Football; from a different angle
The Gibson years
In 86 we nearly died,
from Ayresome Park to the Riverside,
Europe, twice and we won the cup,
With Tony Mowbray, we're going up,
We're going up, we're going up......Etc. Etc.
(Popular Middlesbrough FC football chant).
Remember this chant; I'll come back to it later.
The Middlesbrough v Sheffield Wednesday match at the Riverside saw the home side roll out a ticket deal, £12 instead of the usual £24, half price game, the result, was a 28000 crowd.
That's 1 in 4 of the population of Middlesbrough town, or 1 in 18 of Teesside catchment area, turned out on a cold Friday night to watch a match that they could have seen in the comfort of their local pub or at home. An extra 12000 supporters.
Everyone was happy, apparently, except me. I had to queue for my beer, for the first time this season, and, even worse, the loos were packed at half time, a trifle disconcerting for a man of a certain age, with a full bladder, on a bloody cold night, but then again, it just proves you can't please everyone.
Obviously half price tickets was a huge incentive but not the full story. Surely 12000 extra people didn't suddenly think ,”There's a bargain I can't miss out on”, after all, £12 will still get you at least 4 pints up here, which is about a third of a reasonable nights drinking session.
Let's go back to the chant, “In 86 we nearly died....”,
I remember it well; I was a bit older than a teenager, (a good bit, if I'm being honest). The main gates of Ayresome Park were padlocked. We apparently owed £2 million, of which £115,000 was to the tax man. We had just been relegated, and had third division football to look forward to, if we survived. Things didn't look too rosy. Steve Gibson, “one of our own”, stepped in with 10 minutes left and saved the club, Steve Gibson, a council estate lad, making him “Proper Boro”. (A word of explanation here, In an area where the phrase, ”not bad”, is the equivalent of throwing your arms round someone and kissing their feet, “Proper Boro”, is giving them the freedom of the city).
If you ever get to Riverside look at gates, they're the ones that were padlocked. If you've got a spare half hour or so, and are that way inclined, you can look for the brick with my name on it at the same time.
.... “From Ayresome park to the Riverside, Europe, twice and we won the cup....”,
The rest, as they say, is history, we won back to back promotions, a move to a new stadium, then the signings. Ravanelli, Emerson and of course the little fella, we spent a couple of years as a yo-yo club then (until recently) became a reasonably successful mid-table Premier club. We went to three Wembley finals and lost all of them, then our first major trophy, the Carling Cup, and qualification for Europe, twice, ending in the UEFA cup final in Eindhoven, where most of Teesside turned up, but the team didn't.
Here's a thing, According to the Football League's most recent supporters' survey,
the average football fan is 43years old and male, (if you're neither of these please don't blame me, I'm only quoting the statistic). He is part of a balding army who fell in love with football in the 1970s, went to his first match when he was 11 years old and then developed a supporting habit through the 1980s.
Steve Gibson took charge of the Boro 26 years ago, which makes these statistical supporters 17 years old when it happened. The “average” Middlesbrough supporter, has grown up through the “Glory Years”, has seen the club play against big teams, Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Roma and QPR, but never saw them play Mansfield, Bury, Rotherham or Aldershot, so on the face of it, and totally ignoring the economic climate, unemployment, the higher than average number of people who work shifts in the area and other minor considerations, it appears we have 12000 glory supporters who will only turn up if we drop the ticket prices.
But wait a minute, Our “average”, supporter, (remember him?) Also statistically married at 30, with his first child at 32. (again not my figures, but apparently true). This makes his first child roughly 11 years old. The statistical age when people attend their first match. The Sheffield Wednesday game was a Friday night, a non school night, and there were a lot of young people there. It was a “rite of passage,” people taking their children to their first game. Not glory seekers at all but, conscientious fathers creating the next generation of Boro supporters. God Bless them, one and all. I offer as “proof”, a facebook posting from one Boro fans taking his son to his first game:
“Robbie's First Boro match tonight!
