Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Why must I support Man United, why can't I support Port Vale?

Coz I'm not a local fan? Didn't stop me supporting Manchester United though did it! IT'S COZ MY DAD SUPPORTED THEM OK?!

My army of Port Vale fans will probably ask me "Doug, how can you complain, your team is the best (wink) team in England, has legions of fans, whilst boasting a history prouder than Piers Morgan at Christmas dinner (they wouldn't say that, I would, because if I don't make enough metaphors/Piers Morgan references, the world will end)?" I'm about to explain to you why in my crazy, hard to understand style. Try to keep up, if you're a Port Vale fan and thus from the East Midlands...try harder to keep up.

Yes, supporting United throughout the nineties, noughties and the bleurghshfsfd-ties has been good to me, I have been spoilt. And that's the problem! The difficulty now remains in managing expectations, and when those expectations are not met, I find myself blacking out in people's driveways in a river of my own tears and vomit. Honestly, fans of lesser teams (which is everyone except Basel, Benfica, Athletic Bilbao - all great clubs - and half of Europe) it is no walk in the park. Especially if you support a team which insists on making life difficult for themselves and - more importantly - me.

The agony of a title race affects us all
United demand success and - generally - get it. A curse/blessing of this is that when the season reaches its climax, United's games take on added significance, knowing that one slip-up could be decisive. When the season ends, the plaudits/commiserations are handed out and after that, we can all breathe for a few months. I become an avid Surrey cricket supporter, get slightly tanned and put on more weight due to not losing kilos of body weight in perspiration. And I'm happy with that! In July, look at my face and it is happy, in March and April, that same face is riddled with evidence of crying and self-harm, although still retaining its striking good looks and distinctive cheekbones. These next few weeks see the cycle come back around, and it was never more evident than earlier this week. Three weeks ago, I looked at this fixture with relish. Approaching the pub at quarter to eight on Monday, I wanted to run home and cry.

Manchester United vs. Fulham.

Routine home win, innit? Fulham are useless away from home, United are near the top of the league. Well, no it isn't because, being part-Scottish, I harbour a constant state of pessimism and anxiety, with my inferiority complex coming to the fore...which disguises my genetic addiction to heroin.

These games are NEVER routine. Monday’s game was seen as an opportunity for the home side to erode Manchester City's goal difference advantage, a suggestion I scowled at, saying "I'll bite your hand off for a 1-0". Be careful what you bloody wish for because, such were my nerves and excessive fingernail-biting, I may as well have bitten my own hand off.

I get laughed at occasionally for my perception of United games, but these same people are generally smug supporters of inferior teams who ultimately fall short in January, never experiencing the hell of these months. As much as I despise them at times, I still envy them. I still yearn for mediocrity, for an end to the bloodshed (again, fingernails) and agony. In many ways, these months are more dangerous to me than they were to middle-eastern leaders last year. Arab spring? More like angst spring.

Anyway, I digress...for 600 words.

United set about their opponents in their distinctive style, e.g. look comfortable until a random mistake/poor final ball. My friends (and regular pub-goers in South London...yes I'm from South London, get over it) will understand that I find imperfection in the most earnest of attempts to succeed. In other words, I am never happy and I end up criticising people far more talented and important than me. But that's just football. We are powerless to influence it, despite what some fans may think e.g. by singing at the TV in pubs.

No caption needed.
After a start of breathless - literally - mediocrity, United eventually took the lead through Wayne Rooney. Thank God for Rooney. Your side taking the lead should be cause for celebration and, for two minutes, it was. Then the nerves really set in.

"Oh crap" you think, "now we have something to lose!"

My face after 89 minutes.
Such is the nature of the Premier League and - with all due respect - Fulham, home games of this nature are geared so that anything less than victory is inadequate. At this point, your missus/anyone who doesn't understand football will say "oh it was a draw? At least you didn't lose". I know you're reading this and you know who you are, so here's a tip. NEVER, EVER SAY THAT!

With a 1-0 lead, I found myself (kinda) in possession of this glory and with 45 minutes remaining to relinquish it, my nerves increased to the point where my fingernails were smaller than Nick Clegg's approval rating (not an innuendo for male sex organ, but if you dislike him that much, then go ahead).

The second half was torture. In hindsight, Fulham offered NOTHING. They were actually really poor, but with each missed United chance and every minute closer to full-time, my moans and despair became more and more prominent. "They're gonna get a chance, and you just know they'll score...and I bet it'll be Danny frigging Murphy" I said. Sure enough, with three minutes left, Fulham actually approached the United penalty area, my bum cheeks clenched so hard I felt faint and Michael Carrick - mediocre at the best of times - tumbled into the aforementioned Danny frigging Murphy. "NO PENALTY, GET UP YOU DIVING SCOUSE B*****D" I (probably) yelled. Upon further inspection and multiple replays, it was probably an absolutely certain, definite penalty, but I wasn't to know, my view was obscured by my hands and my extreme bias. P.S Danny Murphy is actually a pretty decent guy, it's just difficult to think properly at times.

But still a clear dive.
When the full-time whistle went, I nearly fell off my chair with relief. The nerves were gone and I was safe for another few days. I walked home with a spring in my step, grinning at strangers who stared back with a mix of consternation, anger and awe. I was free from the tension... until the next game. That game is Blackburn away and - despite their general uselessness, apparently inept manager and often clueless fans - I know that I will still bite off some hands for a simple 1-0 win. Why? Because lesser teams raise their game when they know they're playing a team I support.

But that's the nature of the beast I'm afraid! I hate title races, but I'd be lost and half-dead without them. You know that City fan who started crying at Swansea? Inside, I'm just like him...only taller and not full of pie and nicotine.

Women like a man who can cry.
But women also like TOWIE.
If I supported Port Vale, I'd be amongst an "alumni" including Robbie Williams and err...Robbie Williams. But at least I'd have constant weight and status, which is kind of ironic.

It's not fun and it's not entertaining to support Manchester United, but I have made my football choice, and I will stick by it, even if (when) it takes me to an early grave.

At ten to eight on Monday, I decided to let football entertain me. By ten to ten, I was loving angels instead.


  1. Good one Doug

  2. quite funny Doug , made me grin , greets from man utd fan Gez