by Jack Howes
Life isn’t easy as a Spurs fan at the moment. We only have two points from the first three games. Going back to last season we’re on a run of 18 points from 16 games. Our transfer policy, for all of Daniel Levy’s brilliance at extracting ludicrous sums when buying and selling players, left us a striker and midfielder short when the season started and still leaves us a midfielder and possibly a striker short after the transfer window has closed. The press are still living in a Redknapp wonderland and are not shy about sticking the knife into Andre Villas-Boas. Fans of other clubs still seem to think jokes about AVB squatting on the touchline are funny.
After all this, you’d think Spurs fans have plenty of things to worry about. But no, on Twitter and on the forums the main topic of discussion appears to be the small echoing of boos that greeted the 1-1 draw at home to West Brom, the poor first half performance against Norwich and the slightly less poor second half performance against Norwich.
Mostly there have been lots of fans taking the moral high ground. Lots of talk from people who say they’ll ‘never boo the team’, that anyone who booed was a ‘disgrace’, that the ‘true fans’ will ‘fully support the team at our next home game’. The odd person even suggested ‘confronting’ anyone who decided to start booing.
What has most irked me in all this is the idea that there is a ‘true supporter’. That amongst everyone who supports a particular club, there lie the ‘true fans’, who through thick and thin will always support the club.
The myth of the ‘true supporter’ is one cultivated by several different groups of people. It solely exists to either make money or make insecure people feel slightly better about themselves. It means different things to TV companies, football clubs themselves, advertisers, commentators and even the poor souls who think appearing on 606 is the epitome of football supporting.
To a football club, being a ‘true fan’ means that you give as much money to the club as possible. That entails buying overpriced tickets, overpriced programmes, overpriced warm alcoholic beverages and overpriced pies and hot dogs that cause people’s bowels and the main toilet in your house (if you get that far) to resemble Hiroshima after the Americans dropped the bomb.
Not to mention buying merchandise. Like alarm clocks that pack up after a couple of months, schoolbags that split at the bottom and leave a 12 year old school kid ferreting round the lower deck of a packed rush-hour bus between smelly armpits, people’s legs and buggies for schoolbooks (I’m not bitter about that one, honest) or even towels that after a few months of use are about as pleasant to use on your face as one of Sweeney Todd’s scissors.
Being a ‘true fan’ to the TV companies means watching all the live football that they provide. Paying for your Sky Sports package, being bombarded with adverts, watching the matches then going on the TV channel’s website to see read some pundit’s ‘exclusive column’ (probably written by an intern studying journalism at a red brick university) to get the website more hits and therefore more advertising revenue. Do those things and you’re a Sky executive’s dream.
Advertising’s coverage of football fans have always been hilarious. Adverts that have people sitting squashed next to each other, bobbing up and down while watching football – huh? I’ve watched hundreds of games in living rooms. In my experience people sit comfortably on chairs, stools or the floor, taking the care not to knock over crisps, chocolate and cans of coke or booze.
Also adverts usually have fans of opposing teams watching matches together, sometimes wearing the team they support’s shirt and/or scarf. I’ve never seen this either. Almost all games I’ve seen in houses and flats have fans of one team in comfortable, non-football garb sitting comfortably, watching the telly. The concept of some ‘true fan’ wearing his team’s strip, bobbing up and down on his sofa as if the sofa’s made from constantly exploding firecrackers is bizarre. And totally false.
Commentators also love a sneaky reference to the ‘true fans’. Someone like Alan Green on Radio 5 will lambast a group of fans for calling a manager to be sacked and say those who aren’t are the ‘real fans’. Pundits, who of course are ex-players and managers who have vested interests and are about as likely to outright call for a managerial sacking as the pope is to condone abortion, will do the same.
People on forums or social media appear to think that a ‘true fan’ is basically anyone who agrees with them. If you agree with someone else that a player is being unfairly booed, or that chants for a manager’s sacked were wrong, even in the case of Cardiff this summer that a change of kit to suit one of their owner’s pathetic whims was ‘for the good of the club’, you’re one of the ‘true supporters’.
To people on forums or social media who seem to think being a ‘true fan’ entails unwavering support for the team, manager and owners, this is nonsense. Look at Blackburn currently. Horrendously mismanaged by Steve Kean, ran by owners with obviously not the slightest understanding of football or how to run a club, with allegations (some of substance) of dirty dealings, nepotism and shady links to agents and agencies against the people who run the club.
Should fans who are being taken for a ride give unwavering support to the club they love, despite the club being run into the ground? Not protest the club being mismanaged and eventually relegated? Always give support to players being paid large amounts, paid for by the fans, to plainly not give their best? I don’t think so.
To me, the idea that there is such a thing as a ‘true supporter’ is utter nonsense. There are ‘no true supporters’, just supporters. No supporter is inherently better than any other. Of course there are supporters who go to more games than others, live closer to the team they support than others, have more football-related tattoos than others. But does this make them better, purer, truer?
Definitely not. You could argue the perfect football supporter is one who doesn’t support any team, and saves him or herself the heartache, frustration, anger, crap managers, crap players, derby defeats and money expended on supporting teams that only occasionally wins.
Rating football supporters anyway is stupid. There is no ‘true fan’ in the same way there’s not a true street cleaner or a true dentist receptionist. The concept of ‘true supporters’, cultivated by TV, advertisers, know-nothing pundits and insecure fans is a mythical one that I never hope to hear of again.