"Everybody remembers their first match, and you will too, the image when you walk up the steps and see the pitch lit up for the first time, the noise from the crowd as the “power game” plays over the tannoy and the players, our heroes, walk out!
It's the start of a journey with many ecstatic highs but at least as many lows, through this journey you will laugh and cheer and shout till your throat is dry and sore, you'll hold your head in your hands and feel gutted, like the world is ending, and life couldn't get any worse.
I can't promise it'll always be fun, that they'll play their hearts out every week and that they won't let you down. But I promise that it'll be worth it and you won't swap this club or this day for any other!"
It's amazing what you can prove with statistics, anyway, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
By Trev Davies, a lifelong Boro fan.
GET YOUR T*$£’S OUT
GET YOUR T*$£’S OUT
GET YOUR T*$£’S OUT
FOR THE LADS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Whilst walking down South Africa Road with my Dad, two of his closest friends and one of their sons...this was the first chant I ever heard. Not directed at me of course, I was only ten! At two female Ranger’s fans as they scurried past. Dad looked down at me to see my reaction. I must have given an expression of complete and utter confusion, as he didn’t deem it necessary to elaborate any further.
That was Twenty-Five years ago...you’d think they would get some new material!!!!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not some bra burning feminist...(I’m not blessed enough for the need to purchase many...socks down the vest normally does the trick)! However, bosoms aside for the moment, a few months ago, I decided to look into perceptions and attitudes toward female supporters of the men’s game. With particular focus on if they had altered in recent years.
Now, you will notice I am not concerning myself with a number of areas that could easily be linked to the subject. Statistics for one...(I find they generally get over looked),nor Women’s football, female officials, board members or even high profile female Journalists. Not because it perhaps isn’t a worthy piece, but certain areas in this field have already been given a considerable amount of coverage. I am also unable to comment with any form of authority or sufficient knowledge. Female fans of the men’s game have no credible voice.
On the terraces you have seen a notable change. Obviously speaking from my own experiences. Q.P.R is a family club and as such, has always welcomed diversity. Long gone are the days when I would overhear a crude remark directed at my appearance or a conversation between equally dynamic fans, of what they would like to do to women supporters. In their own minds, they would probably envisage it to be a complement!
Unfortunately now, it is not always within the grounds that the subject of equality is called into question. Pubs, clubs, general living. Despite this, it is with the invention of social unregulated networks, that patronising and in some cases, sexist remarks are starting to creep their ugly way back in again.
Make no mistake, I am far from sensitive. No female fan could ever be. If that were the case, we would all be sitting at home dribbling into our knitting... Do people still knit?....anyway, you get my point.
I am one of the first to be heard shouting, moaning... (on the odd occasion swearing....well, maybe more than the odd occasion), at something I don’t agree with on the pitch. Nobody bats an eyelid. Outside the stadium though, reactions and perceptions alter. Not just concerning Rangers, but football as a whole. It is imperative that I must know exactly what I am discussing; there is no room for error or even a different opinion from others....no...let’s be more direct....men. The majority of the time your thick skin protects you. Associating it with blokes trying to score points or stamp some form of invisible authority on the subject...especially when it’s considered in front of a male dominated audience. This is none more prevalent than on Facebook. I cannot comment on Twitter, as one social network site is more than enough for me.
One instance a few months ago, I mentioned on a page, people’s constant need to post foul comments aimed at others and in doing so, they were using the privileges of what is an essentially unmonitored outlet for their abusive behaviour. I was shot down in flames, with vile rantings aimed at my appearance and my knowledge of the game. I was patronised and my viewpoints surrounding said discussion were dismissed as being far from credible. I will obviously not reiterate the content, as it was too abhorrent, and the grammar was just awful!!! Despite this, two or three male supporters were complementary and equally shocked at the level and nature of the criticism I was subjected to and in turn, were openly supportive.
