Is there any place in the modern game for the old fashioned fan?

It seems slightly surreal to be writing an article like this, after what on the face of it seemed like one of the greatest seasons ever in the English game. A true three horse race up until April for the domestic title, Englands top four teams being the four favourites to win the European Cup – the final being the first ever to be contested by two English teams, the top two in the country. The domestic Cups won in fairytale fashion, first by a Spurs team beating their recently more successful local rivals along the way in Arsenal and Chelsea to win the League Cup, then Harry Redknapp creating a bit of FA Cup romance by taking unfancied Portsmouth all the way.

The league title and European Cup were both sealed with the left foot of the most decorated player in the history of the English game, in his record equalling and record setting appearance for the only club he’s played for in his 17 year career. A season for the purists, and for those who like to think football not only rewards the good guys but punishes the villains, there was plenty for them to chuckle about in the closing minutes of the season – Drogba being sent off, and Ronaldo, Terry and Anelka all missing penalties in the shoot out of the European Cup final.

So how did a season that was packed with so many highlights for any football purist get followed by a summer full of headlines that show todays top players as greedy, ruthless, despicable mercenaries?

Whether it’s the games “top dog” Blatter accusing the European Champions of dallying in slave trade by dishing out a paltry £120k a week, whether it’s Ronaldo’s public declaration of commitment, followed by a public non-commital, followed by a public agreement that he is a slave, whether it’s Lampard turning down a four year contract worth £140k a week because he wants, apparently, “more security for his future”, whether it’s Adebayor publicly stating he wants to stay then an hour later changing his mind, whether it’s Hleb whining that he hates London because he finds everything so intrusive, all the while angling for a move to the goldfish bowl of Barcelona – it’s enough to make fans of the top three clubs, previously so fevered in competition with each other, unite in dismay.

The baffling thing as a fan of just 27 years old is, that this isn’t even a generation thing. The players mentioned above spale in comparison to legends that still play the game – Scholes, Giggs, Maldini, Raul, for example. Can you even imagine one of todays prima donnas doing a “Bergkamp” and travelling by road or rail to play an away European game because they had a HUMAN fear of flying? Everyday professionals who started playing because they loved the game, and were fortunate to get caught in the financial whirlwind of the last 12 years. Fortunate, and aware of the fact.

How many of today’s players under the age of 24/25 are playing for the love of the game? Play with a natural desire to create on the ball, a freedom of expression? That looseness, the individuality that sets them apart from the system because they will break from a rigid system and do something unexpected? Play with their heart and not their mind? At Old Trafford I think we have two, Rooney and Anderson – others in world football can be counted almost on one hand. Fabregas (who I openly state regularly I think is incredibly over-rated, but I’ll admit plays with all the above criteria), Messi, Aguero..

11 years ago Eric Cantona fell out of love with the game and simply retired to pursue other passions. Winston Bogarde, who played football for Ajax and Barcelona, signed a mega-money deal for Chelsea and wasted away. Ronaldinho, a player who seems to have lost any romantic connection he once felt for the game, is being touted around for a last big pay packet at a club desperate for shirt sales regardless of the sorry state he’s in – footballs equivalent of a dog that has long since seen his day. And Frank Lampard is looking for a contract to guarantee him £140k at the age of 35 despite having a career that has been no better than that of, say, “Tricky” Trevor Francis, a player well loved in the game but with all due respect, never a legend.

This is football, kid, but it’s “Football 2008 (sponsored by Sky)”.

There’s a question that lingers, however.. is there any place in the modern game for the old fashioned fan?

By Yolkie 

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5 Responses to “Is there any place in the modern game for the old fashioned fan?”

  1. Reg says:

    It is an interesting question but I don’t think you have done the question justice. The difference between now and any time in the past 40s 50s 60s 70s 80s 90s is players have more power, they still take up the game and play for the love of it but want to make the most of their talents.

    Ronaldo is a cunt but I doubt you will find a player in any era who loves playing as much as he does.

    read stan Bowles’s autobiography a great player but he played to satisfy his love of gambling. Best was finished by his mid 20s as he prefered the night life to training and playing.

    Ronaldo is unusual as he is desperate to leave a club that is winning trophies and could go on to dominate football, but most players only leave top clubs to win more trophies.

    And many of us see the old fan as being working class turning up an hour or so before the game with no ticket, go through the turnstyles with mates stand together shout some abuse and encouragement and then have a few pints talk about the game slag a few players off then go home.

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  2. Craig Mc says:

    Reg, good post mate, but what’s changed?. Most fans are still working class, but they are working class IN DEBT up to their eyeballs, because of their love of the game. Fergie was saying during interviews over in Moscow, about what he calls THE TRUE FAN. How they had travelled together through several countries overland, and stayed in out of town places, because they couldn’t afford hotel bills. Pity Fergie didn’t think of the true fandom, when not listening to the disenchanted concerns of many, legitimate concerns in my opinion, who went on to form their own breakaway club. SAD!. What do I know though, I’m just a 24 year old Salford Red, determined to get a ticket wherever I can to watch the Red Devils. Lucky I got through Uni and have a decently paid job. I still love standing on the terraces, with all the working class, the banter, chanting, carping at referee’s and generally having a bloody good time. Tatty pie and cuppa at half time, and few beers with the lads afterwards. Costs a damn fortune, but sweet it is when ones with the terrace community, win or lose. Fandom is a very special thing!. Yet it does demand financial and every other type of sacrifice in these days of escalating ticket and travel prices. It is our choice to do it though, so no complaints from me.

