14 November ~ Mick McCarthy recently branded a section of his own Wolverhampton Wanderers fans as "mindless idiots" after they booed his decision to make a double substitution when 2-0 down at home to Swansea. They also sang "you're getting sacked in the morning" and "you don’t know what you’re doing", a chant possibly most famous for its loud and graphically captured use by the Newcastle fans in Sam Allardyce’s direction four years ago this month. Meanwhile, the "one per cent" of Blackburn fans not too enamoured of Steve Kean’s eventful tenure as manager continue to hold sit-in protests after home games.
Booing your own team's performances or publicly calling for the manager's head has always been a touchy subject among supporters. From the belief that buying a ticket entitles you to voice your opinion to the mantra that everyone in the ground should get behind the team, opinions vary widely. In response to recent criticism of fans' behaviour, the Guardian encouraged readers to email in suggestions for a Supporters' Bill of Rights. The responses received ranged from the right to boo to the right to bare your chest.
Watching a recent Match of the Day, I was struck by what I heard from the supporters of Manchester United, Aston Villa and Manchester City after their sides had scored important goals. What witty chant reverberated around Old Trafford, Villa Park and the away end of Loftus Road? None other than "Who Are Ya? Who Are Ya? Who Are Ya?"
The fans of currently the two best and brightest teams in England and the fans of a club with a European Cup to their name were responding to their heroes scoring by baiting the fans of Sunderland, Norwich and QPR with possibly the dimmest of dirges ever heard in a football stadium (unless Snow Patrol have performed in one). Hopefully no one contacted the Guardian calling for the right to sing this nonsense.
The three sets of fans could have been simply responding to similarly banal chants from their opponents for the day. And even if they weren't, they are by no means alone in their lack of imagination. For instance, when did singing about the other team's support become the norm? I don’t mean derby day ditties about how much you hate each other, but incessant drivel about "famous atmospheres" and the like. It ought to dawn on people that singing about the opposing fans does not actually count as support of your own? "We forgot that you were here?" That’s memorable.
Maybe it's a societal issue. Every city, every new football ground, looks and feels the same. We're getting lazier. We accept the same old dross. A recent TV review in Metro described Red or Black, the new ITV game show developed by Simon Cowell, as marking "a new era in Syco's lazy, sinister attempts to make money from a hopelessly stupid viewing public". Perhaps football fans are part of the same problem.
A lot of criticism has been levelled at Match of the Day over the last couple of years. Alan Shearer's comments on Hatem Ben Arfa when he joined Newcastle in 2010 ("We don't really know much about him") were used to attack the overall level of the programme and even football coverage in a wider context. The recent revelations about Alan Hansen's reported earnings have again placed the famous old show in the spotlight. But do we deserve any better and is it any wonder if the producers think we’re a bit thick when "Who are ya?" is the best we can do? Never mind a Bill of Rights, how about some standards. Stephen Adams