Archive for the 'Cockney's' Category

25
Aug
10

Will United’s True Rivals Please Stand Up

Which fans will get the warmest welcome at OT this season?

Which fans will get the warmest welcome at OT this season?

Have United’s rivals changed? It seems an obvious answer at first doesn’t it? No it’s still Chelsea of course. Well if this were purely about the title race then that would no doubt be the case. However it’s a little bit deeper than that. The question is about true rivalry- not the ‘who’s stopping United winning a trophy’ type contempt fans have for their opponents but the historical rivalry that makes you refuse to say a certain team by name or disown your daughter for marrying one of their fans.

Traditionally the most hated visitors to the Theatre of Dreams have been fans of Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester City, or to give them their appropriate monikers- The ‘sheep sh*ggers’, ‘bin dippers’ and ‘bitters’.

The problem with all three of these teams is that other than the occasional blip -2009 for example- all three haven’t given United much competition in the trophy stakes. United haven’t faced Leeds in the Premier League for over six seasons now- has it really been that long? Time flies eh?

As for City and Liverpool, they may be in the same division as United but in terms of challenging for the title it’s been a rarity. Of course this could all change, not for the Scousers who’ll be lucky if they’re still in contention for a Channel 5 place come May but let’s be brutally honest, with all the ‘kamikaze spending’ going on down at Eastlands, everyone’s least favourite graffiti artists could soon be challenging for the title

Whether or not a team is challenging for the title shouldn’t really matter in terms of rivalry, after all, since I became old enough to form hatred of certain clubs, United have had many title rivals who’ve dropped off my radar. Blackburn, Newcastle, Arsenal and Chelsea have been the four teams where the term ‘six-pointer’ would apply to since the Premier League began. Now while having no real fondness for any of them, are they really true rivals in the traditional sense? I’d argue not. For starters Blackburn and Newcastle were not always in United’s division when true conflicts were being started and battle lines being drawn. There may have been fights between the red army and fans of either team in the seventies and eighties but there were fights against any team United played- so my dad tells me- so it’s hardly enough to consider them as traditional enemies. Blackburn and Newcastle may have challenged United at the top of the table back in the mid nineties but it would be a stretch to class them as real rivals.

Then there are the new contenders to the title challenging adversary status, Chelsea and Arsenal. Now while there’s certainly no love lost between either set of fans it’s not quite the same rivalry that United have with Leeds or Liverpool. For starters just when the Gooners were looking like becoming a dominant force in the English game and possibly usurping United, they faded slightly which meant the rivalry was not quite as intense as it had been. Then came Chelsea, sorry the ‘rent boys’, who’ve been United’s main title contenders for the past five years. Now while it’s easy to despise Chelsea, after all some of their fans are fat, racist d*ckheads- although there’s nothing wrong with being fat- and their players are the sort of men you’d happily use the last bullet in your Luger on, it’s difficult to class them as true rivals.

For starters, they’re newcomers to the top table of title winners, until the late nineties they’d been a lower to mid-table team if not worse for the previous two decades, then there’s the distance between the two clubs. Having rivals that live hundreds of miles away and that you only ever see on a match day means the level of disdain for each other is fairly limited. In the case of Liverpool fans for example, you can bump into one- hopefully fist first- on any night out or at work or wherever, whereas you’re hardly likely to see a Chelsea fan on a trip to the Trafford Centre.

Part of the problem when it comes to United is that everyone hates us so we tend to just hate them back, but that doesn’t make them true rivals.

A survey taken by footballfancensus in 2003 to ascertain which club fans considered their main rivals showed that United topped the charts with no less than 5 clubs seeing the reds as their nemesis. These clubs were Arsenal- really? Leeds- no surprises, Liverpool- ditto, City- shock and Bolton- wtf?!

In the case of Arsenal fans seemed more concerned with the fact that United were their chief opponents in the Premier League title race, rather than any true tradition.
Leeds and City are to be expected with Leeds there has always been a mutual contempt between their fans and United’s which is exacerbated by other factors such as, violence, and the fairly close proximity the clubs are to one another, there’s also the fact that United faded in the seventies when Leeds were successful only for the roles to be reversed in the eighties, reversed once more in the early nineties before United became dominant and Elland road went on to play host to League One football.

City fans of course pretty much check United’s team news before they’re own and consider it a successful season if they win f*ck all and United don’t win the league.

As for Bolton, I’ve never really understood this one, it’s not as though we’ve even been in the same division for that long and we’ve certainly not been chasing the same trophies. I can only imagine its down to sheer jealousy of seeing your better looking, more intelligent neighbours, winning everything in sight while your own team considers 16th place a glorious triumph.

