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Sing a New Song

Tim Turner is mystified by the amount of breath that is wasted taunting opposing fans


I love singing at football matches. Whether it’s a song celebrating a player, or one of the old favourites like ‘Elton John’s Taylor-made army’, I will belt it out with gusto, just as long as there are other people around me who have already taken it up. No one wants to hear me take a solo.

But there’s one category of song or chant I never join in with, epitomised by the charmless ‘Your support is flipping shoddy’ (I’ve changed a couple of the words for the benefit of more sensitive readers) aimed in the direction of the away fans. 

I sometimes think I must have missed a meeting – the one where it was officially agreed that the size and volume of a club’s support actually matters. Apart from anything else, the fact that there are fans in the away end at all – and it’s been well-filled for most games I’ve attended for as long as I can remember – suggests that their support isn’t shoddy at all. And on the rare occasions when they’re so few in number that they must have ‘come in a taxi’, well, that shows admirable dedication on the part of those that made the journey.

As much as anything, it’s the lack of any basic logic that annoys me. When away supporters at Vicarage Road chant ‘Shoddy ground, no fans’ at us, it suggests that they are either blind, or have unrealistically inflated expectations of a Championship football stadium. Similarly, I’ve been at games when the Rookery has been awash with noise for 80 minutes; then, in a brief lull, the inevitable chant wafts over from the Vicarage Road end: ‘Is this a library?’ I’d love to be able to use the video screens to send a response along the lines of ‘Obviously it isn’t, you dumbheads, unless you frequent a library where two thousand people are liable to chant ‘Yellow army’ for 10 minutes at a time’.

The fact is that some games are so uninspiring that fans will inevitably fall quiet, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. And, for all that footballers love to say how much the backing of the crowd helps them, we know they don’t actually need it. The Covid-hit 2020/21 season proved that, when Watford achieved promotion with no supporters in the ground at all (apart from three games with limited numbers of spectators allowed). Indeed, the fact that they did so with the best home record in the club’s history (19 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats – one of them when the fans were allowed in) could be interpreted as suggesting that the presence of fans actually makes it harder for the team to perform.

I’m no sociologist, but I suspect that the reason these chants and songs aimed at the opposition’s supporters persist in the 21st century is a legacy of the hooligan heyday of the 1970s and 80s. Back then, there were football fans – not too many of them in yellow, thankfully – who seemed to genuinely believe that (literally) beating the opposing supporters was important. Those days are long behind us, aside from the occasional incident, but they live on in the childish taunting from the safety of stands positioned at opposite ends of the ground.

Because that’s what it is, at the end of the day – childish. Singing ‘Your support is flipping shoddy’ is the adult equivalent of an eight-year-old in a playground chanting that another kid smells, to which the latter responds that his dad is bigger than the other boy’s dad. And so it goes on, until a teacher comes and breaks it up and they all go inside for milk and biscuits.

You know what? Maybe it’s time for football fans to grow the flip up.