The fact remains, should I, or any other female fan have to tolerate that type of behaviour? You may be of the opinion, just as many are concerning the subject of racism in football. Sticks and stones, you will never fully eradicate it, so just get on with it? In one way, that is what I would be inclined to do. Especially as latter postings depicted a picture of a female Liverpool player as well as a female Leeds Utd fan, with the heading... would you SMASH or DASH!!!?? When you are dealing with people with that mentality, no logical form of reasoning will ever enter their train of thought.
Women can be as equally cutting in our eagerness to berate our male counterparts. I just choose not to enter any form of argument/discussion in person or virtually, which spirals into an abusive equivalent of, MY DADS BIGGER THAN YOUR DAD! Although when you receive pictures via the site of the content of certain users underpants.... (as I’m led to believe),It is easy to see why full blown arguments escalate.
Now, not all men are of the opinion that women have no idea what the offside rule is or if man marking is better than zone, that would be unfair. On the flip side of that ,are they just openly tolerant but fundamentally believe that women really do not, and never will know as much as them? John Barnes believes that to be true of racist beliefs.
So, are we on the brink of some form of football cyber sexist explosion, as well as all the other areas unacceptable behaviour appears to be targeting through this form of media? Does sitting behind a computer screen, entitle users to free rein over astonishing, abusive outbursts? The majority of which, said in person, would result in an arrest or with the perpetrator’s nose spread unevenly across their face! Would you be happy if the nearest and dearest ladies in your life, were on the receiving end of what is completely cretinous, moronic behaviour? Or, would you expect them to ‘Man UP’? I suppose the answer lies with individual personalities, perspectives and opinions. Maybe a mixture of knowing when to speak out and also being wise enough to realise, that in some instances there is very little point. I do not believe trying to equal the male position as the founding supporters of the beautiful game will ever be the right road to take...although in saying that having Talksport on speedial I might be persuaded to give it a go!
So Gentlemen, my advice to you, would not be a male version of the opening chant. Instead either get used to us...or get our rubber gloves on....because you can’t have it all your own way.
This is a view from Scott Walker, one of our readers who felt he needed to write this.
Near or far we are QPR!
As a QPR fan living in Somerset and being a low earner with a young family makes visiting our ‘church’ Loftus Road impossible most of the time. This doesn’t mean I am any less loyal a fan and I will give you an insight on how I keep up to date with QPR news.
Saturday morning: A few hours before the kickoff I find myself buying a newspaper and studying the table and form guides ready to place my £5 accumulator bet on. At present I find looking at the table very bleak but hold the fire of hope in my heart that today will be the day our luck changes.
At about 1pm I logon to my Facebook account to check what the latest news and line ups are. I also look at the statuses of people going to the game and I feel jealous, but at the same time I am happy for them and just hope they sing loud for the team.
3pm and it’s kick off ,but by this point in the day I am often driving the family around so Talksport becomes my lifeline for the football. They go through the scores and I normally tune in to keep updated. Sometimes I hear the words “There has been a goal at Loftus Road. Which way has it gone Jeff?” At this point it’s a real mood changer if the reply is “it’s gone the way of the away side” I get angry at the radio and can’t stop thinking about what’s going on at Loftus Road. If the reply is “It’s the home side Jeff with a beautiful volley“ my mood will be ecstatic and I find myself genuinely smiling and a lot chattier with those around me.
Full time classifieds are the moment when you know if you’re either going to receive the banter at work on Monday or dish it out.
I hope this gives people the insight that although only a few thousand of us can be at any one game we all have our own match day experiences and maybe we’re not physically at the match, but emotionally we are…. We’re all in it together.
Steve and Aaron Lewington are Father and Son that are QPR fans. Aaron is in a wheelchair and Steve brings his other two children to games as well. This is Steve's view of football
Most things are positive, at QPR we sit with a good bunch of supporters.
Issues we have are that we desperately need some kind of shelter, it would be good even if a clear shelter could be put above us.