United fans themselves chose Liverpool as their primary foe, which is no surprise as they tick nearly every box when it comes to creating a rivalry. They took over from United as the dominant force in English football in the seventies and eighties only to have the favour returned in the nineties and noughties. Both sets of fans have engaged in physical contests over the years and there is of course the cultural divide. Despite being only thirty-odd minutes away from each other, in terms of accent, fashions and tastes Mancunians and Scousers are often miles apart.

The strange thing is, more often than not when I’ve been travelling or living in London, I’ve tended to get along well with the Scousers I’ve met. Whether it’s because we’re Northerners down south or wherever, or just the fact that we still share a similar p*ss taking sense of humour, but put me in a bar with a Scouser anywhere other than Manchester and it’s usually a good laugh.

In a different survey conducted by footballfancensus in 2008 to work out which English football rivalries were the fiercest United and Liverpool’s was ranked third in the country. The census ranked the top twenty rivalries, with nine out of Liverpool fans considering United their fiercest rivals and over two thirds of the United fans feeling the same towards their opponents from down the M62. The census also took into account the respective league and cup records of both teams, impact on attendances and other things such as reaction to players who’ve played for both clubs, or been linked with them and media coverage.

United made the list again, this time at number twenty for their rivalry with Leeds.

If the survey were to be taken again would it be any different? Probably not, although for many younger United fans unless Leeds achieve promotion soon, it’s unlikely they’re going to be considered true rivals.

Although Chelsea remain United’s main rivals in the League and it already looks this season as though that will remain the case, it’s doubtful that they’ll become the sort of arch-enemies the Scousers have been over the years- although by no means certain.

One thing is obvious, if City were to become football rivals with United in terms of success and title challenges and Liverpool were to continue to experience a barren spell then it would only be a matter of time before the ‘bitters’ overtook the ‘dippers’ in the rivalry stakes.

03
Apr
10

Supporting your local team? Does it really matter?

Dave didn't care how rubbish his team were- he'd always follow them.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight, I’m not questioning whether supporting your team matters. Of course it does. That’s like asking whether you should look after your kids, or be nice to your wife-occasionally. No my query is based on the argument that the “we support our local team” mob, are more important, passionate, vocal, better looking, than those supporters who live further away. Being a Manchester United fan, from Manchester- yes there are some of us- but living in London, whenever people realise where I’m from I often hear the same question. “Do you support Man City then?” Usually followed by “I thought everyone from Manchester did.” There seems to be a myth that most United fans are from London or Kent, or Shropshire or anywhere but Manchester. Now my point isn’t to start a debate about how many United fans can actually call themselves Mancunian no it is simply does it matter where you come from as long as you get behind your team- be it United or anyone else.

At Old Trafford there are undeniably a lot of fans from places nowhere near Manchester, there’s the Cockney Reds who make up a significant number of those attending matches, not to mention the Irish United fans of which there are many-usually giving interviews to Sky Sports or MUTV outside the ground. United aren’t alone though in attracting fans from other areas. During my time in London I’ve come across countless Liverpool fans who sound about as scouse as Michael Caine and there seems to be a running joke about Arsenal fans coming from Surrey- before all you Gooners kick off- I’m not saying there’s any truth to it, merely that I’ve heard it a few times.

There’s no doubt that any successful team is going to attract fans from outside its home city. Some of it may be due to the time you start watching football. If you haven’t got a dad who drags you along to games from an early age- as was the case with me and I always thank my lucky stars he didn’t support City- then you may like a team you see on the TV and start an affiliation with them. A case in point was around seven years ago when I spent a summer ’working’ abroad in Crete. There were several lads around my age- early twenties- working out there who all supported Spurs. These lads were from a lot of different areas- Slough, Chingford, Bromley, wherever, yet for some reason on that island when I was there, Spurs seemed to be the most popular team amongst my fellow ’workers.’ One day, I asked one of them why he felt this was the case, as to be honest I didn’t feel Spurs would have been that popular as Arsenal had always been more successful and many of the fans were not from that near Tottenham at all. He told me the reason he started following them, when he was around 8 or 9 Spurs had Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle and Gary Lineker playing for them, so he’d seen these players on the TV and found an instant appreciation of them. That’s what had made him follow Spurs and there’s every reason that other people his age may have had a similar experience. That made perfect sense to me, after all one of my friends who lives in Twickenham recently told me her two young boys argue over football, the older one -he’s ten- follows Chelsea while the eight year old follows Man U.

