Tag Archives: football rivalry

Celtic Fans Open to Ridicule Over Rangers “Old Firm” Claims – by Rob Atkinson

At Leeds United, we’re no strangers to the unwelcome feeling and experience of your club in crisis. We’ve seen our beloved Whites pushed to the brink of actual expiry and ejection from the league; we’ve seen administration and League sanctions. Spectacular collapse and the plummet from the heights of the game to the depths of despair was a process raised almost to a perverse art form by United – to the point that it became known as “doing a Leeds”. So we know what crisis, despair and poverty are all about – the only thing that can really surprise a Whites fan these days is to see a club in straits even more dire.

Which brings me on to Glasgow Rangers FC. There is no need for me to re-hash here exactly what has happened to them over the past few years. In short, it was a precipitous fall, and an unprecedented reduction in status. From being permanent members of a top two cartel, Rangers were sent spinning into the gloom and obscurity of Scotland’s lowest major league. The journey back is well under way, but problems beset them still. On Sunday, for the first time since their fall from grace, Rangers face Celtic in the Scottish League Cup semi-final at Hampden Park. The Old Firm rivalry is back, right? Well, not according to the hardly unbiased fans of Celtic FC. Take a moment to look at the rationale espoused by a group of their fans in an advert placed recently.

Celtic fans - are they kidding?

Celtic fans – are they kidding?

Now, surely – these Celtic fans cannot be serious? It’s a wind-up, right? Are they quite barking mad, these loose-lipped Bhoys? What are they worried or insecure about, that they should resort to this? The whole “argument” stated above smacks of trying too hard, a mean-spirited attempt to cast back down a club trying to recover from an almost terminal decline. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Rangers’ fall – and without declaring any particular affiliation on either side of the Old Firm divide – this blog has to state in the strongest possible terms that what we have here is a bunch of partisan yet clueless fans talking fluent rubbish.

Whatever arguments you might summon, whatever contortions you might go through, leaning over backwards to show that black is white – surely the one thing any set of football fans must agree on is the major factor in any football club’s identity. It is the fans, it has to be. The fans embody the tradition and continuity of any club. Football shirts might change colour, as with Cardiff. Ground moves are commonplace these days and have never been unknown. Players, directors, managers and staff come and go, without necessarily having any real connection to the clubs they serve for a time.

So what is the one thread that runs right through a club’s very soul and being? It is the fans, the loyal supporters who follow, follow, through thick and thin, passing on the supporting tradition down the generations, wedded to their club in good times and bad. And it is those Rangers fans, the ones who have stuck by the Rangers FC as they sank to the depths and rose again – they embody Glasgow Rangers and in so doing, they give unquestionable continuity to the institution that is Glasgow Rangers FC. They also make a total mockery of this laughable stance from a set of fans who feel just as passionately about their club – and who have thus allowed themselves to go out on a limb, in trying to kick a club when it’s down, succeeding only in making arrant fools of themselves.

I wouldn’t particularly care, normally, who wins on Sunday at Hampden. I miss the Old Firm games for their passion and spectacle, it’s for those reasons that I always tune in to watch and would one day like to attend one of these occasions. The tradition of atmospheric support from both sets of fans, with tempers frequently running high on the park and referees praying for the final whistle to come with as little as possible actual violence – that’s so much of what football should be about. These are factors which are gradually being marginalised in the modern game as a whole, with increasing gentrification everywhere and a diminution of the raucous passion we of a certain age remember. But all of that is still present at certain fixtures – Leeds against Man U is one, Newcastle versus Sunderland bears a mention – there is el Clásico, of course. But the grand-daddy of them all is the Old Firm game – even if a lot of the cause and reason behind this fact isn’t of a particularly savoury or relevant nature.

So where do these Celtic fans get off, trying to defuse, deflate, diminish all of this? Don’t they realise how much the game north of the border needs its return, and in full rude health at that? For goodness’ sake, Celtic need it. Surely, these pompous, paragraph-quoting fools are kidding. If they’re not, then they deserve the ridicule that should be coming their way. And, for the record, against my normal neutral Old Firm stance – I would say to them “If you really do mean this – then you’re idiots; and I hope you get stuffed out of sight on Sunday”. 

Decline of Man U Shows the Premier League Needs “The Damned United” – by Rob Atkinson

Giggs facepalm as Man U decline

Giggs facepalm as Man U decline

When the Premier League lost Leeds United, it lost more than just another member club. With Leeds went a focal point for all those nasty, negative emotions that are so much a part of a football fan’s essential make-up. Football has always been a source of catharsis – a safety valve, if you will, for the letting-off of pent-up steam – even back in the days when the game was a lot more tribal than it is now, when there was no steep financial pecking order, when players were a lot closer to fans both literally and economically.  Nowadays, under the all-seeing glare of perpetual TV coverage and in an era when every fan is in touch with every other fan courtesy of social media, it is even more the case that such a soap opera needs its villains as well as its heroes.

