What fans demand
STEVE CUMBER says that football supporters take a different attitude at the match than they do anywhere else…
The list is extensive...
For many years in a previous life I used to work at Heathrow Airport. We had a tongue-in-cheek saying which most of us subscribed to – the airport would run perfectly smoothly if it wasn’t for the passengers! I’m firmly of the belief that those folk who run football clubs, at whatever level they are at, have a similar saying,“This club would run absolutely fine if it wasn’t for those damn supporters.” Supporters are, of course, the lifeblood of the club and without us there would be little or no point in the club existing. We are, however, without exception, totally unreasonable in our demands and irrational in our requirements. Supporters demand things at football matches that they would not do anywhere else in their lives. And what on earth attracts us here anyway? What makes us come and stand in what is effectively a freezing cold field on a Tuesday night to watch a football match against a team from a small town three counties away? And don’t think that just because many clubs now have supporters in the boardroom that this makes life easier for those running the club. On the contrary, because they represent the man on the terraces, the true supporter, rather than flash in the pan money men, we feel that we can make even more outrageous demands of them, because as supporters they know that we must be right and will not have ulterior motives.
So, what are those demands ? Well, any player that plays for us must have a very high skill level and must use that skill all of the time. He must know the best ball to play in every circumstance. He must never play a bad ball.
He must be prepared to put in 100 per cent effort at every moment of the game. He should never lose a tackle. No-one should ever be booked or sent off.
It doesn’t matter if his track record in all of these areas isn’t as good as it should be. When he plays for OUR team, he must be on top of his game at all times. And when he leaves our club, his form must permanently dip, so that we can sanctimoniously say “ah, we had the best of him”.
Our keeper must be a brilliant shot-stopper and cross-taker. The centre-half should take no prisoners. The full-back should always be able to double up as a flying winger.
A midfielder without battle scars and flowing blood from his wounds at the end of the game is frankly poor. Any forward who gets less than 40 goals in a season just isn’t trying.
And don’t think that if you are a substitute you are exempt from these demands. Substitutes must be almost superhuman, able to come on at a moment’s notice, adapt to the pace of the game immediately and influence its outcome within minutes. Only on for five minutes right at the end – you’re not excused either – five minutes is plenty long enough to turn any match around.
The manager, too, must be a master tactician, a superb coach, a supreme selector of players and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the transfer market.
Every one of his substitutions must be exactly the right player at the right time, with the right player coming off.
And as for the referee and his assistants – you don’t need me to tell you that you have no room for error at all. You all have to have the wisdom of Steven Hawking, the toughness of Vinnie Jones and the diplomatic skills of Donald Tusk.
Anything less than the eyesight of the Terminator and you’re in trouble. If you do book one of our players then you must compensate for this by booking at least three of theirs, even if there is no reason to do so.
But what of the non-combatants. The match announcer must get every name of every player absolutely correct every time, even if we sign Mongolian international captain Bayasgalangiin Garidmagnal.
The guy selling us a golden goal or 50:50 ticket must sell us a winner at least six times per season. The teabar must serve the highest standard of food possible at the lowest possible price.
And woe betide the man pinning up the teamsheet if he’s late bringing it out or there’s a mistake on it.
In fact, the only man exempt from any demands at all is the physio, and that’s because we know that at any time we might need his or