted by a late running train with standing room only and a half empty ground. I persevered with Bangor matches and what have I ended up with? Fifteen matches against the same club in 3 years in a league that no-one cares about.”

“Yeah but aren’t there times when you get some enjoyment of football?”

“Well I suppose there are times when I can still have a laugh with my mates and the odd occasions I remember some brilliant piece of skill are the very rare times I go to a match and everything feels fantastic. For example I went to watch Sampdoria recently. I’d waited twenty five years to go there, every since I got The Football Grounds of Europe book for Christmas, and the evening was everything I’d expected; the architectural masterpiece, the packed streets and bars, the noise, the atmosphere, the fireworks, the social identity, the vibrant foreign culture. I haven’t felt so content in a long time. It lasted days. Then I read some angry tweets.

I don’t know what football will become either. Thirty years football looked like it was about to become a prohibited social activity but the fans kept the sport going by going to matches. These days a lot of those 1980s fans and their families are being ostracised by those that want to make money. The supreme irony is that the people who are prostituting football don’t value the people that made their behaviour possible in the first place by keeping the sport going.

And what like of people have replaced the expendable? Tourists and the sort of people that will willingly choose to pay £45 so they can let the world know they’re angry about paying £45 via a message on a bedsheet, the kind of people that will cry to catch the attention of TV cameraman.

The rubbish sullies all of the finer feelings that I attribute to football. It doesn’t matter how serene I feel I’ll inevitably become aware of the braindead tweets, the unending banter and the cynicism of those in control of football. No matter how hard you try you can’t escape the gross pantomime that football has become.

“There’s nothing I can say that will change your mind?”

“Nothing really. I prefer watching films these days, films never let you down.”

With that Claudio returned to his spiritual plane and your humble narrator returned to mowing his front lawn and perpetual domestic bliss.

 

If you’d like to read more about the scourge of fan TV read this, this and this. The last post contains the line “Equating commercial involvement with a lack of authenticity is disingenuous….”





Problems with that modern football number 45 – “The silky smokescreen”

26 08 2015

When I first went to London the Underground’s massive adverts were one of my landmarks. Their gaudiness assaulted me at first but they soon developed a warmly familiar feel. There was no Imperial War Museum in the cultural hinterland of north Wales so the ads quickly faded.

As an older and theoretically wiser person I can see adverts for what they are; brightly coloured attempts at bullshitting rather than brightly coloured public art. Their only purposes are antiseptic image projection for toxic companies and the creation of demand for stuff that human evolution doesn’t require.

Nowadays multinationals place brilliant adverts in today’s underground, and everywhere else, to tell us just how tame their pet sport is.

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SKY 5

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Being the home of the premier league is a multi-media thing.

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We should all play their game and unveil blog posts that unveil our favourite #PLmoments™. I could certainly have a lovely time placing all those #PLmoments™  into a top ten as there are so many fabulous #PLmoments™  to choose from! There’s the first £1000 season ticket, there’s the first throw in that teenaged millionaires argued over, there’s Jermaine Defoe’s demand for a personal assistant. THERE’S…..PEAK……BANTER!!!!!

After much ado about literally nothing I’d probably plump for two top top top #PLmoments™. The first would be the fact that multinationals love The Banter nearly as much as their own hype.

The second would be football’s changing place in the cynicism of the mutinationals. The media conglomerate that now owns British football used to view football differently when didn’t have a product to sell.

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The Times once described football thus;

“We football fans are living in strange times. Those of us who stood on the terraces during the Dark Age — an era when football was famously summed up by this newspaper as a “slum sport played in slum stadiums increasingly watched by slum people” — feel as if we have been transported back to the bad old 1980s, to the “game that time forgot”.

The multinationals slick contempt for us should be reciprocated but their approach is tolerated.

I recently went to watch Chelsea. Before the match people were more anxious to have their photo taken with images of millionaire players advertising the products of multinational official partners than realise there was a statue of Peter Osgood behind them. In the multinational world the gloriously moribund present has as much worth as the hard earned past.

