Being a successful side has many positive aspects: regularly reaching finals and winning trophies, watching internationally renowned stars playing in front of full houses – it’s a lot more appealing than following West Ham. However there are drawbacks, ticket prices, tourists, the sanitised atmosphere are all regularly cited as problems of football at the highest level.
Another perceived problem is the increasing lack of proper goal celebrations, with muted cheering and polite applause seemingly the status quo throughout the division. Worse still some clubs have taken to playing music following goals so the masses in their replica shirts can do a celebratory jig before launching into a half arsed ‘who are ya?’ at the away fans.
However, the fans are not always entirely to blame. When you’re playing Wigan at home, they’ve bought a hundred or so fans, and you’re heavy favourites to win, an expected goal isn’t going to provoke pandemonium. Success breeds expectancy and complacency, whilst the best celebrations come from tension.
Equally all seater stadiums can restrict your celebrations somewhat, whilst the unaccountability of gung-ho stewards and over-zealous policing of fans, especially those supporting the away side has seen fans thrown out simply for ‘over celebrating’ their team score.
Fans of some clubs have tried to address the issue of understated celebration, at Manchester City goals are met by fans turning their back towards the pitch, linking arms and bouncing in unison, in what has become known as the Poznan – named after the Polish side who introduced it to Manchester in a Europa League clash last season.
However, this is the antithesis of what a goal celebration should be about. Indeed the Polish side, and the many other European Ultras who bounce in a similar fashion, don’t do so in celebration, rather it is a show of unity when their side are behind, and moreover the incorporation of aspects of European Ultra culture into British fan culture always seems a bit forced and unnatural. The best celebrations are spontaneous and unorganised, a mass expulsion of the emotion that has been building up during the match, an outpouring of unadulterated joy where it’s ok to embrace strangers or end up collapsed in a heap three rows in front of your original position, not an organised ritual.
Nevertheless, despite the muted applause greeting goals against the likes of Bolton, the orchestrated bouncing at Eastlands and the charmless authoritians in hi-visibility jackets, the mental goal celebration is still there occasionally. Anyone who saw the Birmingham fans celebrations at White Hart Lane when they thought the goal they’d scored would keep the up can bear witness to it, as can anyone who was Stamford Bridge when Fernando Torres broke his duck against West Ham. The delirium of a last minute winner or a goal against your rivals is still the same.
Although, they’re more infrequent with success and sanitisation it is the buzz of these moments that makes football, football, for the match going fan. That shared bond in the instant of ecstasy when a Norwegian left back heads into his own net in the last minute can never be felt in your armchair in front of Sky Sports and long may that continue.
By Callum West