Football in crisis: Are fans losing the stands?

I remember back in the day (it was 1995), I was on the way up to Chesterfield to watch them play Watford in an old Division Three game when over the radio we heard that the game was off. With a car full of disheartened souls who were craving football action, my uncle made the unprecedented step to not give in to the elements, to keep the dream alive, and treat our eyes to a football feast by suggesting we go watch a game somewhere else. I was just an excited kid who loved football, my mind started running away with itself, ‘who could we watch?’ I thought…plenty of clubs in the M1/M25 area, maybe White Hart Lane to watch Tottenham or over to Highbury to see Arsenal? (I had no concept of ticketing issues at this age).

It would be neither of these clubs…

We ended up at Underhill to watch Barnet.

Now I wasn’t exactly enthralled by this prospect, to me at that age Barnet drew the same reaction as Accrington Stanley…’Who are they?’ Exactly. But football is football, I was ready to go with the flow and enjoy the game. We entered the family stand at Underhill which was all terrace at the time, much to my dismay, and were ushered up the terrace towards a group of what I thought at the time were ‘proper nawty geezers’. My little legs were so weak back then, I needed a seat, I had a little moan up and was quickly told to shut up and enjoy the game…so I did. I quickly scouted the pitch for a few names I may know…there were none, but a few players instantly stood out. Barnet’s keeper that day was Maik Taylor, they had the defender of Christianity Linvoy Primus and a striker that I could only describe as a thorough-bred horse…he had flowing long hair and an eye for goal. His name was Sean Devine.

Instantly Sean Devine became a new favourite player for me, even more so when he bagged a goal as well. It wasn’t just me who loved him, so did the Barnet faithful, the ‘right nawty geezers’ behind us…the Sean Devine song started which went something like this “da da da da da da da Sean Devine, Sean Devine” it was a cracker, a classic 90′s dance tune with Sean Devine on the end, what could be better. Even though, as you may have guessed, I can’t exactly remember what the tune was, this song at the time blew me away and was also amusing. It didn’t stop there, the Barnet fans had another version, and I could hardly contain myself. The atmosphere at that game and the songs the fans sung that day were so good it is one of the most enjoyable matches for me of all time; I still remember it now.

I used to love a bit of atmosphere and some cleverly thought out chants. So what the f$%k has happened? Where are all the banter chants? Clever songs for players and teams that are not just your standard chants, they are well thought out, actually amusing to fans whether you are home or away. Maybe I am going too far, just having fans sing in the first place, creating atmosphere, would be nice.

One of my favourite songs as a kid was at Watford (I don’t support them BTW) around the Christmas period where the Hornets fans rolled out a few Christmas carol chants:

Away in a manger,
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Sat up and he said…


It was genius, started off sounding like a really nice Christmas carol…and then it would drop, bang, heroic effort. This tune wasn’t isolated; there were enough versions of different Christmas themed songs to bring out a Christmas special album that I would be happy to get in my stocking. It was pure banter in the Vicarage Road end at Watford, there was a grumpy old steward called ’Old Git’ who used to get chanted at ‘old git, old git…old git, old git’ with the ultimate moment being when everyone made the old git sound at him Harry Enfield style. He would respond by issuing the crowd either a yellow or red card, banter.

Then there was ’Wolfy’, the programme seller who still works at Watford now, who looks like a wolf…so everyone used to have a Wolfy chant they would sing and then everyone would howl. It was just good banter where you made characters of club legends who loved being a minor celebrity every match day. Where has the banter gone?

I understand more than most that times have changed and football has changed, less ‘real’ fans and more ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ / ‘football tourists’ taking away from the atmosphere . But come on, it doesn’t mean that we can’t still have a bit of banter with chants and keep them going all game, not just a ‘you only sing when your winning’ mentality. Imagine if the players came out only half up for a game…you would get beaten every week. So why do us fans not get up for games now? We should be going to battle in the stands, winning the noise war and insprining our team. Where has football fans passion, creativity and sense of humour gone?

Times have changed and the plight of the football chant has been highlighted by Harry Redknapp’s comments over the weekend regarding Arsenal fans chants at Adebayor in the norf London derby. Arsenal fans were getting their own back with the chant “It should have been you — shot dead in Angola, it should have been you.” A little harsh to say the least, based on actual events other than complete fiction – a bridge too far.

Rightly or wrongly Adebayor is used to the abuse; Spurs fans favourite song recently has been about Adebayor’s dad washing elephants and his mum being a whore…obviously this was until he signed for Spurs and the Tottenham fans had to come up with an alternative…several versions are floating around, my favourite is ’Adebayor, Adebayoooooorrrr, he stamped on a rapist and slid on the floor’. It is actually quite genius when you think about it in context and is just a bit of banter instead of a harsh insult based on actual events.

Harry has come out and condemned Arsenal fans for these chants, but Spurs fans have done it for the past 2/3 season at Adebayor and ‘Arry has had an Ian Woan before about Spurs fans chants at Sol Campbell. Society is strange, we are more politically correct (PC) than ever before in all aspects of life, but via TV and now the internet society is less PC than ever and desensitised to violence and also verbal abuse to a certain extent.

Singing in the stands is part of football, fans should be encouraged to sign long and loud and more and more chants should come to fruition in my opinion. I get Redknapp’s point, it was wrong, but we are slowly going toward a morgue environment, it is up to us fans to do a bit better and keep the special buzz around football.

Football chants are tribal and important for football fans belonging and feeling part of their club. Managers are all too happy when the crowd gets behind the team and acts as a ‘twelfth man’, but not so happy if things get harsh. Whatever the right and wrong of this is, us football fans need to have a word with ourselves and pump up the volume and be a bit imaginative if we want to keep the tradition’s of football going.

So football fans, don’t let football die…save the chant and save live football as before you know it you will get more atmosphere in your front room than you will at a live game.

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  1. Paul Edwards says:

    The fans at our home games are weak, at Highbury we had a rocking atmopshere, since the move to the Emirates we seem to have nothing. I think it was because of the segmentation of the singers when we moved and they have tried to address this, but in general it is a bit embarressing and it does feel a little tourist at times. You can easily spot those fans that never go, usually mumbling the words to chants and taking pictures every 5 minutes, hate them and they only make the atmosphere worse.

  2. Slinky says:

    This article is spot on. That is all.

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