Start Of A Tradition
For the above born and bred breed to happen, it’s got to start somewhere. I’ve never experienced the process of selecting a football team to start supporting but I’ve got my own ideas/ morals of doing so. Firstly- in the event of having no family ties to a town/ club, it should be local to you. Secondly, you’ve got to decide the commitment you’re willing to give and the budget you want to have for your new found love. These are not necessarily connected however, as someone not willing to commit a high budget may be more committed to their team than anyone, choosing the local non-league team. Whereas someone may want to follow their nearest Premiership team at 10 times the cost but only go to a few games (also see Pic ‘n’ Mixer & second half of Starting in Adulthood). The latter shouldn’t be seen as glory hunters as the decision may have come down to social factors such as being able to follow within the media and talk about the team on twitter/ blog sites, which obviously will be much easier to do with Prem teams than lower league clubs.
Either way they will be loyal to their team as much as anyone and pass this down their lineage.
Following Your Mates
These are similar to social smokers. They don’t really like it but want to be one of the group. Some will take it to the next level when on their own and some will not as much as think of smoking when they’re not at the pub with their mates. They will have no history of football in their family and therefore could even be adults by the time they start supporting someone, although most likely pick it up in senior school just before sex becomes of interest. Sometimes its specifically to impress the opposite sex.
I Like The Way They Play
Those that state they chose their team by the style the play are talking bollocks. They mistook the media saying a team has flair for ‘the team will score loads and win trophies’. New Arsenal fans of the past 7 years will testify that this isn’t the case. Therefore I believe those that state they picked their team due to style of play are either glory hunters or foreign or both, either way will unlikely ever attend a game. They may be loyal but unlikely to pipe up too much when their team get a new manager that plays boring football to get results. Although you couldn’t talk to them on how their team is playing boring football because they don’t understand tactics and “anyway last season they created most chances” – as if that’s what every fans hopes for at the beginning of the season, never mind scoring them, as long as we have the most chances I’ll be happy!
Starting In Adulthood
Unlikely to have played sport, let alone football at school but due to social interactions in later life they have finally found the beautiful game, although will unlikely ever be as passionate and emotionally interlinked with their team as those that had players on their wall as a kid. Not the best to have in your team at a football quiz.
This could also be immigrants coming to the UK and getting immersed in our culture by picking up their local team. Again it’s unlikely they’ll be as emotional as the rest of us but give them time. Their choice of team will be governed by how close they are to the nearest big side (very unlikely to drop below the Championship) and who their mates support. Again, it’s based about their social aspects.
First of all I in no way am being sexist or suggesting all of the other types in this list are just men. Each and every other type of fan listed can be male, female or hermaphrodite. However I felt I needed to add this one due to there being plenty of women fans that a) know more about football than men, b) are more passionate, dedicated and emotional about their team and football in general than plenty of blokes I know, and finally c) have to prove themselves over and over again due to pre conceptions of the past 150 years (even though a lot of these pre conceptions can be very true in the main, but for the past 30 years the woman’s game has been one of the fastest growing sports in the world). The female fan generally has to know twice as much as their male counterparts, including having more actual experience, before they are accepted by the Neanderthal sexist male fan. These preconceptions are dwindling as time goes by, but not quick enough. This is due to a few things, including but not limited to: a) Sexism in football and society in general when it comes to sports b) Those women that give other true female fans a bad name. You know the ones, generally turn up to games in high heels with their boyfriend and sort their make up throughout the first half, spending the second half asking who’s who and when does it finish. They might be there with just a mate after getting tickets off the young star striker the week before when they met in a club. Either way, they’ve no interest in the result and just want to say they’ve been. C) The doting mum that wants to be part of her husband’s/ kids enjoyment of the game. This third type isn’t that bad, but try sitting in front of one. A bombardment of stupid questions and comments with no real interest in what they’re talking about. By all means join in with your kids’ love of the game, but please try harder to fit in! I will never forget hearing one such Mum complaining to her son about Gullit playing sweeper at the Bridge. Prompted by Gullit clearing the lines from inside his own box, she said, “what’s that idiot doing, just booting it out, doesn’t he know who’s on his team yet?” The kick in question was not only clearing his lines, but also a 50 yard inch perfect pass to Peacock that enabled us to counter attack and score.