For United there does seem to be a big number of ‘out-of-towners‘, arguably because of the success the team has had, or maybe going back further to the days of Busby and the legacy he built. For whatever reason United do have a lot of fans from outside Manchester of that there can be no denial. Personally I used to find myself getting a little annoyed when I was younger and I’d hear cockneys- or anyone from south of Birmingham really -at Old Trafford. I’d create nonsensical ideas in my head that they were ‘glory hunters’ that were stopping real fans getting tickets. My attitude has changed a lot over the years as I’ve come to realise that not only is it irrelevant when it comes to supporting the team, whereabouts you’ve travelled in from but also that the main attribute most of us want from our teams fans is to get behind the players on the pitch– what accent you’re doing that in has no importance whatsoever.

Another factor which actually made me respect fans that travel from further a field to come to Old Trafford, was a story a bloke from Essex told me once when I was working in a pub there last year. George- that was his name, and probably still is- was born in Blackpool but moved to Essex as a baby with his family. His dad was a United fan- like mine- and had encouraged George to do the same. Despite living in Essex for forty years, he’d always remained loyal to Man U. He told me of his last trip to Old Trafford, a mid-week game against Wigan, he’d got the train up there but missed his train back as it took him longer getting out of the ground than expected. The next train wasn’t until the morning so he’d had to get a coach, it was raining heavily- as it always does in sunny Manchester- so him and his mate had sat on a coach that took about 8 hours to get back to London- where they had to get a train to Essex- in soaking clothes. The point is, he’d gone through a lot of bother, and expense- travelling had ended up costing him about £75 just to watch a pretty run-of-the-mill game at Old Trafford. Was he a true fan? Of course. Did he have every right to be there as anyone else? Certainly. Had he spent more than a lot of people to get there? Absolutely.

Many fans who travel from afar have to spend a lot more money than local ones, my trips to Old Trafford have decreased over the past three years, as it becomes more and more costly to make the trip from London- not to mention getting time off work or missing Uni. When I’m in Manchester it’s a lot easier to get to the games-obviously- but also the offer of a ‘last minute ticket’ that a mate might have can be gratefully accepted, while a trip to a match commuting from London often takes planning of a military nature.

There are those that would argue you should support your local team- tell that to people from Chester- that anything else is just glory hunting, however after some years of thinking this may be true, I’ve realised that this idea is as outdated and egregious as Gerry Francis’s hair. As the Green and Gold campaign has shown at United- and I’ve seen many of these scarves lately in London- it’s not where you come from that matters it‘s who you support.

16
Mar
10

Can Neville and Campbell gatecrash the World Cup?

Becks missed his Tango lessons with his best mate.

A few months ago, the idea of Sol Campbell and Gary Neville joining the England world cup squad probably seemed about as likely as Lyon knocking Madrid out of the Champions League.

Neville had fallen way down the pecking order at Old Trafford, with first O’Shea, then Brown, and even Rafael all seemingly ahead of him.

The prospects for Campbell seemed even bleaker, following the Notts County debacle, he was probably grateful that Arsenal allowed him to train with them let alone, harbouring any first-team aspirations.

Wenger’s decision to sign Campbell was seen as something of a gamble, after all at the age of 35 and following a not too impressive campaign at Pompey last season, many felt that Wenger was perhaps letting his heart run his head. The fact that Campbell was the Gunners only signing during the transfer window merely seemed to add fuel to the criticism, was he really good, young, or motivated enough to help an Arsenal title bid?

While Campbell was salvaging his career at the Emirates, Neville was keeping the bench warm at Old Trafford while doing his usual best to upset opposition fans. Wild celebrations following Michael Owen’s injury time winner in the Manchester derby were not enough for Neville when it came to upsetting the blue half of the city. Touchline gestures towards Carlos Tevez, as well as an interview claiming the Argentinean was not worth the money it would have taken to keep him, made sure that Neville will be about as welcome at Eastlands as Ryan Shawcross would be at the Emirates. Neville even managed to find time in his busy schedule to anger fans of his favourite club Liverpool by commenting on their Champions League exit, although the word ‘gloating’ would probably be a more appropriate term. It seemed Neville had become something of a bit of a joke to anyone from outside Old Trafford, like a drunken uncle at a wedding who insists on getting on the microphone, he was in danger of turning into more of a mascot than a player.

The last few weeks though, have seen a remarkable turn around in fortune for both former England players. Campbell after a shaky start against Stoke in the FA cup has shown that he can still perform at the highest level. Despite only making five appearances for Arsenal this time round, he seems to be growing in confidence with each one and has even admitted that he has yet to give up on a place in the World Cup squad. This may sound like bluster but there are several factors working in the former Spurs captain’s favour. For starters the players behind Rio Ferdinand and John Terry in the central defender stakes are far from outstanding. Matthew Upson, Joleon Lescott and Ryan Shawcross are all very good players, but truly world-class? I’m not so sure. Also with Arsenal through to the next round of the Champions League, Campbell will get the chance to shine on a much bigger stage than any of the aforementioned players, not to mention the fact that he could well still help Arsenal win the title.

