Category Archives: Football

You’re not football if you don’t…

1. Unfavourably compare the singing of the National Anthem by the England national football team to their rugby counterparts, because they might be posh, but at least they’re patriotic, right.

2. Dress up every gripe you have with the game as being anti-modern football, the more unrelated the problem to the (numerable) flaws of the sport in the 21st century the better. The lager at half time is shit and the pies are dear. #AMF

3. Applaud for a minute in the game that corresponds with the number of player, past or present, as a nice touch, to mark some form of career milestone.

4. Do what you want, sing on your own, know what you are.

5. Mock away fans from your armchair for travelling miles at great cost for a fixture you’d never consider going to. Newcastle’s support is shite, they only took 70 to Moscow.

6. Incessantly bang on about the abstract concept of class, and the relative class of your side and its supporters compared to your rivals.

7. Belittle your rivals with vicious, stinging nicknames. Chav$ki fans are showing their class, they’re nearly as bad as Wet Spam.

8. Talk loudly and ceaselessly about getting on it, with the lads, on the train, on an awayday, whilst getting on it, with the lads, on the train, on an awayday (have a few cans of Strongbow).

9. Instagram a photo of your ticket for said away day, next to said can of Strongbow. #Awaydays #Readingaway

10. When in doubt blame everything on Chelsea and Manchester City.

By Callum West

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Euro 96

Now we’re all supposed to be anti-modern football I suppose I should hate Euro 96. Badiel, Skinner and the zenith of ‘lad culture’. The chattering classes discovering the game, I should really sneer at the tournament (preferably wearing a cagoule, somewhere in the north). However, as someone who turned 9 at the start of that long hot summer I view it with decidedly rose-tinted spectacles.

Like Daily Mail readers longing for a green and pleasant England that never really existed, I nostalgically reminisce of cadging 25p to go round the shop and get a pack of Panini stickers, hours spent down the park trying to replicate Gazza’s goal vs Scotland (and the dentist chair celebration) and playing my Three Lions cassette over and over.

I look back fondly on Karel Poborsky’s silky skills and his equally silky locks. Davor Suker lobbing Denmark’s Peter Schemeichel in Croatia’s red racing check shirt, whilst Del Piero et al looked ridiculously cool (and played ridiculously badly) in Italy’s classic Nike effort. Not to mention the unabashed, unapologetic jingoism from the tabloids and Germany having a player called Kuntz. This was international football at its pinnacle.

mirror eur0 96

Wembley the way it was (and should always have been) with its twin towers resplendent in the London sunshine. Gazza at the peak of his powers (if only Venables had picked Dennis Wise to play alongside him). Smashing the Dutch in probably the finest display I’ve ever seen from my country. Stuart Pearce, with his homemade haircut, going mental after burying the penalty against Spain. England too were at their pinnacle as Venables’ stylish side swaggered their way into the semi’s to only to be defeated by Germany.

I’ve never loved the England national side as much as I did that summer, and never truly cared about them losing since but as Andrea Kopke saved low to his right I blubbed like Southgate into my grey Umbro away kit after the most glorious of glorious failures, a great English end to a great English tournament.

By Callum West

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Liverpool vs Manchester United

Football at its best is a game of passion, pride and partisanship. Flying tackles on the pitch, wanker signs and fans faces contorted in anger off it.

The United and Liverpool rivalry epitomises this, as a fan of neither side it’s one of the relatively few games that doesn’t involve my club that I relish. One of the few derbies in English football that remains a match of uncompromising hatred. Like Portsmouth and Southampton it is the focus of a deep rooted historical rivalry between two cities with an immense civic pride.

This is something that should be celebrated, a bastion of traditional football support as it descends further and further into banter, Sloop John B and homogenisation.

Instead the game this weekend afforded the ‘BAN THEM FOR LIFE’ brigade the opportunity to mount their collective high horse and make for the moral high ground, to froth at the mouth with outrage that someone MAY say or sing something distasteful and to trip over themselves to condemn ‘vile chants’ before they had happened. In the week where the police finally admitted to the extent of the Hillsborough cover up they used the opportunity to once more criminalise fans.

At a time when the footballing world has become obsessed with things being a ‘nice touch’ any behaviour which even showed the vaguest degree of tribalism (like the United fans singing through You’ll Never Walk Alone) was jumped upon by a media dying to be offended and underlined the chasm that still exists between those who pay to watch the game and those who are paid to write and talk about it.

No one deserves to go to a football match and not come back, whether they be a supporter at Hillsborough or a player at Munich but this shouldn’t afford those who do not understand the grass roots of a game they purport to know so much about a carte blanche to completely sterilise support, tribalism and passion.

