Monday, August 23, 2010

Credit Blackpool supporters

I was at the Emirates Stadium for the Arsenal v Blackpool game on Saturday and just wanted to note how impressed I was with the Blackpool supporters.  They sang and cheered the whole way through the game particularly in the second half, even when their team was taking a pasting.  The 6-0 final scoreline could have been much higher if Arsenal could convert the chances they create at the same rate as rivals Chelsea or Manchester United.  Arsenal had 21 clear chances in the game.  By comparision Chelsea converted 6 from 10 chances two weekends in a row.

Yet despite the fact that their team were totally outclassed, the Blackpool supporters sang on about how it was their best day out ever and even cheekily critiqued the Arsenal fans with a chorus of "5-0 and you still can't sing".

Compare that to the Arsenal fans who were singing "Stand up if you hate Tottenham" to the same tune and it is clear which set of supporters are likely to being most enjoyment to football stadia this year.  My 11 year old was embarrassed about the hate chant and asked why Arsenal supporters disliked Tottenham so much.  I explained the history - Arsenal's move from Woolwich to Highbury, and the way in which Henry Norris the club chairman at the time managed to get Arsenal promoted at the expense of Spurs just after the first world war, despite the fact that Arsenal had only finished fifth in the second division.  My son's assessment -
"It's stupid that the supporters should still hate each other for that. It's stupid that football supporters should hate each other at all."
Smart kid. Being biased I would say that of course. In any case I just wanted to note my admiration for the Blackpool fans whose good cheer and positive attitude is to be commended most highly (as Hercule Poirot might say). 

It's worth noting too they had a point about the Arsenal fans not being able to sing.  It's been of concern to Arsene Wenger since the move to the Emirates stadium that the atmostsphere can be a bit dead on match days. The Arsenal authorities decided to try and improve that by renaming the stands and playing the music over the tannoy much louder than before on Saturday.  The thing is, the kind of folk who can now afford a seat at the Emirates (eg yours truly occasionally) are not necessarily comfortable with singing and cheering as part of a mob in public, whilst sitting in an ordered arrangement of modern padded seating well removed from the pitch.  A couple of teenagers not far from us, who lead the hate Tottenham chant, repeatedly, reinforced with expletives, yelled at the crowd to "sing up". They made clear their displeasure at not getting a response with further expletives, whilst parents (we were in the family enclosure) round and about did their best to protect their offspring from the bad language. 

Now kids love singing and it really shouldn't be too difficult to get them to sing - in the section of the crowd we were in - to support their team. And don't get me wrong, the crowd did manage occasional choruses expressing admiration for Arsene Wenger, Cesc Fabregas and the 'best team there's ever been'. But there really is something about the combination of the architecture of a modern football stadium, the natural reservedness of the kinds of people who can afford to frequent such venue, and the antagonistic attitude of the modern football supporter which we recoil from which can deaden the atmostsphere in the ground.  I don't know if it is something that can be fixed.  Maybe a strategically placed collection of cheerleaders with a fun Blackpool supporters' type approach could help.

Finally credit should also go to the Blackpool players who, despite being hammered and being down to 10 men after half an hour, battled on until the end, kept trying to play decent football and never resorted to the usual 'kick 'em off the pitch' tactics of many of Arsenal's opponents. Very well done to Blackpool football club and their supporters.

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