Neville on the other hand has found his path to both the United and possibly England team cleared by the injury to Wes Brown. With O’Shea out for the season and Rafael’s inexperience occasionally getting the better of him, Neville has become United’s first-choice right back. His performance against Milan in the second-leg highlighted that he still has a lot to offer, not just defence-wise but also bombing forward whipping in crosses. Although Glen Johnson is likely to be Capello’s first choice right back, there may still be a case for Neville to be taken as his understudy.

The main difficulty either player may find in making the plane to South Africa could be their age- both being 35 years-old. This may not be the obstacle that some suspect though, as until very recently David Beckham was seen as almost certain to make the squad at practically the same age. Let’s not forget that both players have bundles of experience with over 150 caps between them not to mention appearances in 11 major tournaments.

With the inexperience of other defensive options such as Micah Richards or many of the other centre-back choices it seems the idea of taking either of them may not be all that far-fetched.

28
Oct
09

in defence of rio

When the finger pointing started almost as soon as the game ended on Sunday there was only ever going to be one player destined to be at the centre of it. No it wasn’t  Vidic for his third successive dismissal against the giro hunters, nor was it Carrick for yet again showing that when the chips are down you can bank on him to go missing, it wasn’t Fergie either for getting it wrong yet again against Benitez. No it was of course Rio Ferdinand who had spent the previous few days trying to convince an uncertain media that his best days were not behind him, that the fans had nothing to worry about, that at Anfield he would prove his doubters wrong. Well, obviously things didn’t quite go according to plan. Before we start sticking pins into our Rio voodoo dolls just yet (available from any good retailer- Ferdinand Promotions inc.) lets’ just try doing what we United fans used to do time and time again before Sir Alex and King Eric made us the perennial winners we are, let’s try and give our player a bit of slack.
Not a Dead Man Running just yet.

Yes Rio should’ve done better for Torres’s goal and yes, two seasons ago he would ‘ve (and did) mark Torres- or practically any other striker for that matter -out of the game.  Yes he nearly did cost us the derby and yes he has been underperforming for England but that doesn’t mean we should count him out just yet.
Firstly he still needs more games, he’s a player that’s used to playing almost constantly and the stop start nature of the past two seasons has meant he’s never looked as comfortable in his third or fourth game back as he does in his fifth or sixth, what didn’t help him on Sunday was the fact that prior to dealing with Torres his last two assignments had been marking CSKA Moscow and Bolton’s finest attacking forces, hardly comparable to dealing with one of the best strikers in Europe. Secondly, Vidic had been given the task of handling Torres so when it was left to Rio suddenly can we really be surprised that he faltered. Thirdly and this is a big one for me, who really gives a sh*t if he’s cost England a hundred per cent qualifying record or a meaningless friendly?

Like most other united fans I know my England support comes a distant second to following United, that doesn’t mean I don’t want England to succeed, of course I do. It just means I don’t feel the need to scream hysterical threats and smash up my living room like some rabid Millwall fans no doubt do. If Rio cocks up in the World Cup, then yes I’ll be as angry as the next man but at this present time, my only concern is how he’s playing for united. It’s easy to jump on the ‘Rio’s past it bandwagon’ but the same people who were doing that to Ryan Giggs a few years ago are now being made to choke on their boos (as well they should). Rio knows that he’s been underperforming and the fact that he says he’s gonna turn it around at Anfield can only be expected.

The media frenzy surrounding his performances by the fat Chelsea fans in Fleet Street only makes me want to defend him more. Anyone can see that he’s been robbed of that extra yard of pace that used to get him out of trouble, but that doesn’t mean his United career is over. His speed may come back with his fitness and even if it doesn’t he may learn to adjust his game, but why not at least give him a chance.  Many critics have cited his extra-curricular activities such as his website and production company as the reason for his demise. Yet for me this just doesn’t ring true. Rio isn’t going out on the p*ss most evenings or staggering out of taxis like a young Lee Sharpe on his birthday. He’s simply lent his name to a few endeavours which are no doubt a better hobby than gambling or chasing ‘ladies of the night’ which some footballers not a million miles away have been known to enjoy. While I too would like to see Rio’s name removed from any film starring Danny ‘It’s all about your manor ain’t it’ Dyer especially as total bell end but luckiest man alive Ashley Cole is involved,  but that doesn’t mean we should sharpen our knives just yet. At least give him till the Chelsea game.