Fan culture

Harry Pearson realises that football has changed so quickly that he has become old before his time

“You don’t get the build-up of atmosphere that you used to,” I said to a journalist from the Daily Mail one Saturday afternoon at the Riverside Stadium last sea­son. We looked around the ground. It was ten minutes to three, another capacity crowd, yet, aside from the strip occupied by the away fans, 90 per cent of the red seats remained empty. “The fact that everybody’s buying their tickets in advance has something to do with it,” the Mail man said. “People know they’ll get in so they only turn up 15 minutes before kick off.”

Call yourself a real football fan? If so, Ian Plenderleith would like a word

I used to live with an Arsenal fan. He knew sod all about football and had only started going to watch them in the mid-1980s because that’s what all the people he met at college did on Saturday afternoon. When Arsenal won the Cup-Winners Cup in 1994 he told everyone that Arsenal had won “the European Cup”. And asked to name his current England XI he put down Niall Quinn. On the left wing.

Mark Foreman discusses the sheer quantity of football books that are ready to hit the shelves

It was only when I was told that bookshops are expecting over 30 new titles to appear on the shelves in time for the World Cup that the full scale of the football publishing boom hit home. These days it would seem that no player, club or fan’s eye view is too ‘marginal’ (a phrase all too common to anyone with a shoe box full of rejection letters) for big name publishers to print.

Here’s the diary of a typical week in the hectic life of Tommy McDonald, host of the late-night radio phone-in football karaoke show Sing When You’re Winning. He is currently working on his next book, The Cat, a biography of Peter Bonetti, which he is co-writing with Damon Albarn of Blur. A former reviewer for the NME and an obsessive QPR, fan Tommy lives in Islington with his dog Loftus and his girlfriend Marie-Clare, an Orient fan

Monday A bit tired this morning as we had a massive booze-up at the studios of Mantalk! Cable where we were doing a pilot for a new show – Kicked Into Touch. I think they will go for it. It is an off-the-wall, irreverent look at players who were rejected by clubs after their apprenticeships, a sort-of This is Your Life for failed players... except with bollocks. Tony Wilson, Richard Jobson and Elton Welsby are in for the presenter’s job as well. But I think this could be the one to get me into Tellyland – they’re so old school and the fellas at Mantalk! are looking for something a little more New Football.

Phil Tanner recalls a football match like no other he'd ever seen before

You probably know one. That non-League ground the train whistles past on the way to the game. I used to wonder what that place is slinking behind the gas holders between Slough and Paddington, glimpsed across a car lot with zillions of gleaming imports. Or maybe exports. Then one day, with favourable pollution readouts and the sun at the right angle, I glimpsed the logo on the stand roof. “Yeading AFC”. Now the only mystery is how to pronounce it...

It may have only been in the playground, but Neil Reynolds can remember coming to blows with somebody about a football match for the first time

I thumped him in the stomach; he reacted with a punch to my eye which jolted my head backwards. My reply was a jab to the nose which drew blood, and he countered with a hard left to my face. A teacher then stepped in and dragged us apart with honours even, or maybe even me marginally ahead; in truth, though, had the contest lasted more than a few seconds, I would have probably been pulverised.

He was already a veteran supporter of Newcastle, but Matthew Roche remembers the first time he saw them play in Minsk

Sorting through my Newcastle videos the other day I noticed several were missing. Where was the “Abject failure dressed up as excitement” compilation? Who had swiped my record of the abortive 1990-91 campaign? Then a guilty thought struck me – Dynamo Minsk must still have them.

There's nothing quite like the floodlights, reminisces Jeffrey Prest

It wasn’t the normal route to night-time football. There were no alluring floodlights visible above the rooftops; no hordes funnelling expectantly past my window. No, it was down to the Airey brothers, excused the last ten minutes of our Scout meeting every Wednesday so they wouldn’t miss Spennymoor Utd’s kick-off. I grew to envy them. The idea that the heroes I occasionally watched on Saturday afternoons were reconvening in the midst of a working week had the exotic flavour of stolen pleasure. The Aireys had sold me.

Colin McPherson recalls his horror at taking a friend along to a Scotland game

The end of the Cold War; the fall of the Berlin Wall; the collapse of the Soviet Empire. What could all these great and momentous events have to do with my most humiliating night watching Scotland attempting to play football? They were the reasons for my embarrassment.

Don't judge your opponents before the match, warns Jeffrey Prest as he remembers the embarrassing defeat suffered by his university team

“It’s a theology college,” said our captain, and the mood among Cripps Hall Thirds visibly lightened. We had lost often that season, yet narrowly enough to believe that just one thumping victory would be the enema for our potential.

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