I have been a rascal over the last number of weeks. Let me explain… During the 1990s I became a member of a large movement known as the ABUs (anyone but United) that is dedicated to cheering for any team against the Manchester corporation.
It was all done in jest of course, but following last Sunday’s home defeat to Swindon or Scunthorpe or whoever it was in the FA Cup, taunting the Man U fans was like poking a rottweiler with a stick. Whoa!
They were furious and venting their spleen at yer man Moyes the new gaffer. For several years I have been telling the ‘Herald soccer expert Tommy that Moyes ain’t it. I was advised my view was offside and I best stick to the aul GAA.
A lad called ‘Doc’ threatened to stop speaking to me if I continued to poke fun at Man U’s tumble. Ah, Doctor I was only having the craic lak! United fans have been going crazy. Crazy! I tell you. Calm down, cool the jets for goodness sake and get a bit of perspective.
I know a man of 50 plus; let’s call him Maurice, for that is his name. He went with his buddy to watch his beloved United showing in the local pub. During the game, he got into an unmerciful row about a goal or free or something of mammoth proportions. Leaving the bar, he turned to his lifelong mate and said, ‘Why didn’t you back me in there? You have supported United since we were at school.” The wise owl replied, “I know Maurice, but I grew up.”
Grow up! There you go. When Elsie Tanner got married on Coronation Street viewers sent her presents. Her real life husband was delighted with the new toaster and quilts. Richard Hillman got insulted by members of the public after his attempt to drown Gail, although it is unclear whether it was his failure to carry out the heinous crime that most irked folk.
The English Premiership too is a soap opera. Viewers burn the jersey bearing their hero’s name when he asks to leave a club only to run to the sports shop for a replacement after his agent persuades his employer to up his wages.
Throughout the summer the tabloids managed to pack their pages with transfer news as there are no games being played. But neither were there any transfers taking place as the spectators were hooked in to contrived speculation and rumours that top players might be going across to the other side. Apart from yer man Bale going to Spain that was it! Pages and pages and pages like the multiple episodes of a TV soap carrying the viewer along.
When Kevin Keegan left Newcastle it was the main story on the BBC news. Supporters were bereft. More recently, Alex Ferguson stepping up into the stand was treated like a death by sections of the media and his adoring fans. Catch yerselves on!
I was young once, but had to grow up. It’s time to fess. I fanatically followed Everton FC, which really meant watching the video-printer click-click on Saturday afternoons, the digit 7 spelt out in block capitals as if you couldn’t believe the score.
The only live games were cup finals and the World Cup tournament.
English league coverage amounted to highlights of two games on Match of the Day and three on The Big Match on Sunday afternoon. Jimmy Hill, we haven’t forgotten you!
When I was ten years young I had a jigsaw of Everton and Liverpool captains Alan Ball and Alex Lindsay coming out of the tunnel at Goodison Park. I made and remade that puzzle 101 times until Ball went to Arsenal. Such grief. (The wags in this office suggest the jigsaw must have had two pieces!)
I too was distraught when the Toffees lost the Cup semi-final in 1980 to West Ham and shed a wee tear as the team bus went up Wembley Way for the 1984 final. The best of it all is I was never in Merseyside in my life. I knew as much about ferrying across the Mersey as Bob Latchford knew of the barges that went down Coalisland canal. Then one day I grew up.
That’s a whole other story.
During my time in the Bronx I met many of these Man U obsessives from all parts of Ireland. I saw one draped over the bonnet of a car in 1995 when they lost the league and cup double while another swore incessantly at the television, the foam building up around his mouth like a rabid mongrel. Grow up!
When Liverpool’s other famous sons The Beatles broke up in 1970, around the time I was making that jigsaw, their millions of fans, especially the girls, were inconsolable. It shook the headlines.
John Lennon saw through the nonsense. “It’s only a rock group that split up – it’s nothing important,” he said. Lennon told the mourners to get on with their lives and if they wanted to reminisce go out and buy the records. So too the results of football matches between multi-millionaires in England. It’s nothing important. Less of the hysteria Man U supporters.
It’s only a bit of slagging. Time to grow up. ABU!