COM­ING HOME

To find a place to BILLY CRAW­FORD on his quest be­long in the cir­cus of mod­ern football...

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CHANGING CLUBS -

WHY do we end up sup­port­ing the football clubs we do? For some of us it’s a fam­ily tra­di­tion handed down from our par­ents and grand­par­ents, for some it’s the first time as young chil­dren we see a team play live or on the TV and are cap­ti­vated by the play­ers, the kit or the noise from the fans.

For oth­ers it’s some­thing ac­quired in later life, per­haps learnt from our friends. Think­ing about this made me won­der – if it was just about the team, the man­ager, the play­ers, the owner, how many of us would still sup­port the clubs we do?

Eric Can­tona fa­mously said:“You can change your wife, change your pol­i­tics, change your re­li­gion, but you can never, never change your favourite football team.”

Why is this though, and in a world where clubs pay less and less at­ten­tion to the thoughts and feel­ings of their fans, is this quote still true to­day?

Do older Leeds United fans, fed up with the cri­sis and botched own­er­ships of the last 15 years, still feel a con­nec­tion be­tween the club they see to­day and the club of Billy Brem­ner and Don Re­vie?

How do Cardiff City fans feel un­der the dic­ta­tor­ship of Vin­cent Tan, who has changed the club colours and badge back­wards and for­wards in re­cent years? In­creas­ingly, fans are feel­ing more and more de­tached from their clubs.

The huge rise in player salaries and trans­fer fees, cou­pled with ever more ex­pen­sive match tick­ets for fans, has helped with this alien­ation. Ever since the days of Ge­orge Best and Char­lie Ge­orge, we have known that foot­ballers lived nicer lives than us but the con­trast has never been as sharp as in re­cent years.

How can a young man or woman strug­gling to pay rent on the min­i­mum wage in Liver­pool pos­si­bly re­late to a 20-year-old who has yet to prove him­self in the game turn­ing down a £100,000-a-week salary? The fig­ures alone in football these days are eye-wa­ter­ing. Manch­ester City re­cently paid £30m in trans­fer fees and £200,000-a-week in wages for Wil­fred Bony, a player they seem con­tent to use only off the bench.

Match tick­ets at Lon­don clubs like Ar­se­nal can be any­thing from £60-£120, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for many fans to af­ford to go to football. All of this makes me won­der if our loy­alty to our clubs should re­main un­ques­tion­ing. If sup­port­ing a football team is like fall­ing in love then isn’t it pos­si­ble to fall out of love?

This got me think­ing about my own ex­pe­ri­ences as a football fan and whether other fans felt the same so I de­cided to find out.

As a child from a fam­ily with­out a football team to pass down to me, I looked around for a club to sup­port. Grow­ing up in West Lon­don in the 1990s, I nat­u­rally be­came a Chelsea fan. They were my lo­cal team and I was cap­ti­vated by the skills of Zola, Di Mat­teo and com­pany. When Ro­man Abramovich took over the club in 2003, I was a wide-eyed 15-year-old en­thralled by the names be­ing thrown about as po­ten­tial sign­ings. Henry, Rooney and Ronald­inho were all men­tioned at some stage.

It seemed like my club could con­quer the world and I wanted to be a part of it. I sup­ported the club un­ques­tion­ingly through the con­tro­ver­sies of Jose Mour­inho’s first sea­son, cel­e­brat­ing the ti­tle win at Bolton and rag­ing at Luis Gar­cia’s “ghost goal” for Liver­pool in equal mea­sure. To­wards the end of his sec­ond sea­son, I did be­gin to tire of Mour­inho’s histri­on­ics, the mo­ment when he threw his medal away af­ter win­ning the league be­ing par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult to watch, but they were my club and I would stick with them.

It was only as I got older and be­gan to be able to af­ford to go to games more regularly that I re­ally be­gan to ques­tion what I was spend­ing my time and money on.

Go­ing to matches, I felt more like a cor­po­rate cus­tomer than a fan. The at­mos­phere was noth­ing like I had imag­ined watch­ing games on TV. Dur­ing one FA Cup tie, the cou­ples be­hind me spent the en­tire game dis­cussing their hol­i­days, and the sky high ticket prices and lack of real work­ing class fans all con­trib­uted to this.

Most play­ers did not seem to have much con­nec­tion with the fans, with the ex­cep­tion of those who had been there most of their ca­reers, and many ap­peared to be sim­ply highly paid mer­ce­nar­ies.

I started to won­der if my ex­pe­ri­ences were shared by fans of other clubs, so I be­gan to re­search this. I spoke to fans of many clubs, some shared my dis­il­lu­sion­ment, some did not.

Many West Ham fans I spoke to felt some-

’ave it: Jose’s medal

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