Football Fan Top Trumps
Who really are the biggest team in England? Which team has the most history? Who has the worst fans? Tom Gaunt debates all of this and how fans try to decide amongst themselves.
I live in the UAE, a country which turns 40 next weekend. This is an extraordinary fact considering how much has been achieved in that time and the changes that have taken place. Their recent history is remarkable, but beyond that lies the tribal history of the country which is now almost unrecognizable but by no means forgotten. This got me thinking about one of football fans’ favourite taunts. The claim that an opposition club has “no history”. Now technically the UAE as a country has a limited history as it has been in existence for a fraction of the time of other nations but this argument doesn’t really apply with most football clubs, except perhaps MK Dons.
For me it seems an odd insult, and one which lacks intelligence. All football teams have different histories, the only difference is that some clubs have had a more successful history. The chant aimed at Chelsea fans shouldn’t be “Care free wherever you may be, you ain’t got not history”. It should be “Care free wherever you may be, during your clubs history, you have failed to win as many trophies as us”, but that doesn’t really have the same ring to it, nor is it even mildly amusing. The first ever football club founded was Notts County, in 1862, so technically they have more history than any club in the world and can mock us all.
This also leads me to the question of what a “Big” club is. Manchester United fans are quick to put their rivals City down by claiming they are a not a big club and more ridiculous still is the claim that they will never be. First things first no fan has a crystal ball, except maybe that mad Pompey fan with the drum - it seems like the kind of thing he would own. So how big a club will be in 20 or 30 years time is anyones guess. Secondly Manchester City are already a big club. They are known worldwide and get around 45,000 fans at home, so we can safely say they are a big club. Add to this the fact that they qualified for the Champions League and are currently the best team in the country.
The trouble football fans have is seeing the grey area between black and white. You are either big or not, you either have history or you ‘, you are either good or rubbish. You would think this would make debates between rival fans dull and pointless but we still take the bait, although the word debate is probably a tad kind. I am as guilty as the next fan of falling into the “my club’s better than yours” trap, but why are we so bothered? You would never argue with a mate about whose job was better or house is nicer. For some reason it means the world to us to prove the opposition wrong. I will use the ”Big 6″ as an example, with City now included. I have also included Spurs although it doesn’t seem like the other top teams seem to care that much nor do I really get into any of these debates with Spurs fans. Maybe they are just more pleasant and modest individuals, or maybe it is because Spurs aren’t really a “Big” club *waits for tirade of abuse from Spurs fans pointing to FA cups and Harry’s revolution*.
The first point of the argument will usually be purely on current form and results, sometimes as short-sighted as the season in hand. Currently City win this argument although this will be countered by Chelsea fans who will claim based on last Monday they are now the best team, and joined by Arsenal fans who will mock their Champions League exit. United fans will normally stay quiet on this point knowing they have plenty of bullets for later in the argument. Based on current team strength this one goes to City.
The ”my team is better than your team” point will normally be countered by the manner by which the opposition has got their glory, this is very common amongst Arsenal fans who will claim almost anyone except them has bought success. Chelsea and City will normally argue that they “don’t care” but Arsenal fans remain smug in the face of this, claiming they are building sensibly for the future, and you can’t really argue with that, although we do. Whilst they have spent some money they usually win in that category of team Top Trumps.
Next comes history. This has two different elements. The first focuses on how recent your team’s success is, and this is where City and Chelsea fall down, as recent success is not as valued as highly and will be considered part of the current form argument. This comment will be followed up by claims that their fans aren’t ”real” or are “glory supporters” how this works with City I am not sure as they haven’t got that much glory yet, but details really are secondary in football fan debates. It is unfortunate for Arsenal with so much past success and even fairly recent success with the “Invincibles” that they get dwarfed by Liverpool and United who win this section hands down. There will then be a further showdown where United fans point out their record 19 titles and Liverpool fans point to 5 European Cups. Sorry United, they may be average now, but Liverpool win the history category.
With the main arguments out of the way, there is normally only one way for the argument to continue. This is normally when the team is taken off the table completely and it is claimed “well your fans are a bunch of c*nts” or something similar. A difficult one to disprove especially with some of the sub-humans we see at games. Now I do not want to claim any team’s fans are better than another’s and these are my personal observations and by no means a scientific process but it does appear to me that certain fans have particular traits. This is from observing first hand, being good friends with opposition fans and worst of all online forums.
It seems to me Spurs fans are fairly mellow, in the past they have seemed resigned to always falling short and therefore never had the opportunity to gloat. As a Chelsea fan I have always liked Spurs, not so much now they are good though. City fans seem to have found their voice recently and there is a certain confidence about them, and why not. Their main concern seems to be finishing above United though and you wonder if they would be perfectly happy in mid-table as long as United were below them. As a Chelsea fan I am biased, but I would say that, like AVB, we often feel we are not given enough credit and are misrepresented, we never claim to have been successful in the past but we are now so we will shout loud and proud about that. United fans are not as bad as they could be in my opinion. There is a certain smugness that they and Fergie posses but that is to be expected. The years of Premier League domination see them acting pretty calm in most situations knowing that they always have a fairly robust argument. Arsenal fans seem a little confused. They are not sure whether they are proud of the youth development programme that has obsessed Wenger, or annoyed at the lack of trophies. To be fair I think they are handling their barren patch well and accepting of problems in most debates. Finally this brings me to Liverpool fans. Now as a disclaimer I need to mention that my best friend is a Liverpool fan so I may be biased, one way or the other. It seems like the greatest trait that Liverpool fans possess is delusion. They seem unable to accept their current place in the pecking order. Every season they truly believe they will win the league and all of their signings are brilliant, until they inevitably prove otherwise. I will say this for them though, they are highly supportive of the team, manager and fiercely loyal. They are the fans that would rather die than admit that they aren’t as good as they thought at the start of the season, or Kenny might have made a bit of an error with Carroll. The depth to which they blindly support their team is unrivalled. As a Chelsea fan I must admit that if a Liverpool fan were to claim that the roar of the Kop beats any other I would have to agree, but fans alone don’t win you trophies, just arguments.