And Another Thing
Four football fans in a round-(pub-)table discussion
Mike Jones, regional sales manager, Cardiff
Graeme Garvey, school teacher, Leeds
Mark Rann, void management, Chelsea
Peter Garston, business development manager, Millwall
How do people react when you tell them who you support?
Cardiff Straight away they think you’re a trouble maker. People are especially surprised when I tell them, as I’m normally in a suit and tie. They don’t expect Cardiff fans to be able to hold down a professional job.
Millwall The first thing they refer to is the violence. My reaction is to ask whether they read The Sun, because that’s where they pick up these ideas.
Leeds Well it not too bad for me because everyone in and around Leeds supports the club. Normally when we’re losing the fans hide, but they’ve all come back out now. It’s the other local areas like Bradford that have a chip on their shoulder about Leeds as we’re the big team in Yorkshire.
Chelsea For me it’s a relatively novel thing to be one of the most hated clubs in the country. I think we can thank Mr Abramovich for that along with the titles. But I think I’d take being unpopular for being successful.
Do you care that people don’t like you?
Millwall Well that’s our motto isn’t it, “No-one likes us and we don’t care.”
Leeds That’s right. Who cares what other fans think. Let them follow their club and we’ll follow ours.
Millwall A lot of the time when people say they hate Millwall, it’s just down to ignorance. So I’ll explain to them exactly what the club is doing to change these perceptions, and hopefully they take it in.
But that sounds like you do care what people think?
Millwall What we care about is that when there are reports of hooliganism, that it’s reported equally across the board. So if Derby fans have caused trouble, say so, if Bolton have caused trouble, say so. Don’t just repeat the same old story about Millwall when other clubs have the same problem.
Leeds We don’t really care, what we have to fight are Leeds fans playing up to that, “we don’t care attitude,” because that can lead to trouble. But in the last few years we haven’t had time to care about anything other than what’s going on at our club.
Chelsea I don’t really care, no. Why should I?
Cardiff To be honest, it does affect me, but in a very real way. I would sometimes like to follow a club where I didn’t have to book my away ticket six weeks in advance. So there are practical problems with the fact that no-one like us, or thinks we’re trouble makers. When we get on a train, people look at us and you can tell that they feel uncomfortable, and that isn’t a nice feeling. I don’t want to be hated, but it doesn’t change my feelings about Cardiff one iota.
How do you feel about each other?
Leeds There is a Leeds-Chelsea rivalry, going back to 1967 and a disallowed goal at Villa Park in the FA Cup. Our dislike is purely historical. We definitely don’t hate Cardiff though, we gave them Ridsdale!
Cardiff Yeah, thanks for that.
Leeds You never know, it might turn out okay.
Cardiff I’m not sure about that. Whatever happens, I don’t think it’ll be that good.
Millwall I’m not bothered by Chelsea. They don’t hit my radar.
Chelsea There definitely used to be tension between us and Leeds before, but with them two leagues below, it’s not there anymore. The club that we traditionally hated was Tottenham, but in recent years, they’ve been overtaken by Liverpool.
Leeds All down to the Champions League.
Cardiff What about Fulham?
Chelsea Who? They’re irrelevant.
Leeds Do you see them as a little brother?
Chelsea We don’t see them at all.
Chelsea There used to be, back in the eighties, but not so much now.
Cardiff Our main rivals are obviously Swansea and Bristol City, but there are other teams like Burnley we don’t like.
Why do you think you are the most hated clubs in the country?
Millwall A big problem we have right now is that we’re starting to get all the Chavs from just outside London coming to watch Millwall. Instead of hanging out on street corners and causing trouble, they’re coming to our matches to cause trouble. That certainly doesn’t help.
Chelsea This isn’t really a problem that affects us anymore.
Leeds That’s because they can’t afford it!
Chelsea You’re probably right. But it’s different for us, people don’t like us because we’re successful.
Leeds Let’s not forget your manager.