Aaron suffers from respiratory problems and by the end of a match he's freezing and it's awful when it rains as it soaks right through to his chair.
Away games; it would be good to have a fully adapted coach for wheelchairs so at least a couple of supporters confined to wheelchairs could go. We don't go to many away matches as we have to drive and it works out so expensive; this then causes problems when trying to get local away tickets as we never have enough points, a fairer system needs putting in place!
Most positive away match is Arsenal as they sort parking underground for you for no extra cost!
It's all undercover too so that helps when it's raining.
Negative one would be Spurs where it's on a first come basis and there are only five spaces; when we got there we were told they were full ( with their own supporters! ) luckily we had someone who spoke up for us to get us a space!!
Disabled fans should be given the same opportunities to enjoy a football match as everyone else, we just wish that every football club would think the same.
Nation’s top scorer named as an ambassador for the FA’s 150 year celebrations.
With a tally of 128 goals, he has scored more international goals than Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker put together! He is England’s longest serving team member with a truly amazing total of 144 caps and he has represented England/GB in five World Cups, where he was awarded the Golden Boot on three occasions. He has also competed in six European Championships, the most recent being at the 2011 ISBA European Championships in Aksaray, Turkey, where he was the tournament's highest scorer with six goals as he captained the team to win a bronze medal.
He is of course David Clarke, the inspirational Captain of England/GB blind football team. However, unlike Charlton and Lineker, David Clarke may not be thought of as a household name.
Clarke, 42, who hails from Hindley but now lives in Harpenden, admits "It's much more likely that a child under fifteen will know who I am than their parents. I'm walking through town and I'm getting stopped left, right and centre," which may be due to a campaign by supermarket giants Sainsbury’s to introduce Paralympic sport to schools – giving both disabled and non-disabled children a chance to play against each other. ”There's no reason why disability football should be a poor relation of the professional game,” he said. “If I've inspired children to take up blind football after this Paralympics then that's job done as far as I'm concerned."
The profile of the sport has gone up in recent years, with David Beckham publicly supporting and getting involved with the sport to promote it which succeeded in attracting three million youngsters to the game.
"He did a lot for us," said Clarke. "I think that's fantastic that he brought blind football to the world. I had phone calls from Australia, Vietnam, and the United States, all from people who found out about blind football due to him so he's done his bit."
The success of the team in the European Championships and their good run of form leading up to the Paralympic games can only have served to raise awareness of the game to the British public.
Clarke learned to play football when he was a twelve-year-old attending a boarding school in Worcester where he would play against boys up to six years older than himself using a normal size five football filled with ball bearings. Having received no formal coaching until he was twenty five, he commented on how frustrating it had been to have no outlet for his talents.
Leading up past European Championships, like his teammates, he lived the life of an amateur professional sportsman - a double life which the father of two admits can be difficult. Having to juggle his regular career as a banker and negotiating family life whilst practicing football drills alone in his garage was no easy task.
This contrasts starkly with the training facilities, immense financial support and fame enjoyed by the Premier League players who failed to turn these opportunities into victories while wearing England shirts at the World Cup in South Africa.
However, the situation has now improved with the sport's development which has included a £21.5m, state-of-the-art sports centre at the team's home at the Royal National College, as well as the creation of a football academy in 2008. This facility is the home training ground for the Paralympic team and was host of 2010 Blind World Football Championships.
Nonetheless the team are still part time…. The squad only meet 6 times a year to train together!!! The remainder of the time is spent training on their own and it is a wonder that the team were ever able to challenge the world's best – and no surprise that the GBs part timers didn’t achieve a medal at the Paralympics when faced with such opposition. In Brazil, government funding means there are about 80 blind football teams where players are full-time, as they are in Argentina, France, Spain and China. In fact GB was one of only two teams, along with Turkey, to remain as part time.