By Callum West

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The Away End

Having visited nearly 80 grounds in Britain and abroad I have often been struck as to how influential the positioning of the away end can be in relation to the enjoyment of the match.

This is not because I’m particularly fussed about the view, though seeing the pitch is probably an advantage (depending on who you support), but because certain ‘visiting sections’ are far more conducive to creating a racket than others.

For example whilst bearing Wolves no malice as a club, the away end at Molineux – spread across the narrow lower tier of the Steve Bull Stand – is terrible with fans spread over the entire length of the pitch with no immediate roof to retain the noise, meaning it’s a trip no one outside of the Midlands relishes.

On the other hand whilst trips to Villa never set the pulse racing when the away fans were sat behind the goal, it has been transformed into a decent day out with the away end being moved to the side. Equally Portsmouth was much improved when they added the roof and not just because it always bucketed down when I went.

Whilst it’s not uniformly the case – you can make a fair din at Old Trafford despite none of the below applying – the best away ends are normally behind the goal, compact, with a low roof. Close proximity to some mouthy home fans and stewards that don’t spend the entire game trying to force you to sit are an added bonus.

At the back of the stand at grounds like Anfield, Goodison (although the end isn’t behind the goal) and Loftus Road you might not be able to see much of the action but you can certainly get behind your team and that’s preferable to a perfect view seated at The Reebok any day.

Unfortunately as more and more clubs look to relocate or renovate many of these quirks that make a good away end are being overlooked in favour of comfort and a decent view as the football authorities dream of a future where all grounds resemble the Emirates.

Hopefully it’ll never happen.

By Callum West

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Football Grounds: The Soul of British Football

The inference that Chelsea are seeking to move away from Stamford Bridge with the announcement of the clubs intention to purchase back the grounds freehold from the Chelsea Pitch Owners is another nail in the coffin of British footballs tradition.

Whilst the Shed, the sprawling north stand terrace and the West Stand Benches may be long gone, Fulham Broadway station may now be a shopping centre and some of the old pubs that surrounded it wine bars and restaurants, the area still represents the heart of the club, the pitch is the same one Bentley, Osgood, Nevin, Wise and Zola graced.

The very soul of British football is in our football grounds and in the communities they are at the heart of. These are the place where people go to dream on a Saturday afternoon and have done for generations. Manchester City may have been at their new ground for nearly ten seasons, but it’s not their home, still singing, as they do, of the Kippax, Moss Side and Maine Road. Equally despite their padded seats and extra legroom at the Emirates many Arsenal fans still yearn for the North Bank and Highbury.

For all its foibles – the already terrible view blocked by pillars, not to mention the wooden chairs that ruin your shins every time your team is on the attack – Goodison Park is one of the country’s most charming grounds, an ageing structure set amongst rows of terrace houses. The character of Goodison or the famous entrance to Fratton Park cannot be purchased or recreated in a new ground.  Loftus Road might be ‘a shithole’ and you might not be able to see anything from the upper tier of the School End, but give me an away day at QPR over a trip to the Madjeski any day.

Villa Park is characterised by its famous red brick and Anfield has the historic one tier Kop End and the Shankly Gates, Craven Cottage the Cottage itself, whilst, The Britannia Stadium has a harvester and a Holiday Inn. From the top tier of the away end at St James Park you look out over the entire city of Newcastle, whilst at The Reebok, you overlook a retail park. St Mary’s lacks the charm of the Dell and for all the attempts by the Red Faction to create an atmosphere and with the greatest respect to Middlesbrough and their supporters is there a more depressing prospect than an early kick off at The Riverside as an away fan?

Chelsea have played at Stamford Bridge for 106 years and as fans of Arsenal, City, Southampton, Derby, Middlesbrough and all other clubs who have moved can attest the best architects in the world cannot replace that history and culture.

By Callum West

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Football Graffiti

From daubing the name of your team on the tables of schools or pub toilet walls to murals marking walls outside grounds, football fans have long used graffiti to mark their territory.

Some pieces of graffiti have taken on an almost mythical status, the ‘Ordinary to Chelsea’ sprayed outside Liverpool Lime Street as locals sought revenge after a famous incident at High Street Kensington, for example has inspired a t shirt from Northern nostalgia peddlers 80’s Casuals.

Sometimes witty, sometimes threatening, often brilliantly juvenile, graffiti comes from the same strain of fan culture as flags and stickers, they celebrate victories, express disquiet and intimidate opposition in equal measure.

