One thing this whole lockdown has taught us, never take anything for granted.
This is especially true for football and it’s fans. For many years now, football fans have seemingly been shafted. Paying £6 for a pint, treated like criminals, ticket prices constantly on the rise, more and more corporate companies taking over, owners sucking the life out of beloved clubs. The list goes on. It has seemed like the bigger clubs & leagues have been trying to slowly push the everyday working class fan out, for the new ‘prawn sandwich brigade’. They want as many new spectators in their ground as possible. Paying £75 for a replica shirt. Sitting quietly in their seats, splashing the cash any which way.
However lockdown has proven that football needs fans now more than ever. Empty stadiums have been a regulation for nearly a year now. Fake crowd noise to try and replicate some sort of normality. The massive corporations of Sky, BT and Amazon, who chop and change timings of football games to fit their schedules, not caring about the loyal fans, are now finally realising that football needs its fans. The life and soul of the party.
Let’s be honest. Most of us watch any sort of derby for the fans. I watched Nottingham Forest v Derby recently, and without fans it’s just another game. The lack of passion is evident with no fans filling the old school City Ground. Normally you’d have 30,000 fans making the stadium a cauldron. The 2,000 Derby fans would add to the atmosphere and the game would be a lively affair. This is football for me. I’m more interested in the battle of the fans than the football if I’m totally honest. I love the back and forth between the home and away fans. The sheer eruption when a goal goes in. The fans make these games special.
For me personally, I’m a Chelsea fan. I went to every home game for 15 years between 2002-2017, and the club means everything to me. My grandad took my father when he was 6. My dad took me when I was 6. Football is in our blood.
It’s sorely missed among all football fans. The excitement the whole week before the game, planning where you’re going to meet your pals for a pre match pint. It’s the highlight of the week for the average working class person.
A Chelsea Matchday
As I touched on, I’m Chelsea so I only know the match day from a Chelsea point of view.
Get up nice and early,
Ticket – Check
And you’re out the door and ready for the day ahead.
You jump on the packed tube off to Stamford Bridge, surrounded by your fellow diehard fans, all talking and anticipating the 90 minutes ahead. You go for a few pre match pints with your mates, discussing nothing but football. All your troubles seem to disappear for the day.
You make the short journey down the Fulham Road towards the Bridge, the shout of ‘programmes’ and the smell of burgers as you get closer and closer to your church. The stadium where your beloved play. No matter how many times you go, it’s always special as those turnstiles click and you step foot inside. You head to your normal spot, greet the regulars that are scattered around your seat. On it comes. Harry J & All Stars – Liquidator. You feel that adrenalin hit and you’ve never felt more alive. 44,000 around you belting out the regular pre match anthem, every one of them just like you, loving every minute.
The nerves. The anticipation. The kick off.
You’re so stuck in the moment, so gripped, you don’t realise that 44 minutes is already on the board. Back down to the concourse into the toilet. The stench of urine that you seem to only get inside a football ground. If you know, you know. Grab yourself an overpriced pie or hotdog, and back to see how the next 45 minutes unfold.
The celebrations during the goals. You’ll be hugging the person sat nearest to you, whether you know them or not. It’s just instinct. You normally end up a row in front where you’ve leapt for joy. When a goal goes in, you don’t think, you just react.
At Chelsea, after any big win, or qualification through to another cup round, as soon as that final whistle is blown, the all too familiar celebratory song belts out.
‘Hey you, don’t watch that, watch this
This is the heavy heavy monster sound
The nuttiest sound around
So if you’ve come in off the street
And you’re beginning to feel the heat
Well, listen buster
You better start to move your feet
To the rockinest, rock-steady beat
ONE STEP BEYOND’
This is it. It’ll not get better than this.
One step beyond is iconic with Chelsea fans. The game is over, and you head back home. No matter who you live with, you instantly tell them about your day. The referee, the match, even your cold hot dog at half time. And every morning after a football game, the reality sets in that you have to wait another week until the next match day.
Other Matchday Points Of View
Now I covered my personal matchday, there’s numerous clubs around the U.K. that are in the same boat.
Going to Anfield is always special. Rival fans will always joke and say otherwise, but The Kop in full swing, and Anfield belting out the famous Gerry & The Pacemakers, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is special.
It’s very special. On my first visit to Anfield, I just wanted to experience it. I stood at the front of the away end, and just watched what unfolded. 46,000 Scousers all with scarves up high. You’ll not hear anything like it.
It hits you when you first witness YNWA being sung, no matter what club you’re there to support. It’s always got that extra power behind it when Liverpool play a rival.
I’ve been lucky enough to watch Chelsea play at most grounds in the U.K. Everton is another fantastic experience. Evertonians love their club, and again it’s special when Z-Cars echos around Goodison. It’s just not the same when it rings round an empty stadium.
Manchester City and Blue Moon
Manchester United and This Is The One
Crystal Palace and Glad All Over
Wolves and Hi Ho Silver Lining
The list goes on and on. I cannot wait to see fans filling these stadiums, belting out the songs before the players come out.
I can’t wait for the crowd noise to be real, and not pre-recorded.
I can’t wait to go back to the stadium I’ve grown up at.
The friends you’ve not seen for close to a year.
I just hope that all clubs, all broadcasters, all footballers, realise that football without fans, is nothing.