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To paraphrase John Lydon, ever feel you’ve been cheated? I believe in better than this subscription funded circus.





Problem with that modern football number 44 – “Erm, which hipster club is your hipster club?”

20 08 2015

According to this quiz there are…

“…several ways to spot a football hipster; casually dropping positional nuggets such as ‘trequartista’ and ‘enganche’ into regular conversation, turning up to 5-a-side wearing a classic AC Milan shirt from 1984 or openly declaring that Giuseppe Signori was the most under-appreciated genius of his age are just a few. That leads us quite nicely on to this personality quiz aimed at letting you know just how hipster you are when it comes to your footballing tastes. You may surprise yourself.”

I did the quiz and here was my result;

Result: New York City FC

What this says about you: A newbie to the game. You have no idea what you’re doing, saying or shouting most of the time, but you know you like it. You were once overheard shouting “get in the hole!” during a World Cup game last year. You don’t live and die by your team, but whoever you support has been carefully chosen as much as a lifestyle choice as it has to do with glory-hunting.

Hipster factor: 4/10

That description was so bespoke I did the quiz again. This time the result was;

Result: Real Oviedo

What this says about you: Football is about ritual and community for you. Getting up on Saturday morning, going to the same pub before the game with the same people, cheering on your side come rain, shine or snow.

Hipster factor: 10/10

By answering three questions differently I’d gone from the most detestable specimen in football to the epitome of honour. What a foolproof personality test. Here are some of the other options I uncovered by answering in random patterns.

Result: Roma

What this says about you: Supporting a football team isn’t all about success for you. A full-time match-goer, you put your money where your mouth is when it comes to following your side up and down the breadth of the country and that makes you a knowledgeable fan on everything from the opposition’s youth-team left-back to which ground does the best bacon sarnie.

Hipster factor: 5/10

Result: Lyon

What this says about you: Not afraid to go off the beaten track somewhat when it comes to digesting your daily intake of football. You tipped Chile to win the 2015 Copa América and your all-time favourite player is Demetrio Albertini.

Hipster factor: 5/10

Result: Borussia Dortmund

What this says about you: Loyal to a fault. You enjoy life, taking it as it comes, the rough with the smooth. Friendly to strangers, welcoming to old friends. The game is as much about community and experiences as it is winning for you.

Hipster factor: 6/10

Result: St Pauli

What this says about you: A lover of how the beautiful game brings the community together: you’re the ultimate fan. You can’t think of anything better than watching your team at the weekend in a ground that allows you to stand and belt your favourite chants out for the full 90 minutes.

Hipster factor: 9/10

Result: Boca Juniors

What this says about you: Maniacally passionate. You’re never happier than when found in a corner of a pub d̶e̶b̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ranting at someone on why the role of the trequartista is a dying art in the modern game and how football has lost its ephemeral magic.

Hipster factor: 8.5/10

Result: Athletic Club

What this says about you: Gumption. Pluck. Resourcefulness. Shrewd. No, this isn’t a film noir, but these are the sort of qualities that any c̶l̶u̶b̶ person should aspire to have and you’ve got them by the bucketload. Loyalty to your neighbourhood is a given.

Hipster factor: 7/10

Result: Swansea

What this says about you: While others may have flashier jobs, more money, expensive things to show off, you’re the person people gravitate towards and want to actually hang out with.

Hipster factor: 7.5/10

Result: Ajax

What this says about you: A creative thinker, not bound by the daily grind and rigours of work. Not afraid to try new things. You definitely had a gap year and have been to Amsterdam more than 12 times before you turned 21.

Hipster factor: 5/10

I know that this sort of fluff is just a bit of fun to pass a few minutes but that doesn’t mean it should exist. Surely there are better outlets for creative energy than this clickbait.