David Clarke has commented on this situation saying. "I don't want people to do it my way anymore. You shouldn't be able to. Football should be the only thing you're doing, or you're not doing it to the best of your ability."
The case for additional funding for the GB team of £1m over four years is being considered by UK Sport, which would help make a podium finish in Rio 2016 viable possibility. "Next time round we want to be in there fighting for a medal. If we get the investment we will be, if we don't we certainly won't … there's a precipice behind [the decision]." Said Clarke.
Additional funding would not mean any of the players received a wage, but it would cover their costs and therefore enable the team to meet and train at the newly opened FA facility, St George's Park. This would allow access to specially designed facilities set up for blind players on a weekly basis and would help match the opportunities available to their rivals France, Spain, Iran, China and Brazil.
David is on record as having praised the "phenomenal" work done by the Football Association over the past decade in growing the sport. "It's been made very clear that the St George's Park project very much includes us and the plan is that all the squads will train out of that site. It's a phenomenal resource to be included in," said Clarke.
Although there is an ongoing argument about the inclusion of British football teams in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Clarke said it would be a pity if it affected the Paralympic teams and the women's side. "I think it's essential they continue to be involved. The men's argument is a difficult one and I understand the differing views. But for women's football, blind football and CP football – what might be described as the minority elements – it's a fantastic opportunity to showcase and drive forward talent."
David scored the final goal for GB at the London Paralympics before bowing out from playing competitively, however he is still involved in the sport and was recently chosen as an Ambassador for the Football Association’s 150 year celebrations describing his selection as ‘an honour and a privilege’
David also has higher goals than just winning games. He wants to help make people look beyond blindness.
"I think people are finally getting the message that disabled people aren't interested in talking about their disability. They want to get on with the game.
"I'd love it if people thought, 'I want to see an outstanding game of football', and the blindness was secondary."
"We're part of the journey to take blind football in the UK to parity with sighted football”
Let’s hope that this journey continues to be a successful one where everyone with a passion for football are given the same opportunities and status; making football for all a winner.
You can follow David on Twitter
A view from where I am
"Women should be in the kitchen, the discothèque and the boutique, but not in football." (Ron Atkinson, 1989)This may seem to many like an outdated attitude towards women with the rising number of female football supporters, increased media coverage of women’s football and women holding high profile positions within the sport. But have attitudes moved on? Or is football still seen as a ‘man’s game’?
I can only write from my own experiences and perspective. I was born into a football supporting family…my dad and uncles all played and were fanatical supporters so it was second nature for me to follow in their footsteps: football is in my blood!
As a girl growing up in North West London in the 1970s, it seemed to many a bit strange or quirky that I was so passionate about the beautiful game, but was accepted because I was a bit of a ‘tomboy’. During the 1970’s there was a problem with hooliganism at football games and mainly because of this my parents didn’t allow me to attend matches, but this didn’t stop me being an avid follower and I watched Grandstand and World of Sport, Match of the Day and The Big Match religiously. I couldn’t get enough of It.!!
Eventually in September 1981 I was allowed to go to a live game and I was ecstatic! Standing on those terraces, I felt like I’d found my spiritual home! However, I soon realised that not all my fellow fans accepted me, as a female, to be a genuine or equal fan, still seeing football grounds as a bastion of masculinity, where females only entered as the wife, girlfriend or daughter of a fan, not in her own right. I heard many comments to this effect but a turning point for me was when I had shouted that a player was ‘offside!’ and I was jeered and mocked by a group of male supporters near me who said ‘What do you know? You’re only a girl!!’ This made me doubt my knowledge and so to prove to myself (and to them) I trained and qualified to be a football referee. This too wasn’t taken seriously by the other referee students; nine males who made me feel uncomfortable by making comments such as ‘You’re on the wrong course, you should be in the cookery course’ and sniggering whenever I offered any of my views .Determined to succeed I made them eat their words by qualifying with the highest mark in our cohort!!