Cardiff I don’t understand why everyone hates Chelsea. They haven’t won enough to warrant it. They’ve won a couple of leagues and cups, but they haven’t won the Champions League yet. Chelsea I know Manchester United fans who can’t get used to the idea of neutral fans wanted them to win against us. I think they find it slightly unnerving.
Millwall What’s a neutral? I can’t watch another club unless I’ve got money on it. For me, the way I decide who I want to win is, the further they are away from us, the more I want them to win. If Arsenal play Galatasary, I want Galatasary to win. When I hear someone like Alan Murray say, “all London fans are rooting for Arsenal in Europe”, I think, “who are these fans?” No-one I know that’s for sure. You don’t want your neighbours to do well.
Leeds Lancashire might win the cricket County Championship for the first time in 74 years, and the Yorkshire fans are really upset – 74 years is too soon after their last win.
Cardiff Well, I’m almost half annoyed that we’re here. Where are Man United, Liverpool, Swansea and Bristol City?
How much are the media to blame for the perception people have of your clubs?
Leeds The problem is that some of the teams here are easy targets. The media will say something like “typical Leeds” which criticises the club, without actually saying anything. It’s probably something that goes back to the days of Don Revie, where the players had a reputation for being dirty. Later, when we went down, it was the fans who were disliked, now it’s the management team. All aspects of Leeds have been unpopular at one time or another.
Millwall When we played Brighton last year, their fans were chanting “Seagulls, Seagulls,” but the next day in The Sun, it was claimed that the Millwall fans were chanting “Sieg Heil.” Stories are definitely twisted by the media to cast us in a bad light. It’s no wonder people don’t like us.
Chelsea Well sometimes we get accused of being arrogant or constantly whining because some of the things our manager says, but then all managers moan at some point. But whenever Mourinho does it, it’s picked up by the press, and used as a reason not to like us. But all managers do it.
Leeds What about all the incidents that don’t get reported. A little while ago, a Leeds fans who was a chef went to a match straight after work, carrying all twelve of his kitchen knives. Somehow he got in and watched the entire game with twelve knives on him. Where were all the stories about how no-one was stabbed!
Do you ever see anything that reinforces the perception that others have about your club?
Millwall When we played Southend the other night, there were only a few stewards separating the Millwall and Southend fans. After a while the stewards moved away and the Millwall fans starting moving into the Southend fans section. Before you knew it, a certain element took over and started charging the Southend fans. I’m not saying that’s right, but if the stewards hadn’t moved away, I don’t think it would have happened.
Leeds There was an incident when we played Ipswich last year when Leeds fans invaded the pitch and got the match abandoned. It only takes a few, and you’re left with a massively embarrassing situation where a match has to be abandoned. Millwall But there are times when even non-incidents are reported, and this is bound to affect the perception people have of our club. There was a report that said that some fan had thrown a pie onto the pitch. Now come on, is that really worth reporting.
Cardiff There are definitely people who come to watch Cardiff who I wished didn’t come to watch games, and it is an embarrassment. They’re not only representing Cardiff, they’re representing Wales and they really should know better.
Chelsea Some of the anti-Semitic chanting that goes on when we play Spurs is horrendous. When I turn around and tell people that Roman Abramovich is Jewish they just look at me like I’m some sort of nutcase.
Should your clubs be doing more to alter these perceptions?
Millwall Well we’re reaching out to the local community and trying to get more fans to come, regardless of colour or creed. We give out free tickets to local kids, and because of the make up of the people who live in the local area, a lot of these fans are from ethnic minorities.
Leeds We have education schemes that involve reading with young kids, which the clubs does, but it’s not reported, it’s not sexy.
Cardiff We’ve now got a system in place where every away fan has to have a membership. This helps the club keep track of who goes to away matches, limiting the opportunity for those who want to cause trouble from travelling.