People are never adequately described by these glib reinforcements of stereotypes. Football fans don’t generally rant – in the a corner of a pub or anywhere else – about the decline of [Insert zeitgeisty term here]. I haven’t seen anyone argue about football since I was in school.

I know loads of people that like football but I don’t know many hipsters, I’ve always known people that have vague interests in “exotic” clubs for esoteric reasons but I’m not sure they’re hipsters. I can’t say I’m a hundred percent sure about what constitutes a football hipster, I’m not sure the author is clear about the subject either. A person with a 10/10 hipster rating is described thus;

“Football is about ritual and community for you. Getting up on Saturday morning, going to the same pub before the game with the same people, cheering on your side come rain, shine or snow.” 

A person with a 4/10 hipster rating is described thus;

“You have no idea what you’re doing, saying or shouting most of the time, but you know you like it. You were once overheard shouting “get in the hole!” during a World Cup game last year. You don’t live and die by your team, but whoever you support has been carefully chosen as much as a lifestyle choice as it has to do with glory-hunting.”

Of those two descriptions the second one seems to be closer to “hipster”, seeing as a hipster’s shallow existence can be defined by the phrase “something carefully chosen as a lifestyle choice”. Besides that, Swansea, a hipster club?

If the increasingly popular conceit behind the quiz – vibrant organic football cultures tranformed into mere content providers – wasn’t bad enough the bluffers behind the quiz are Squawka. Squawka used to be the self proclaimed world’s best authority on football knowledge through the application of pseudo science but now they’re the kind of bluffers that want to branch out in to the public sector. Beware the enlightened bluffers.





Mate, mate, mate!!!!!! Friday night is footy night mate. LOL!!!!

12 12 2014

Earlier today the premier league announced their plans to televise Friday evening matches from 2016. Some people like the idea;

@SimonClark8 – “Friday night football is the next logical step for the @premierleague. Happens in most European countries. Good way to start a weekend!”

@ayush_1901 – Great that PL will have Friday late nights rather Monday. Don’t need to wake up on Saturday anyway. PL putting fans interest first :P”

@darren_tenerife – “@richardajkeys The exiting news from the UK is premier league games on a Friday night from 2016 and a massive 168 televised games a year.”

Those with a soul don’t like the idea. Labour’s Andy Burnham tweeted this;

Can’t believe they now want Premier League on Friday nights. Yet again, football puts interests of armchair fans over those who go the game.”
Those that like the idea replied;
@HarryCNN – @andyburnhammp Considering that ratio is 50,000 or so at the game compared to around a billion or more watching on TV, isn’t it fair enough?”
@jarekd“@andyburnhammp @mattslaterbbc erm, Friday night games would surely be more popular for uk tourism than a Monday night??”
Needless to say the gobshites also replied;
@ChrisRogers123 – @andyburnhammp Typical Champagne socialist. Forget those who can’t afford to go. Nob.”
@WaheemSterling – @andyburnhammp ”Armchair fans” are the ones who put over £1bn TV money into the Premier League”

@NealKinsman · @andyburnhammp we pay are broadband to watch it so why shouldn’t they you bellend.”

@MrTempletonPeck @andyburnhammp @martynziegler I’m an armchair fan. Are you against people like me?”
This is what those of us with a soul have to deal with. If the lack of social conscience or feeling for football culture and history isn’t bad enough there’s the overbearing sense of entitlement. If I was Mr. Burnham I’d have sent @MrTempletonPeck this reply;
“I am against people like you because philistines like you are unaware you’ve strangled the humane spirit of football.”

Sadly I’m not Mr. Burnham. Can you imagine watching the match down the pub with “these people”.  While you’re trying to watch the red hot footy action they’d be creating memes or pestering you for the banter every 30 seconds. Call me mad if you like but I actually like to listen to the critical voices in my head and quaff my pint of fizzy cider in peace. Hell is other people.

Just when you think you’re out, they push you further away. It’s a good job the premier league no longer needs me.








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