Soccer and Society: South Wales, 1900-1939

By Martin Johnes | Go to book overview

IV
‘THE GREAT HOARSE CROWD’: SUPPORTERS AND
SPECTATORS

The Saturday afternoons specially made for Cardiff City,
The avalanche of hands and feet to Ninian Park.
The clamour and the roar, disputed goal, play up the blues,
The brass band at half-time, Abide with Ale and Sospan Fach.
The pigeons released and sweeping north and east and west,
The beer bottles waving, the mascot vendors,
And then the returning crowd, the great hoarse crowd,
Surging back to city streets for ale and chops and tarts.
And in the winter evening Tiger Bay was Tiger Bay,
And the moon rose over the Severn Sea.

Idris Davies, Gumita Deserta, part XXXIII, 19381

Without supporters, professional soccer would be soulless, a game without life or colour. Their shillings financed the clubs and their voices fed the spectacle that was match day. The man (and woman and child) on the ‘bob bank’ was as much a part of the game as the players on the pitch. In return, soccer offered its fans excitement, entertainment and escape from ‘this lesser life, from work, wages, rent, doles, sick pay, insurance cards, nagging wives, ailing children, bad bosses [and] idle workmen’. Following professional soccer was a communal experience; it provided a shared emotional and social satisfaction and a sense of belonging as you escaped with ‘your mates and your neighbours, with half the town’.2 Even amongst the local people not at the match, there were many who would want to know how ‘City’ or ‘the Swans’ got on. The experience of being there was not always positive. Matches were lost and drawn and the open banks could be uncomfortable and wet. Most supporters had played the game at some point in their lives.3 They appreciated the talents on display but were quick to criticize if performances did not live up to expectations. Soccer was a sport of mixed and varied emotions.

1 Islwyn Jenkins (ed.), The Collected Poems of Idris Davies (Llandysul, 1980 edn), p. 46.

2 Priestley, Good Companions, pp. 13–14.

3 Richard Holt and Tony Mason, Sport in Britain, 1945–2000 (Oxford, 2000), p. 1.

-114-

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