by Andy Robinson

I am going to start off by saying that I hope you have a lot of patience and understanding because this has been a difficult feature to write. There are two main reasons for that. The subject matter in question is me and my summer and the main argument (well it isn’t really an argument – more a state of mind) doesn’t show me in a very bright light. Therefore in my defence I’d better fill you in on a bit of background information.

After 26 years with one company I was made redundant a couple of years back. With the responsibilities of a large shift to manage the pressure could occasionally get a little intense and in an effort to alleviate it I would often go around the warehouse for a wander and a chat. My conversations were almost always about the thing that is dearest to me and that’s Football. The chats aren’t really just chats though are they? We can call it banter if we want to, but the reality is what we mainly do is take the piss. As a lifelong City fan with a workforce made up of United, Liverpool and Everton fans, going to work for me was a pleasure. My audience was so captive that they may as well have been chained to the conveyor belts they were working on.

This pattern followed on in my next working role. Somehow I managed to blag myself a position with a company in a not too disimilar field. Remarkably, and to much amusement and astonishment from former collegues, at a much higher level than I had previously been used to. It was here that I first became acutely aware of the importance of banter in my working life. My warehouse shop floor had been replaced by a load of young kids working in an industrial fridge along with a collection of been there, done it and bought the shirt transit van drivers. The ratios of supporter still leaned alarmingly towards United and Liverpool. Fast forward a week into the new role and the date was Monday 24 October 2011. The previous day had seen City put United to the sword in the 6 – 1. Balotelli and his “Why always me ?”T Shirt, Sir Alex looking like he had swallowed a wasp, United’s supporters evacuating Old Trafford so quick that they got into the The Guiness Book of Records and Mr Mancini looking even more smug than Rowan Atkinson in an episode of Blackadder. Then there was me. Why always me? I had been in the new job a fortnight and although the staff were beginning to get to know me, they didn’t actually really know me. I was now entirely responsible for getting a decent days work out of these Lads. It wouldn’t have been professional of me to go on a rampage of extravagant mickey-taking and abuse. I can’t even begin to tell you how cheated I felt.

Unfortunately the job was only to last for less than a year. As I more than hinted at earlier, the position was beyond my pay grade and so the next job was back in my comfort zone. A shift manager on nights for a large distribution company. The only difference being that this company made a couple of million quid a week profit as opposed to losing a couple of million. This job was short lived too. I didn’t quite make it out of the probationary period due to a mixture of poor communication from them and incompetence and being set in my ways from me. I was still in an all male environment though and football was the main area of social discussion during working hours. After almost 30 years I wanted out and needed a new career though I never expected the change to be quite so dramatic. With hundreds of applications sent for management positions in allied fields such as Health and Safety and Training roles for which I am qualified for I now find myself two months into my new role in life as a support worker in an Assisted Living Housing Project.

The job is interesting, challenging and rewarding and everything I wanted it to be. Even with being just the wrong side of fifty there are prospects. However as in all social care and care in the community work, its low paid work. I am on well less than half my previous earnings. The one thing though that is stopping this job from being the dream job isn’t the pay but the lack of football supporting male company. I am in a staff of 30 altogether, 9 in my project covering 24/7, which means working with one other person or often lone working. The only other bloke works in a different project and he isn’t a football fan. I haven’t even met him yet but ridiculously I checked this bit of vital information out anyway. Up to now my entire history of football conversation in my new workplace consists of a co-worker Julie, telling me her husband hopes that Rooney stays with United. Although this lack of banter is not exactly killing me it’s a significant drawback to my new life.

I have so much to say and nobody to say it to. Take the Rooney story. I have been afforded some insight into the Rooney saga from a contact that I have. Right now it looks like he is staying, but my source (who is never wrong) has told me that what he really wanted was to play for Mourinho. He didn’t want to go abroad, he definitely doesn’t want to play for David No Trophy’s and he doesn’t particularly want to play for Chelsea. He just wanted to be coached by Jose. I tried explaining this to Julie but she was losing interest almost from the second I started to bang out the story. I used to have a captive audience of over 70 lads in a warehouse!

It’s been like this all summer. Brilliant little snippets such as the thing Roberto Mancini did and said just after the Title win, which would upset the City fans that still worship him so much if the knowledge ever goes public. I have also had a succession of excellent football gags float over my Facebook pages this summer that frankly are going to waste as I have nobody to pass them on to.

On the Suarez transfer – “Brendan Rodgers today announced that he wouldn’t sell Luis Suarez to a rival, West Brom and Swansea City are said to be devastated”.

On Gareth Bale – “Why don’t United or City put a bid in for Bale? – pay him £100K a week and buy him a house near Chester so that he can visit the other chimpanzees”.

On Manchester United’s futile and desperate attempts in the transfer market, in particular the pursuit of Baines and Fellaini – “I have just seen David Moyes in the corner shop and he put a bid in of 50p for a KitKat and a Twix”.

Other matters have gone un– ranted about as well without an audience. Roy Hodgson’s pitiful England selections and BT getting some first choice picks in the new TV rights as opposed to ESPN where it was Liverpool v somebody crap from Anfield every Saturday teatime. I still haven’t had my letter of apology or my rebate from Sky.

Once a very long time ago I was on a night out. As I went to get the round in, one absolutely stunning looking girl was telling her equally stunning friend how irate she was that Peter Beardsley had been left out of the current England squad. When my mate came over in search of his pint, just like me, he soon forgot how good looking they were and focused on the debate in hand. Cross –sex football banter. The fact that I still recall it to this day shows that it isn’t a common occurrence, or to be more politically correct, it hasn’t been for me. The football forum I frequent has a sizeable number of intelligent and articulate female posters but I can’t pick them up and drop them in my workplace can I?

As I read this article back I am aware how sexist it appears to make me look but it isn’t true. I watch women’s football every week and I qualify that by saying I have written two previous articles about the women’s game. In these I defend and promote women’s football at every opportunity, now I am looking like the idiot who has made a racist remark but says he isn’t racist because he has a friend who is Black. I just desperately need male company.

One could question why I don’t just stick to my football website or go down the pub. Well on the website we all support City, so by and large we all sing from the same hymn sheet. As for the pub, well as I previously got my banter from the workplace I was never that bothered about boys nights out and many of my friends follow Rugby. This also causes me concerns. My Rugby League town is the one where the local club had the rich businessman invest. What was previously a minor interest has now taken on epic proportions, with my friends being at the forefront of the fair weather new followers. I’ve even gone from a not bothered perspective on their fortunes to actively hoping they get battered each week such is my resentment. The reality is though I am jealous of them having people and a setting in which to talk about the thing they love.

I suppose I should look at all this from another viewpoint. If I can’t stroll about at work yapping about Chelsea doing the dirty on Spurs over the Willian deal or laughing at the Liverpool supporters who yet again think that this year will be their year; then I will obviously perform better in my new role. Right now though, not working with any other football followers is making me feel like the loneliest supporter in the world.