    Yolkie, your so right mate about modern day footballers finding themselves on an ever rolling gravy train. For top footballers the rewards are very great. For the litttle people though, in the lower leagues, they just about get by. I think most of them you could say do play for the love of the game. In the prem though, everybody is seeking for a bigger piece of the pie. Should we deride them for that. Only in the sense that someone, somewhere, those who are without, have to pay into the coffers of those who increasingly have. Hell, even Robin Hood knew that, and tried to reverse the order of the day. I can’t see things changing much. Not while agents are around, who are out to get a big slice of the pie too. FIFA are all talk and no action, promising to cap wages, and redistribute wealth. Yea right, but only the Premiership’s wealth. Football is no longer just a game, and fan allegiance, but a massive commercial enterprise, and I really can’t see that changing. So, if we want to continue as
    supporters we will have to cough up the money, to attend matches or for TV viewing live games.

    It is good when a club get loyalists like Giggs, Scholes, Ole, Red Nev, Brown, O’Shea, etc, but lets not forget we had players who were very loyal, and would have never left, but rankled Fergie and got the big boot out the door. Is that fair, I don’t think so, but it is life. Clubs will always get those players, though few they may be, who say I want to stay at this club for all of my career.

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  3. Chris says:

    Sorry to gate crash the party. I was drawn into the blog by a newnow link to the Liverpool v Man U derby thing ….

    This is a great blog Yolkie. I’m a season ticket holder at Anfield have been since the early 80’s….. went in the 70’s with me dad!

    I’ve a well paid job and take my dad for nothing now as I feel I owe him the debt. If he had to pay on his pension there is no way he’d go.

    He thinks all the lads today (inc Gerrard and Carra) are prima donna’s and never tackle…(Sure you’ve had similar conversations in the pub re Whiteside/ Robson et al !) Norman Hunter now e woz ard lad !!!Tommy Smith, earned £200 a week and was grateful too pull on the shirt.Arf of these b**ggers havnt even heard of the City until the cheque book comes waving !!

    Anyway, I feelthe Premiership English Football, is in a golden period attracting the best in the world…..to come and play in our league but…. its hardly attracrive watchin these idiots kissing a badge one week then demanding a move the next. Gareth Barry (Who I belive is nowhere near 18m) (You must be laughing everytime that figure is mentioned!) is classic example of player power gone mad. Three years ago he couldnt get a game now he hinks he’s god ! Sure the lad has to make the most of his talent. But with Gordon Brown promising the West Bank £30m aide this evening to “get their economy going” and then in Sport Real Madrid havnt given up hope of signing Ronaldo in a world record £60m swoop, you knwo thinks have gone beserk!

    Football is entertaining but I do not pretend to “understand” the modern footballer, in much the same way as they cannot understand the modern fan.

    In 10 years you will be at OT. I will be at Anfield. How many of the Management and Playing staff will be there. Less than 10% I bet !!!!!

    YNWA.

    Thank you for letting me post on your blog

    RESPECT!

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  4. yolkie says:

    No worries Chris – cheers for the opinion. Interesting to hear your dad’s opinion that Gerrard and Carragher are primadonna’s.

    Carragher, especially, is a player who would push to make my list of playing for the love of the game (but misses out for obvious reasons..!!), but I certainly wouldn’t think of him as a primadonna. Then again, football skipped a generation in my family so there’s a bit I don’t know.

    The point is at least at Liverpool, for all the hatred and rivalry (trying to make myself feel a little better after arguing with a scouser earlier) there are some things you can’t deny, and that is a sense of pride playing for the shirt that all managers of our clubs try to instil. You can see in Torres an extra 5-10% effort because he is playing for the club he loves, you can see it in Rooney perhaps not for the club but for the game (though I’m sure Rooney has grown to love the club) – frankly, in todays game, it is disgusting that so many players have a distinct lack of passion for the things that really matter.

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  5. Craig Mc says:

    Chris. your post was a good read. All respect to your Dad, because he was a L’pool fan in the days when football wasn’t just huge business enterprise. It was full of player scallies, but they were scallies with big hearts, and yes on the whole loyalty and heart for their clubs meant a lot to them. Your Dad is right, money has changed all that. Footballers today are on the gravy train whose destination is the land of the multi millionaires. In the Premier Leagues that is. Yet there are still those players who do identify themselves with the fans. Those players not suprisingly, soon become fan legends. I guess the PL today has it pros and cons for good or bad, and like you say, one of the cons for good, is that we get to see a lot of very good foreign players, and some of the great football artists in the world now playing in England. We have to take the rough with the smooth I guess Chris.

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