Thirty years on, have we moved on from this notion that football is a masculine domain? On the surface it may seem so, with the past few decades seeing a significant increase in female supporters attending games and indeed playing and participating at all levels.
Robert Jobson of the Evening Standard claims that one in four fans going through the turnstiles are female and this is backed up by research made by Match Day Media for the Independent showing that total female attendance at top-flight games is in the region of 2.5 million.
The English FA report that women’s football is the nation’s number one female team participation sport with an estimated 1.38 million women and girls regularly playing, making women’s football the third largest team sport behind only men’s football and cricket! In England over 27,000 females have successfully attained FA coaching qualifications and the number of female referees has reached 843, an increase of 12 per cent since 2008. These trends may in part be due to exposure of high profile women in football in recent years such as Norwich City FC joint Majority Shareholder and fanatical supporter Delia ‘lets be ‘aving you’ Smith, former Managing Director of Birmingham City FC, Karen Brady, who is now Vice Chair of West Ham United FC and Harpreet Grewal, Head of Customer Relations and England fans at the FA.
The success and increase in interest and coverage of the national women’s team in the 2011 World Cup in Germany, where they reached the quarter-finals losing out to France in a penalty shoot-out, and the coverage of women’s football at the London Olympics can only serve to increase awareness and acceptance that women are very much part of the sport.
Football being presented by females such as Gabby Logan, Helen Chamberlain and Rebecca Lowe can also help women in football to be regarded as equals and establish this as more of a norm. However, the fact that people like veteran presenter Des Lynham have been put on record as saying that the female voice commentating was inferior to a male’s describing it as ‘grating’ (The Telegraph, August 11, 2012) and that it has taken until now for a woman presenter to cover the FA Cup with Rebecca Lowe anchoring ESPNs coverage, suggests that football commentating it is still regarded as a male province by some. Indeed, if you ‘Google’ Rebecca Lowe, two of the most popular searches are ‘Hot’ and ‘legs’. This implies the lack of seriousness afforded to her by some.
This underlying sexism was also apparent in Jan 2011 when Sian Massey was appointed as assistant referee for Liverpool’s Premiership clash with Wolves, and Richard Keys and Andy Gray were recorded making derogatory comments about her abilities with Keys saying “Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her,” and Gray replying: “Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.” I have heard people saying this was harmless banter. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bit of banter, but is this type a laddish excuse to hide sexist and misogynistic views behind? In the 1970s people got away with racist comments by saying they were jokes, and that people were being too sensitive, thankfully today most of theses comments would be deemed as totally unacceptable, but are we being too sensitive about sexist portrayal of women? There is a fine line between subtle resentment that a woman does not belong and plain offensiveness.
I can understand people appreciating the physical qualities of a sportsman or woman, indeed their fitness and the aesthetic qualities that are coupled with this affords this and footballers themselves have marketed this aspect themselves, a prime example being David Beckham and his underwear modelling, however this should not eclipse or detract from their sporting abilities and worth.
Sometimes obsession with the physical form can be taken to an extreme and offensive level…A couple of examples from the past few weeks: a ‘ banter’ page on social networking site which displayed photo’s of female football players and supporters and asked the question ‘Smash or Dash’ Offensive or banter?
Another page being promoted on some football pages is entitled ‘Tits, fanny and football’. I know many would find this as degrading and offensive and could also be seen as perpetuating and reinforcing sexist stereotypes.
In my personal experience I have felt that my opinion is valued by both my male and female football supporter friends, in fact I help admin football pages and groups alongside a good mix of genders and feel we are all appreciated equally. Now and then I have heard comments such as ‘get back in the kitchen ‘and women’s football being described as the ‘comedy match’ and it would be interesting to find out how seriously these views are held.
I feel that there are issues that need to be further investigated and addressed so that on every level football can truly be for everyone. Oscar Wilde may have said ‘Football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but is hardly suitable for delicate boys.’
But I believe the beautiful games is for us all.