Following Boyfriend/ Girlfriend
These can be classified under Johnny come lately, but aren’t necessarily glory hunters. These follow the team of their partner to join in. They will often flitter between teams depending on who their latest love interest supports, which isn’t restricted to changing football teams, but sports and general interests too. I tend to think these people are possibly not comfortable in their own skin depending how often they’ve changed interests in their lifetime. Should this be a man following a team to copy their girlfriend, I’d suggest it’s not going to last too long, I don’t know what it is but I don’t understand a man that has absolutely no interest in football. Even my rugby playing mates at school supported a football team!
Another option for this type are those that follow the same team as their partner but only do this once, due to them seeing that person as ‘the one’. They will get completely involved and although nowhere near as passionate or emotional as their partner, they will now be fully fledged loyal fans.
Fanatic fans that move abroad for one reason or another have my sympathy.
Cringing whilst I type this, but life is more than football (sorry Dad). They have to make do with the extended amount of live games they benefit from being outside the UK (if supporter of a Prem team) and look forward to the odd trip home to catch a game. They will likely have found a pub local to them that shows all the games and has either fellow fans of their team (perhaps supporters club), or at least fellow fans from UK to banter with.
Some ex-pats that are still within the EU may be able to catch their team live should they be lucky enough to support a team in European competition. Otherwise, lower league and Fulham ex-pats have to make do with internet connections or sports roundups. They sometimes may become more passionate when moving abroad because they’re no longer in the same country – therefore it’s now up to them to represent their team. They will miss the football dearly, but they’ve made their decision and enjoying the sun.
Here I’m thinking about outside of the UK and Ireland. I know this category could easily cover each and every other category so please bear with me and don’t be offended if I’ve missed something out. If you are offended by something I write in this bit, it’s likely not to be talking about you. I can appreciate fans of English teams from all over the globe, whether they were born to ex-pats (therefore also come under ‘born and bred’ category too) or just don’t have a league in their own country, but it does get frustrating when some, not all, act like they’re the most passionate fans ever and would die for your club, oh and also support Milan, Madrid and Marseille. They don’t get it and never will.
However those that do get it and do only follow their team in England have it hard. They have to save up and use their annual holiday just to attend a game; they should be forgiven for not knowing the songs or where to find their seat. They are likely just as knowledgeable about facts and figures as you are about the team, just with less experience of attending games, but the games they do attend you can guarantee they’ve put more effort into attending. The plus point for them is that they will have seen every game live on TV (again aimed at Prem team fans) due to most countries outside the UK showing all Prem games live, something people in the UK haven’t got, unless you’re lucky enough to get to all home and away games. These fans will be as eagerly awaiting the fixtures being published as the rest of us and be even more annoyed with international breaks due to not having their national team to watch (if outside the EU for instance). They can be just as passionate and dedicated, just live too far to justify attending games.
The ones that live abroad and still have a season ticket are a different breed; they have the life style that allows them to go above and beyond.
Pick ‘n’ Mixer
These fans are often frowned upon by ever presents and some of the time rightly so. It usually refers to those that buy a club membership just to guarantee they get the chance to buy tickets solely for the big games. These fans won’t be there when their team are in the bottom three and they won’t be picketing the ground during a takeover that’s likely to take the club in the wrong direction. They only want to watch the big games and will probably place themselves as close to the half way line as possible for the best view, although all football going fans generally know the best atmosphere is being the goal. Whenever I went to watch Hayes FC (now Hayes & Yeading, not that Hayes fans would want that mentioned, but I’ve moved away now so not been for years. They’re having good season though.) I’d be behind the goal or on the elevated steps in line with the Church Road end goal. Or when I grew up watching Dad win penalties for the British Gas first team, I’d be behind the goal where he’s shooting or at least in line with it (if I wasn’t roped into being Lino).
These fans are certainly followers of their team and at some point in the past or future likely to have been more dedicated, but for now, they just want the glory.
