What makes good support in the ground? And is the modern version of fan interaction a bit rubbish?
Women’s football is why I’m writing this…
On Sunday I went to watch a Women’s FA cup game near my home town and the opposition Clapton CFC must have brought 250 fans, which is an awful lot at that level of the Ladies game in the first round of the FA Cup, but they were armed with drums and flags and unfortunately drowned the whole game out into a dirge of endless noise of “Allez Allez Allez” chants that literally last 15 minutes at a time. It was very modern and a bit rubbish in my opinion.
Another member of the crowd had earlier commented to me “It’s great support isn’t it?” and the honest answer from me was “No, it’s not, it’s unimaginative, it’s mimicking other clubs and cultures and it generally makes the game much less enjoyable.” To be fair most of the local fans around me agreed. After 5 minutes it’s ok, but into 10 and 15 and more, with the endless drumming and “la la la la la la” songs, it’s actually pretty dreadful.
Towards the end of the Ladies game the away team “won” a penalty which was overturned after the linesman saw an infringement. The flag twirling “Allez” singing section didn’t know what to do, because they were mid-song and didn’t want to stop, but at the same time were angered by the decision, it was quite the scene as a handful broke off mid tune to remonstrate with the ref, only to be drowned out by their own fans singing and “support” and then their own fans began to argue with each other. It was a beautiful example of why this new wave of fan singing is counter-productive.
Afterwards I thought to myself, am I just a massive killjoy? Or am I missing something? I think that a lot of City fans who are presented with a drumming opposition set of fans will empathise with this old grump though. To be it just doesn’t feel like British football, a bit like when you watch MLS teams try to “replicate” a European atmosphere, it feels false and forced. Which led me to thinking about the question “What is good support?”. At least on a match day.
Unpopular opinion. I also don’t think much of the Crystal Palace “Holmesdale Fanatics” Ultra fans in terms of specifically the atmosphere they generate, but they aren’t alone. I don’t see football as the chance to dress up in a black t-shirt, wave oversized flags and sing pre-organised songs to replicate a Serie A game. I personally think Serie A do that very well and it all feels a bit cringey.
Now, I do agree with some of their statements and sentiments and there’s a lot worse doing the rounds than them. They aren’t as I know much bother off the pitch and they certainly have strong football values…. even if the Palace stewards tell you to sit down all the time in a terrible old stand with no leg room whilst there’s 5000 fans a hundred yards away that they leave alone. But this isn’t the reason it all gets up my nose.
It’s the monotony of singing and the lack of reaction to the game that gets me just like on Sunday, the Manchester United away support is the same, they come to sing songs, that they’ve already decided to sing and then repeat them to the point where you are starting to lose your mind, it’s the football chanting version of waterboarding. There was a game where Manchester United sang a song to the tune of “Something tells me I’m in to something good” with a right load of gubbins lyrics about “waking up with Man United on my mind” and they sang it and sang it probably thirty times in the game. Even if you’re a player it must be getting on your nerves after twenty minutes. Chelsea fans also love a repeating song and I must admit after ten minutes of the “Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea” song I wished I had earplugs or Prozac or both.
But here’s my point… it doesn’t actually support the team. It’s just singing to say “look at us, we’re amazing fans and here we are singing our songs over and over” which is failing in the most basic premise of being a fan for me. Which was illustrated by the bickering Ladies fans on Sunday.
Now I don’t think City fans are about to head down this path. Away from home City are a pretty good bunch and quite old school in their approach. To me supporting your team means, backing the players at the right times. If you have a corner a 1-0 down with five minutes to go, the roar of the crowd and the mass chorus of “Come on you Hull” can really seem to lift those on the pitch. At home we know that it’s not great and apart from a couple of blocks of the East stand the other fans are brutally quiet. Even with John Uzzell’s one-man south stand solos. I’m not painting us as some sort of positive example. The MKM needs to be much better in terms of atmosphere. but maybe with a new dawn around the corner…this could improve.
Some of the song choices aren’t always amazing and most fans I know don’t really want to hear the “Jeremy Kyle” song again for the next hundred years. But we’ve all been in away ends with City where the atmosphere was incredible. Lots spring to mind and you probably all have your own favourites. “Hullsborough” normally gets a shout but my favourite of the recent era was Derby away in the play-offs. Fans were deafening and definitely a factor in an incredible ninety-minute performance.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that football support should be organic, reactive and not pre-determined. When KLP came on against Charlton a couple of years ago and equalised in the 97th minute the place went potty. Some lad in front of me broke a finger. Then the “he’s one of our own” chants afterwards filled the stand. I would still imagine it’s one of Keane’s best football memories, and one that if the crowd’s reaction was to sing “Go West” in Italian with a huge flag of a Tiger on a pole wouldn’t have quite made the same impact.
I guess it would be disingenuous of me to not critique us a bit more though, I had the right hump at Fulham this year when fans were singing Marco Silva’s name and (for a reason that escapes me) Paul McShane’s. I guess there’s nothing wrong with the odd throw back song here and there but not when one is managing a team to a comfy 2-0 win against us or to the detriment of the current product. Thus, when city fans have now got songs about KLP, Malik, Bernard, Doch and Huddz it’s a better state of affairs, you shouldn’t throw back to the past to the extent that you are ignoring the present (even if the present hasn’t been a ton of fun so far, the players are still worthy of our vocal encouragement)
If indeed we do have a Turkish owner later this month it would be lovely to add a song to our repertoire to welcome him and we have enough quick witted and sharp minded fans to find one, but let’s not leave our old school roots behind any time soon please, leave your drums and oversized flags at home, and the only black shirts you need are the away top.