Over the past decade, in the absence of The Damned United, it has been Man U that, paradoxically given their numerous triumphs, have more often than not filled the villain’s role in the minds of many.  Of course, every team is someone’s villain, someone’s hero too. It’s a question of balance and degree; between extremes there are a number of comparatively pallid clubs which inspire nothing more than indifference in the minds of the masses, the likes of West Ham, Newcastle and Aston Villa who are hated or loved locally but largely ignored everywhere else. Some teams are much more loved than hated beyond their own provincial spheres: Liverpool and Arsenal for example.  And some are hated passionately for differing reasons of varying validity.  Man U and Leeds are two such clubs.

Obviously as a Leeds fan I have a view on what’s behind the hatred directed at both clubs. In the case of Leeds, it seems to be down to historical myths surrounding Don Revie’s grisly hard but enormously skilful and hard-done-by Super Leeds, with added seasoning provided by the misdeeds of some of our over-zealous fans down the years.  The case for hating Man U is, I would argue, down to what I can only sum up as “intrinsic detestability”. In other words, it’s just something about the institution; the attitude, the arrogance and the vainglory of club, employees and supporters alike.  The fawning of the media over them, the way they have capitalised on a historic tragedy to build a global franchise, while still, with no apparent appreciation of the irony of this, calling Liverpool the City of Pity.  The time-honoured tradition of favourable treatment by referees and administrators, the former group of gentlemen managing somehow to give 88% of 50-50 decisions the way of the Mighty Red Devils over an extended period.  “We’re Man United, we’ll do what we want”, you hear sung in mixed cockney and West Country accents, and it’s something the game’s authorities have seemed loath to dispute. Given all this, they’re easy to hate – for me and thousands of other discerning Leeds fans, anyway.

This visceral hatred was accentuated under the tyrannical reign of the former manager Alex Ferguson; the scum (as we fondly refer to them down Elland Road way) won more, they were more arrogant and reprehensible in their conduct, they got much more given to them on a plate.  Give or take the odd dodgy offside and penalty here and there, that era is over and, as the latest result shows – unseemly celebration over a 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea – the illusion of invincibility and the assumption of superiority both seem to have gone with it.

The outcome is that Man U have now been drawn back into the pack and superseded by the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool and, last season, even Everton and Spurs.  Champions League qualification is no longer a given; the edifice that the empire was built on may well be crumbling.  One effect of this is that Man U are going to be a lot less easy for some to hate as they further decline – it may well be that only those who have always hated them will still have this particular emotional outlet.

In 2008, a poll in the “Sun” newspaper still had Leeds United as the number one most hated club in the land; this was four long and harrowing years after the Whites had dipped out of the Premier League.  By 2012 another poll had Man U succeeding Leeds as most-hated.  Leeds had by now been out of the spotlight for eight years, but were still sung about in terms of extreme disapproval at grounds around the country, not least the Pride of Devon’s own Theatre of Hollow Myths. Man U’s continuing dominance, however, had seen them move clear as the number one hate target nationwide.

Now, it all seems to be up for grabs again as the fallen franchise appears likely to slide further away from the top of the game, with the tyranny of Alex McTaggart an increasingly distant memory. Over time, they will haemorrhage support, but there’s a waiting list of Milton Keynes mugs and suckers, so in the short term the turnstiles will continue to click as the glory-hunting hordes travel North every fortnight or so.  It is the notoriety of hate that they stand to lose, the perverse respect accorded to any club top of the nation’s most-despised list.  There will be a gap at the hate end of everyone’s emotions, a vacancy for a perennial panto villain.

As the Man U star wanes, it’s possible that other candidates for most-hated might emerge. Chelsea under Mourinho are the equivalent, for some, of fingernails scraped down a blackboard.  Liverpool – with Suarez on their books – seemed to have a certain potential, especially with the media smiling upon them again. But with Luis gone, their detestabilty potential has declined, with Balotelli more of a clown than a hate figure so far. Man City with their millions and billions may attract the envious aspect of hatred, but these days they’re being shamelessly out-spent by a desperate scum, who used to affect to look down their nose at such a sordid way of courting success. But for all this variable hate potential, I would suggest that none of those candidates really cut the mustard in quite the same way that Leeds United did, and still do.

A return to the top flight for Leeds would probably fill this vitriol vacuum. All that is needed to test the likelihood of this is a swift look around the internet message boards on any occasion when Leeds play a top flight team in a cup. “Come back, we miss you” is the gist of it. And they do miss us – they miss the atmosphere, the raucous indomitability of our away support, the whole Dirty Leeds legend. They miss hating Leeds United.

The simple fact is, now that the most despicable British club of all seems to be descending into a more benign mediocrity, long bereft of their choleric Scottish dictator and his ability to give the rest of the game the hair-dryer treatment, they miss us more than ever.  And yet all we seem to do down at Elland Road is run around in small circles, victims of self-inflicted crises as the revolving door on the Head Coach office spins itself into a dizzy blur. Leeds United simply have to get their act together – urgently. In short, now that Man U are crap, the game is in sore need of that focus for hatred which we always so effortlessly provided.

So do the game a favour, Leeds, for badness’ sake. Sort yourselves out, get back up there and get on with being hated in your own inimitable fashion. Drive your enemies mad with impotent rage again as you make those of us who love you proud once more, in that deliciously perverse manner of the old days.

You know it’s your destiny – we all know it – and, now more than ever, you owe it to your public to fill that void at the very top of the Hate Parade.