Chelsea We’ve been pretty prevalent in the Kick Racism Out campaign, but I guess there’s always more you could do. On the other side of, it might help our popularity if Jose Mourinho was slightly more magnanimous every now and then, but then again, he’s no worse than Rafa Benitez in my eyes.
If you’re the most hated, who are the most popular clubs in the country?
Leeds How can you see beyond your own team?
Millwall Whoever’s playing Arsenal.
Chelsea Sorry, I don’t like anyone else.
Cardiff I like Merthyr Tydfil , but that’s about it?
You’ve all had fairly hi-profile chairman in the past few years? How do you feel about them?
Cardiff Do you mean hi-profile or media hungry?
Millwall To be fair, when Theo Paphitis came in, he rescued the club and got us to the cup final. But when he left, we should have been in better financial shape. But since I’ve been involved as fans director, I’ve realised that we need a lot more stability rather than someone who’s going to get some headlines and a few quick wins. I think that’s something we’ve got in Stuart Till. As a fan, him and the other board members think about the club, rather than how much money they can make. It’s run like a business.
Leeds Leeds is run by like a charity; to help ex-players and managers get rich.
Cardiff I nearly wore my “Sam Hammam out” band tonight. In a roundabout way we got to the Championship with Hammam in charge, so we’ve got to thank him for that, but he’s left the club in an incredibly questionable position financially. I once travelled on the same train as him on the way back from an away match and tried to ask a couple of questions about the way he was running the club. Instead of answering them, he just threatened to ban me from ever going to watch Cardiff City again. For that he lost a lot of support from the fans. And now we’ve got Ridsdale. I don’t believe a word that comes out of that mans mouth.
Leeds I don’t blame you. But then again, it could be worse, you could have Ken Bates.
Chelsea I’ve got a lot of time for Ken Bates.
Leeds Do you want him back?
Chelsea Look at what he did for the Chelsea. He went through hell and high water to secure its future.
Cardiff Did he make any money when he left?
Chelsea He made an absolute truckload, but so what? There was all this talk about how anyone else could have done what he did, but where were all these other mystery bidders.
Cardiff I guess that’s the case with Sam Hammam, he came in when no-one else would.
Leeds Ken Bates is slightly strange as a Leeds chairman because they normally live in Yorkshire but he doesn’t even live in England! There are lots of unanswered questions when it comes to him, with all the talk of various companies in the Cayman Islands. Nobody really knows what’s going on in the background. The relationship is not good between him and the fans.
Chelsea Who else would you like to see in charge?
Leeds Abramovich perhaps.
Millwall It’s completely different at Millwall. Stuart Till wants the fans to know everything that goes on, and that’s how you build a relationship with the fans.
Leeds With us it’s a case of love the team, hate the board.
How do you think you’ll fare this season?
Leeds Well now we’re on plus three points and off the bottom of League One [at the time of going to press] we can move forward. But honestly, it’s like the Champions League days again. The spirit there is incredible, and in fact, I can see clubs begging for a penalty next year after the way we’ve started. It’s certainly galvanised the club and there’s every chance now that we could still go up through the playoffs.
Cardiff I have no idea. We’ve lost two at home and won two away. How can you gauge anything from that? If Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink play anything like they can, then anything’s possible. But if they go into semi-retirement, which they sort of have already, we could end up fighting relegation.
Millwall We’ve started slowly, but I’m hoping it’s just a blip. I think we’ve just to have faith that Willy Donachie will turn it around.
Cardiff I just saw a rat!
Leeds Right, I’m out of here.
Millwall Was it wearing a West Ham shirt?
Er… We’re in the London Dungeon; I don’t think it was real. What about Chelsea?
Chelsea I think we’re expected to win everything, but I don’t think we will.
Cardiff I think the FA cup is the best they can hope for.
Chelsea I think a good run in the Champions League is essential.
Leeds Before getting knocked out by Liverpool.
Chelsea I don’t think so. Although I’d take winning the league over the Champions League every time. I think I’d almost be happy as long as Liverpool didn’t win anything!
Interviews: November 2007
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