Rants and musings from the magazine team
Damian Hall explains why the fifth tier is more appealing than the top flight...1. You Actually Matter
Part of a 75,000-plus crowd at Old Trafford were you? Congratulations, but, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, you didn’t matter.
I’m sure you do to your 673 Facebook friends and that, but not in a real way. If you hadn’t gone, someone else would have paid shocking amounts of money to plonk their juicy behind on the exact same seat. In the Football Conference (also known by the appalling moniker, the Blue Square Premier) you’re genuinely adding to the gate. No one will replace you if you don’t go. Therefore, you matter. And that’s a good feeling.
2. The Football is Bobbins
Why won’t someone else take your seat, or spot on the terrace (see number six), if you don’t go? Because the football is utter bobbins.
The players aren’t that good – OK, they’re better than me, but not by much – they miss open goals, catastrophically under-hit back-passes and the keeper drops the ball more often than their Premier League contemporaries. The pitches, stadiums and pies aren’t as good either. Which of course actually means they’re better.
Can you remember when football was fun, nay funny, when you’d have a good larf while you watched a game? In the Conference it’s still good old-fashioned innocent fun. Like the olden days.
Plus there are no waiting lists, no need to sell a limb for that season ticket, and no queueing outside the ground like some berk outside the Apple store the day the latest iWotsit is released. Life down here is easier too.3. Winners Are For Losers
It’s easy and lazy to support a big club. I know you tell that story about supporting Liverpool “all your life”, but that’s like saying you’ve been brought up in a rich area all your life. Yeah, congratulations, impressive commitment.
It may have saved you from a bit of banter at school (well, in the ‘80s), but by the time you’ve grown up few will respect you for it. Support a crap team and people will admire you; you’ll seem more interesting, will make rakish new friends and will doubtless have a lithe new girlfriend within days. Seriously. I guarantee it. She’ll be way hot.
All of these men have beautiful, beautiful girlfriends...
4. Why Aren’t You Watching On The Box?
Premier League football is solely a television sport anyway. At the risk of sounding like I vote BNP (I’d rather vote Paul Gascoigne), “EPL” clubs are largely foreign owned and run, with foreign managers, buying foreign players, and it’s being watched all over the world by millions of, yes, foreigners.
That’s all completely fine – it’s good to share – but there’s very little that’s local, or English, about it. To paraphrase a famous Manchester singer (who did not support United, incidentally), it says nothing to us about our lives. The Premier League is nowt to do with us anymore. Let it go. Swap it for something more intimate and personal.
5. Two Timing
Luckily the EPL is on the telly box, wireless and big interpipe, so you can have the best of both worlds; the adorable if needy wife and the wanton glamour girl on the side. However, the glamour girl is best viewed from a distance.
Like photos that replace your real memories of a holiday, the events you think you saw at a Premier League game can get replaced by the television version. Every incident is picked over by the meeja like a corpse in the desert, becoming what sociological boffins call hyper-real: more real than the real (event).
Even if you go to a game, there’s a feeling that you still need to watch MOTD anyway, to “see what really happened”. So why pay all that money to watch what everyone else is watching too? After a non-league game, no one else has seen it, so you get the sense of exclusivity. Better still, do both.
6. Stand Up For Yourself
Remember terraces? Remember when you could stand up without being told to sit down? Remember moving about to get a better viewpoint (not generally a problem, admittedly)? Or just changing your position because you fancied it? Sitting down for a bit? Meeting all your mates in the same place? Game of cards anyone? Do a little dance? Get down tonight? Terraces are another reason why the Conference is king.
"Excuse me, you appear to be sat in my....oh"
7. Abuse Use
Because the crowds are much smaller, the players can actually hear you when you call them “worse than my gran and she’s dead”, or much shorter words to that affect. Sometimes they even answer back. That’s fun too. (Unless you see them afterwards.)
8. It’s Not Bobbins Actually...
I was unfair earlier. You will still see good players and some famous ones too. At my club alone during the last 10 years I’ve seen Tony Daley (ex-Aston Villa and England), Dennis Bailey (think hat-trick at Old Trafford for QPR), Stuart Slater (West Ham and Celtic), Paul Warhurst (Sheffield Wednesday, when they would nearly win stuff), Nigel Spink (Villa and England), Ian Olney (Villa, plus he went to my school) and this season, albeit playing for the opposition, Frank Sinclair (Chelsea, when they didn’t win stuff). Non-league players who’ve gone onto major fame and fortune include Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand, Kevin Phillips, Stan Collymore, Kerry Dixon, John Barnes, Iain Dowie, Steve Finnan and Chris Smalling. So there’s every chance you will actually see a star, either rising or falling.
9. No Wayne Rooney
Better still, in the Conference there’s no Wayne Rooney, no John Terry, no Ashley Cole and no Emmanuel Adebayor. I dislike those people.
It’s an obvious one, but it’s cheaper too. And your money is not going into the pockets of any of the above. That’s a nice feeling.
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