As I clicked ‘like’ on a facebook photo a friend posted of his son wearing a football kit I started to think about the team George might support when he is older. I can think of several friends who are trying to persuade their sons and daughters to follow the team they have always supported despite not living near the clubs home ground. This persuasion is to fight off the lure of ‘glamour’ clubs other kids in the playground will support – in the words of one they are ‘fighting the good fight’. I am a Liverpool fan but I don’t really mind if George supports another team as long as it isn’t Manchester United (I have some standards). The reason behind it is simple – I’ve gone off football and this is why.
England – This is where it all started to go wrong. I stopped watching England friendlies as the players seemed even less interested in the game than me and I was barely awake. Then I stopped watching the qualifiers as they lacked any sort of tension, interest or bearing on tournament performance. The final nail in the coffin was the World Cup in 2010 as England served up a rich smorgasbord of mediocrity, misplaced entitlement, woeful lack of ability and seething resentment. You could pick any number of players who symbolise this attitude and the list would probably start with Rooney, Cole or Terry – I don’t even like watching Stevie G when he plays for England. I’d had enough and although I dabbled with Euro 2012 I can’t see me watching much in the future.
Liverpool – I was born in Liverpool, I will always be fan of Liverpool FC and the club will always have a special place in my heart but the last few years have made it hard for me. Sure they haven’t won much recently and that never makes football fun but it didn’t stop me watching during the dreaded ‘Souness years’. The truth is I have always thought our club was special but now there is very little to make us stand out. Like so many football clubs we face always being owned by business men looking to make a profit, represented on the pitch by disinterested millionaires and supported by too many blinkered fans. All this is par the course but the way the club dealt with the Luis Suarez racism issue was a far bigger blow. I believe the club was right to initially back him as the evidence wasn’t clear and he deserves the right to defend himself. However, the moment he was found guilty the verdict should have been accepted and attempts made to repair the damage instead of enduring the humiliation of misguided t-shirts and snubbed handshakes. How could any Liverpool fan hope to take the higher ground when we couldn’t get our own house in order? The sight of King Kenny (my childhood idol) being forced to shuffle out the door at the end of the season was symbolic of the malaise we found ourselves in.
Premier League – Popular opinion says that last season was one of the most exciting ever but I just don’t buy it. Sure the last day of the season was dramatic and Manchester City did play well but once you get outside the top four or five teams it gets far less interesting. Very few teams below this upper tier possess a flair player and instead prefer to ‘grind it out’ and ‘keep it tight’ serving up hour after hour of turgid non-entertainment. Anyone who follows me on twitter knows I love to criticize Everton and Stoke for this approach but last season almost half teams in the league were guilty. League position has become more important than glory and fourth place is seen as an achievement worth celebrating. I didn’t sign up for this.
Commentators and Pundits – I remember watching a Manchester derby game in the Friendship pub in Fallowfield sometime in the mid-90s. United were awarded a dodgy penalty in the first half (sound familiar?) and by half time the pub was buzzing with the bickering of rival fans. When Alan Hansen appeared on the screen everyone stopped talking to hear his opinion on the controversial decision. He duly declared it ‘a disgrace’ and the pub erupted again. What went wrong? From the old boys’ club buffoonery of MOTD to the tortured wordplay of the commentators, match coverage has become a lumpy mess of clichés and frustration. Also I’m sick of watching players go down under powder puff non-challenges only to hear the commentator scream about ‘definite contact’ and players ‘knowing they can’t raise their hands’ as if a knife has been pulled out on the pitch.
The photo below was the first one that came up when I googled ‘dodgy penalty’ but there were plenty to choose from.
Fans – One of the many things that annoyed me about both the Suarez and Terry racism cases was how fans divided down club lines instead of coming to a conclusion based on the evidence in front of them. Every issue is like this even if the club of a particular fan isn’t involved. Twitter can be really bad for this and I get fed up of reading tweets from blinkered fans shoe-horning their club into unrelated topics to get a dig in or merely to gloat. I’m not talking about the kind of people who boo a minutes silence (we can all do without them right?) but the everyday fans who can’t see football outside of the prism of their club colours. I used to enjoy talking to strangers about football but the common ground seems to be disappearing and football is no longer a universal language.
As this is easily the most negative post I have written so next week I will be talking about why I love rugby. In the meantime please feel free to post your comments below.