21 February ~ A few years ago you never got to hear what football supporters thought. Players, presenters and pundits told us black was white and right was wrong. All we could do was scream at the TV so loud we frightened the kids or whack the off button on the radio so hard it wouldn't go on again. Now it's phone-ins, discussion programmes, reality TV and invitations to text your views, email your comments or reply to some blog or other.
Fans having a voice is, of course, fantastic. Supporters being elected to boards, fans organisations having real influence and phoenix clubs sticking up two fingers are all wonderful and all valid. But why is this being drowned out by white van, redneck, lynch mob opinion every time you tune in? I don't want to know that Ryan from Cardiff, Daz from Barnsley and Shane from Basildon are all waiting to speak. I don't care what they're called. I care even less where they're from. And two hours of single issue banalities aren't entertaining and informative, not when that particular subject could be raised, considered, debated and resolved in around 45 seconds by two mates sitting quietly in a pub before they moved on to sort out the rest of an extensive range of topical matters before last orders.
Of course we should have the chance to air our views. But inform us. Give us facts that lead us down the right path. Half way through bring in a manager or a ref or just someone who knows something relevant. Make us pleased that we all contributed, even in a small way, to a discussion on a football subject that needed to take place and that led us somewhere worthwhile in the end.
I suppose it's too much to ask public service broadcasting to do that job. Even though that's the job they're supposed to do. We are forced to buy a TV licence and are threatened with imprisonment if a van with a coat hanger sticking through the roof finds we haven't. But do we get informative intelligent debate on football finance or the vagaries of the modern offside rule? No, we get Spoony. Or the admittedly pleasant girl they pan over to in the boiler room on the Football League Show who tells us someone has emailed something about someone else.
The lovely people on the trust board at Rochdale, the fan who never used to miss a game but can't afford to watch his or her club any more, the Newcastle supporters who long for local ownership of their club. Let's hear from them. Not the follower of one the big four who supports them from his leather settee and hasn't got a clue who they play next week, or the nouveau riche who can afford the equivalent of the cost of a decent used car to have a Premier League season ticket and think the Glazers are doing a good job.
Of course there's nothing stopping anyone phoning in. But when the presenter and the format suit the latter and not the former, then we'll switch on, listen to someone talking about John Terry, calling him John as if he knows him, and we'll switch off. Not just the radio, but switch ourselves off just a little bit more from loving the game we thought we'd never stop loving. Now that is something worth talking about. Rob Bradley