However, there is another type of pic ‘n’ mixer. Those that have a life that means they can’t commit to a season ticket due to whatever valid reason (work, weekend parent, budget etc.). They will try their utmost to get to any game they can. Their lotto dream is to have a lifelong season ticket and be an ever present (which they may have been in the past), but for the time being they have to make do with any game they get to see, be it a 1st round League Cup tie on a wet Wednesday in Rochdale (no offence) or a C class game on a rare weekend they’ve got to themselves. These fans deserve the recognition of being dedicated fans and not the derogatory tag of a pic ‘n’ mixer, even if life at the moment is making them exactly that. Should they suddenly find themselves with the time or budget to attend a game at the last minute, they have no qualms in finding a tout and paying a higher price just to be inside the ground, where they belong, no matter what the game is or who the opposition are.
Team Fan, Not Football Fan
Young version: I genuinely can’t see this type of fan also being a generation hand me down unless their dad is angry fan too. They support their team and are so blinded and biased by that, they can’t admit to them being shit every now and then. They attack those that criticise their players, even if a fellow fan of their team. Generally referred to as a knob, they are incapable of having a reasonable discussion about football and think that England have genuinely been robbed or cheated in not winning a trophy since 1966 (as opposed to realising, actually we’re shit, bar 86, 90 and 96 teams that had a decent chance). Their team and they can do no wrong. They probably claim to know some of the players and can check out in darts from 171.
Old version: they are the same as above but should know better. However their off spring may be the same or due to the anger they have, their kid may shy away from football altogether.
Football Fan, No Team
In the old days (60s) when travel was out of the question for most and disposable income was something only football chairmen had, fans had to make do with going to their home games, and then the home games of local rivals to see a game of football. My Granddad, who’d emigrated from Ireland, used to take my Dad and Uncles to Chelsea, then Fulham or Brentford when the Blues were playing away. Luckily for me my Dad stayed with Chelsea and stuck to them by the time I showed up. However this is the old days when travel was a rich mans’ game. Nowadays, those that just want to see a game have 92 league teams to pick from and take up the seats of actual fans from that team. Sometimes these fans will pick the current top tier champions (see glory hunter) and manage to push out their truer fans. I’ve just read a review of visiting Stamford Bridge for the visit of Bolton in 2008 to see Chelsea potentially win the league (Chelsea needed to win and United lose. Chelsea drew, United won). However the writer was a self-confessed Sunderland and Man United fan (why not be at the DW stadium instead??!!). That probably tells you all you need to know. He writes about his hate for Chelsea, yet bought a Chelsea top because ‘it’s a nice top and the club are a marketable brand’. Twat. He slags off every aspect of the club and sums it up as a great experience. Who are these people taking up space in our seats? Why did they bother? He even mentions how he wanted to make sure he sat in the middle of the away fans as they would be ‘cheerful throughout’. I’d be livid if I couldn’t go to an away game due to a Johnny come lately type like this took up our allocation!
I’m pleased these people enjoy the game but why not go to one where the club really need your support and turn out, like lower league games? There it’ll be cheaper, you’ll be closer to the action and your individual support will make more of a difference, unless you don’t actually like football itself, just being in a crowd. If that’s the case, go ride the underground at rush hour.
Whether a child prodigy that never made it or a fully-fledged, retired ex pro, the ex-player can enjoy watching games with benefits us regular fans can only dream of. The ex-pros can get tickets in exclusive areas and have a drink in the players bar after, and the prodigies that never made it can still tell everyone what it’s like behind the scenes (although with stadium tours nowadays this bragging isn’t what it used to be).
Sometimes they can be bitter but in the main they show themselves to be just as passionate as the rest of us (Ian Wright), although unlikely to have gone through the same level of hurt due to their allegiances being wavered throughout their career due to transfers etc. Some become part of club folklore and some get to keep a living by working for the club they made their name at. Kerry Dixon for instance, a legend at both Luton and Chelsea can often be seen at the Bridge having a chat about the current team with the fans. I met him a couple of months ago. Hoping for just a quick photo and autograph, he sat down with us and started asking what we thought of the new signings! These are the players that should be getting more press coverage as they are a credit to their profession.