The Banksy and Hip Hop culture inspired pieces of Ultras groups abroad are undoubtedly impressive, but it is often the words daubed haphazardly on walls to prove a point that are the most amusing or engaging, despite their ‘I woz ‘ere’ style execution.

Whilst it is often easy to miss if you look closely football graffiti is everywhere, here is a look at some examples.

German for 'If You Go Down, We Will Beat You To Death'

By Callum West

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The rise of the British Ultra.

Although groups resembling Ultras date back to the 1930’s in Brazil, it is generally accepted that Ultras in their modern form emerged in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s as fans from continental Europe and in particular Italy took inspiration from the passionate atmosphere created on British terraces.

This expanded into a unique fan culture, with the fans gathered in the curvas or ends, providing not just vociferous vocal backing to their side but also creating colourful displays involving flares and flags to confirm their support.

However, it appears to have somewhat come full circle as more and more British supporters take influence from a culture whose initial influence came from these shores. This can be seen explicitly through groups like Crystal Palace’s Holmesdale Fanatics and more indirectly through the amalgamation of some Ultra behaviour from greater exposure to European football culture in European competition, such as Manchester City’s adaptation of the ‘Poznan’. Equally Manchester United’s Green and Gold campaign, before the day trippers started turning up in Green and Gold jester hats, had all the hallmarks of the European Ultras’ mentality.

Indeed the first British Ultra group, the now defunct, Red Ultras Aberdeen, who were formed in 1999, stated on their website: ‘Many of the founding members drew their inspiration from the colourful supports of other countries witnessed on Scotland or Aberdeen European trips.’

However direct European influence seems to be less of a factor south of the border (the Poznan and Newcastle’s laughable attempt an Ultras movement a few years ago aside), as the majority of the English ultras groups such as the aforementioned Holmesdale Fanatics (Crystal Palace) and the Jorvik Reds (York City) support lower or non league clubs.

These fans, supporting teams who have little chance of major success on the field of play are attempting instead to be the ‘best’ off it, which is hardly a new concept in British football, although they prove this with tifos – an Italian word for the phenomenon of supporting a team, which has come to mean orchestrated displays of support with fireworks, flags, confetti etc – rather than by taking an end or having the best pair of trainers.

Tony White of Middlesbrough’s Red Faction believes: ‘It is a fundamental way of thinking, to uphold the culture and tradition of our home, to show our pride and passion for the history of our region, to sing and celebrate Middlesbrough FC, the flagship of our proud town.’

Critics and sceptics would argue that these groups have bastardised somebody else’s culture and lack any true culture of their own,  that it is alien to our own football culture and the occasional spontaneous genius of the English football crowd.

However with the authorities doing their utmost to repress fan culture in this country with overzealous policing, draconian stewarding and ridiculous kick off times designed to suit the armchair fan, at least they are taking a stand. Their attempt to reclaim fan culture is admirable and indeed the ultra mentality is in essence still an extension of the British fan culture that inspired it.

And yet it still feels forced.  Having seen Fenerbahçe fans at the Şükrü Saracoğlu, Roma at the Stadio Olympico and Olympiakos’ Gate 7 Ultras at the Karaiskakis, a trip to Selhurst Park doesn’t feel the same. Whilst the Holmesdale Fanatics undoubtedly have good intentions and some of the banners and mosiacs they have created are indeed impressive, the noise in the ground and their new ‘We support the Palace’ song still feels like an attempt to create an atmosphere rather than an atmosphere itself.

Our supporters can definitely learn things from these Ultras, their unwavering support, atmosphere and colour is all sadly lacking from our sanitised modern game, equally many aspects of British football fandom remain unique and we should be proud of them. Thus if the ultra mentality is to truly influence our football culture, it’s ideals should be interpolated into rather than replace what is already there, culture needs to remain organic not forced.

By Callum West

heres a list of clubs with ultras groups in Britain

Red Ultras Aberdeen

Stanley Ultras Accrington Stanley

Phoenix Supras Aldershot Town

Ultras Barrovia Barrow

Forza Eastend Bristol City

Burton Boys Burton Albion

Ultras Carvetii Carlisle United

Th e Green Brigade Celtic

Blue White Army Colchester United

Crawley Devils Crawley Town

Holmesdale Fanatics Crystal Palace

Celt Clan Ultras Farsley Celtic

Cowshed Loyal Huddersfi eld Town

Fosse Boys Leicester City

Ultra Whites Leeds United

Red Faction Middlesbrough

Toon Ultras Newcastle United

Giallo Escercito Oxford United

Th e PLC & U’s Ultras Peterborough United

Swindon Ultras Swindon Town

Sector N3 Telford United

Jorvik Reds York City

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