When Football Fans Rarely Fail to Be Inspired; as Any Football Fan Knows, What Happens on the Pitch Is Only One Part of the Matchday Experience. Inspired by a Game Involving Two Local Rivals at the Weekend, TONY HENDERSON Explores the Historic Tradition of Chanting from the Terraces

The Journal (Newcastle, England), October 31, 2011 | Go to article overview

When Football Fans Rarely Fail to Be Inspired; as Any Football Fan Knows, What Happens on the Pitch Is Only One Part of the Matchday Experience. Inspired by a Game Involving Two Local Rivals at the Weekend, TONY HENDERSON Explores the Historic Tradition of Chanting from the Terraces


Byline: TONY HENDERSON

CHANTING football fans rarely lack inspiration when it comes to dreaming up quirky ditties to poke fun at opposing teams.

But the followers of Gateshead football club faced something of a puzzler on Saturday at their home FA Cup match against neighbours Hebburn Town.

As any regular match-goer will know, there is more to the football than, well, the football.

The salvoes of banter, witty chants and songs are another version of the battle being fought out on the pitch.

These exchanges usually make reference to the real or imagined geographical, physical, cultural, behavioural, social or economic peculiarities of the visitors and their place or origin.

If that location happens to be vaguely remote or rural, for example, then livestock will always figure prominently. Meanwhile, economically-challenged Liverpool folk are thought to look in the dustbin for something to eat and if they find a dead rat they think it''s a treat.

But when it came to Gateshead's clash with lower-league underlings Hebburn, the towns adjoin one another and are consequently almost identical geographically and socially.

So the home fans were left facing the unwelcome possibility of insulting themselves as well as their opponents. Yet the home followers of The Heed, as they describe themselves, rose to the challenge with a delightful witticism.

"Stop on the Metro, you're just a stop on the Metro," they sang to their Hebburn rivals.

The battle was won and the Hebburn contingent were silenced.

Hebburn is, indeed, a stop on the Metro but, of course, its inhabitants would maintain that it is rather more than that.

But, taken aback, the Hebburnites were too slow to respond with a quick improvised retort based on, say, the shipbuilding qualities of the town's former Hawthorn Leslie's shipyard, or the attractiveness of the local park.

This manifestation of the tribalism in football goes back a long way to the tribalism of pre-history, when opposing ranks before battle would bandy similar insults before getting on with the action - which was rather more serious than putting a ball in the net.

Some chants are perennial favourites , such as Manchester United fans being taunted with "taxi for Plymouth" songs. …

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When Football Fans Rarely Fail to Be Inspired; as Any Football Fan Knows, What Happens on the Pitch Is Only One Part of the Matchday Experience. Inspired by a Game Involving Two Local Rivals at the Weekend, TONY HENDERSON Explores the Historic Tradition of Chanting from the Terraces
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