Child Of A Player/ Chairman
Thinking about Kelly Cates (nee Dalglish) or Calum Best, there are plenty of different types of football offspring. Whereas Kelly has started to work inside the game and Calum has done well living the playboy lifestyle, both had someone to live up to. They no doubt support the teams of their father and will have different levels of passion for them. However all offspring seem to have also inherited the impartial side of being inside football: you’ll never hear them slagging off rival teams as, like their dads, they also have their career/ image to consider and want to be seen as open for all to like. These two I mention and others like them that I’ve noticed seem to be genuine and have time for their fans, often over and above just to enhance their careers or image.
The Wartime Hero
Here is a special fan that every club, no matter what division, has. They have been to 99% of games since the war and only missed the odd game to attend the funerals of loved ones past away. They will be the quiet minority in the corner stand and get the odd mention in the programme every now and then. They are happy to be there and unlikely to criticise much, they just want to watch football. These fans will die out in the next couple of generations due to the technology age keeping people indoors come a certain age. I think each club needs to hold these fans dear to their hearts and give them free season tickets.
West Ham Fans
I work with a few so had to mention this wonderful collection of East End Kray twin relatives. They all sound a little bit like Alf Garnett too! They apparently won the World Cup. I would love to see if they still say this if they win anything else for real! All Hammers fans I know can have reasonable chats about football and are great to banter with. There’s a reason West Ham are a lot of people’s “2nd club” if there is such a thing (I personally think that at best you can ‘not hate’ a team instead of calling them your 2nd team). If you ever want to get an idea about West Ham fans without making your way to Upton Park, don’t watch Green Street. Go for something like ‘Alf Garnett Does Stand Up’ on YouTube. If you go for Till Death Us Do Part, make sure you realise who he’s taking the mick out of. Most people mistake that show as racist, but it’s the racists that he’s mocking. (For the avoidance of doubt, I’m in no way saying WHU fans are racist or the bigoted stereotype Alf portrays).
This is referring to those generally outside Manchester or no family links to Manchester, think call centres in India & Johnny come lately in Essex. These encompass traits of glory hunters, foreign, toff, Johnny come lately and team fan not football fan. Often they can talk a good game but when it comes to walking the walk, they never played football, don’t have their own original views on tactics or tell you what it’s like inside OT. Their interest will wane and no one respects there football opinion. According to United logic and calculations, this equates to about 12.6 billion or so people around the globe. The other 100’000 United fans in the UK (plus ex-pats) are true united fans and it’s those I’ll give the time of day to.
The types of fan above that I’ve been derogatory to are the ones that I don’t see as true football fans, but portray themselves as one. I think I’m stuck in my own view of what a football fan is and that is based around my own childhood and experiences. I doubt the above list covers anywhere near the amount of different fans there are in the world and I could have written twice as much about the modern internet fan, but they often wind me up. They can be as emotional about my team as I am, but having grown up going to games, I just don’t get how someone can be that emotional about a team on the other side of the world that they’ve never visited. Especially when they’ve only supported them since they’ve started to win trophies and not the old days of division 2. These fans are the product of clubs being ‘global brands’ and it’s the future, whether we like it or not. It’s not the internet fans fault and the internet is often the best way for true fans, whether in or outside of the UK, to keep in contact with their club and chat to like-minded fans. I don’t know where we’ll be in another 30 years, but just look at how it’s changed over the last 30 years!!
I’m all for anyone enjoying the beautiful game but please don’t pretend to be something you’re not. If it’s your first ever game try to fit in and not moan about everything, similarly don’t start calling yourself a die hard. If you’ve never been to a game, please don’t act like the number 1 fan just because you’ve got 3 million Twitter followers.
Whatever of the above you think you belong to you are a football fan and therefore have more rights and more responsibilities than you think you have. The rights you have do include telling your club as loudly as you possibly can what issues you have with them. Take Blackburn for instance. Their last Premier League game was at Stamford Bridge and we respected their persistence in trying to get their club back off new owners that were making decisions the fans didn’t agree with. Similarly take Cardiff, who came so close to changing their whole tradition of blue to red – sacrilege!!
This is your right and is also your responsibility to keep football a people’s game, as much as we can at least, and remind the powers that be that we will not let them, FIFA, Platini, Blatter et al fuck things up, as they seem to know SWEET FA about football in England.
Thanks for reading and one thing we can all agree on….
COME ON ENGLAND!