Manufactured Support – Is There Anything Worse?

How long then before we have Craig Charles and Sinbad on the pitch before the game, waving a flag and bellowing out “Poor Scouser Tommy”, encouraging us all to join in as we wave plastic flags that were left on our seats by the club?

Or maybe we could witness Larry the Liverbird running along the Kemlyn Road as our whacky DJ screams, “Centenary Stand, make soooome noooise”; before Larry then races down to the far end and past the camera flashes of the Road End. “Anfield Road End, make soooome nooooissse”. The Main Stand come next before Larry slides onto his knees in front of The Kop as the DJ almost reaches a state of ejaculation as he screams for The Kop to “make some noooisssseeeee for the booooysss”.

(I shudder)

A little far fetched? Not if you’d been to Hull on Saturday and witnessed first hand the pre-game antics at the KC Stadium; then watched Newcastle v Portsmouth last night as “Top Chanter” sauntered around the pitch making a noise only Geordie’s could understand. The sight of a tiger mascot at Hull, whipping up a crowd of grown men in face paint and tiger hats will live with me forever.

The sight of that fat Geordie on the pitch last night, swaggering around to a backdrop of plastic flags will never leave me either. The name on the back of his shirt was just the icing on the cake. Who thought it’d be a good idea to do that before one of Newcastle‘s biggest games in years? Surely the nation’s most passionate and noisy fans don’t need any encouragement, do they?

Has football really sunk this low?

This new found craze of manufactured support is growing by the day. Telling fans what to do and when to do it, and even handing them out the tools to do so. From the flags they hand out at Chelsea to the happy clapper things at Fulham, Birmingham and Blackburn. The music played after goals at the likes of Middlesbrough, Bolton and Wigan. Wimbledon even used to pipe music over the PA when they got a corner before they vacated Selhurst Park. How did football crowds used to cope in the 100 years before this craze began? Anyone would think the grounds were silent morgues and nobody thought to bring their own scarves, flags or banners.

Up and down the country, groups of fans do the same dance to “Chelsea Dagger” every time they score. They then break into renditions of “who are ya” or “easy easy” aimed towards the opposition before breaking into The Great Escape, adding in “Rovers” or “City” at the end. It’s like some sort of routine they have to follow from the idiot guide for “identikit fans in identikit stadiums” on how to support their team.

Thankfully, a handful of “traditional” clubs with large fan bases still maintain a core of their longstanding support that won’t allow this to happen at their homes. The likes of ourselves, Everton, Leeds, West Ham, Tottenham, Man City and a few others. I’d have added Man United into that pot, but I can’t after witnessing that clown on the pitch before the 4-1 win there, when he was singing “United Road” trying to get the crowd to join in. It was almost as embarrassing to watch as the episodes at Hull and Newcastle. Almost.

Some fans of those so called “identikit clubs” may see this as an arrogant and elitist view. I hope they do, as it indicates that our support does still retain a unique feel and highlights originality; that the club and our support still has some sort of identification and a culture of its own. Long may it continue. They day we resort to manufacturing an atmosphere like that is the day I give up going. Just leave us to it.

But what is the reason for this growth in manufactured support?

Is it a realisation that the atmosphere just isn’t what it used to be? A realisation that the fans filling the grounds every week are no longer capable of supporting the side as they used to, and need to be given a helping hand in doing so? They turn up to be entertained and this free flag or scarf, as well as ear damaging loud music for them to dance along to is the way to do it. Isn’t that all a little bit “ice hockey”?

As the commentary on ITV stated at the recent Chelsea v Liverpool tie, when zooming in on the travelling Liverpool support: “They hand out free flags to wave to the fans down here, but these lads don’t need them, they bring their own”; or words to that affect. Even the nations media realise the way things have gone and how it affects some clubs more than others. I’m sure the long standing Chelsea fans cringe at the way things have gone at Stamford Bridge these days, but when they are diluted by this new brigade, they’re fighting a losing battle.

The men in charge of these clubs will try anything to entertain their customers. We used to be called supporters I think. But when you’re paying £50 a ticket, you want to be entertained don’t you? Or so they think. We’re incapable of creating an atmosphere of our own and creating our own enjoyment; we’re now relying our clubs to do it for us.

Or is it more a case of them wanting to control everything we do? Music blasted out before the games to prevent the build up of a hostile atmosphere; instead having everyone singing along to the club’s choice of “happy” music. Playing music after goals to stop fans mocking and taunting the opposition, instead dancing along to Chelsea Dagger and being all joyful instead of angry. Anyone would think a riot might break out without this soothing music to keep us under control.

Don’t stand, don’t sing, don’t swear, don’t smoke, don’t fart, don’t breathe, don’t jump, don’t shout, don’t do anything unless we tell you to. Welcome to the wonderful world of modern football.

How much longer can this sanitisation of the game go on before the last remaining die hards walk away for ever? It may bring a smile to my face and make me laugh with embarrassment at some of the goings on, but in the greater scheme of things, it’s completely killing fandom and all it stands for.