Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Fan

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Fan

Article excerpt

I was at the Arsenal home game against Norwich, sitting with Tony the judge and Steve, a long-haired QC. I have a small collection of Arsenal-ticket-holding friends and for most home matches one of them has a spare. They didn't look like legal eminences, dressed anonymously like most middle-aged football fans. Each had a little rucksack containing their crash helmet, as they'd both come on their bikes. Oh, such modern men.

Five minutes to go and Norwich were one up, so I was keeping awfully quiet, my fingers crossed in my pockets. The crowd was restless but Tony, in his bobble hat and Arsenal scarf, was clapping awkwardly, self-consciously, like a four-year-old watching his own clapping to see he was getting it right. "Arse-nal! Arse-nal," he was yelling, in time with his clapping.

So sweet, I was thinking, a rather patronising thought that might have crept out, for when his clapping finished he turned to me, solemnly, and said he thought fans should help by showing their support, even when things were going badly. "I do dislike people who go to a game and just sit there and moan."

I said nothing, but later, on the way home--Arsenal won 3-1, jammy bastards--I thought, that's me, spot on. All I ever seem to do is sit there and moan. At Spurs this season, apart from a few euphoric moments such as the last 20 minutes against Man City, I seem to have spent most of my time groaning. Watching England, that is far worse. They make me scream and shout and swear. Clap them when they are down? I'd rather eat up that mouldy mango with things crawling out of it.

What I believe is that the majority of football fans hate their team. We consider our players terrible, the manager useless, the directors half-wits. Not all of the time but the bulk of the time. That's the nature of being a grown-up football fan. …

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