And so as we reach the pinnacle of the Wigan sporting civil war as Wigan’s three favourite football teams come head to head in the space of six days. These really are the games I cannot stand above any other and they are the games we, as Wigan Athletic fans dreamt of watching many years ago. Why is that? Well for a number of reasons but the main one which is irking me at the minute is Wiganers. Not just any Wiganers though: Wiganers who support Liverpool and Manchester United.
For my sins I get sucked into social media bickering way, way too easily and take way too much notice of idiots but the thing is – when they get challenged as to why they chose not to support their home town football team their usual response is:
“Why would I support Wigan Athletic – I’m not a glory hunter: I’ve always supported United/Liverpool/Everton/City/Bolton/Spurs/Arsenal/Barca/Anzhi Makhachkala”
Good answer, anyone who changes their allegiance can’t be any sort of football fan can they? That’s Johnny Come Lately plastic supporter behaviour isn’t it?
Well not quite, you have to ask the next question which is why did you choose to support that particular club in the first place? What made you choose one team, probably from a city in 90% of any cases you have no biological connection with over bobbing along to your home town team who were in some tinpot lower division?
Why as a born and bred Wiganer did you choose not to support Wigan Athletic but instead chose to support Liverpool or Manchester United?
I mean Manchester and Liverpool are large cities in their own right and their football clubs already possess a large body of supporters from within their own cities. They are already very well supported clubs idolised by the inhabitants of their geographical boundaries – not that many of them can afford to go any more but that’s a different story. They didn’t really need your support, they already fill their grounds and reside in a disproportionately large urban area to much of the country.
Oh and the other old chestnut “Wigan Athletic didn’t exist when I was growing up”
Are you sure? Formed in 1932. How old are you exactly? If you’re over 80 I might let you off. Are you seriously telling me there was a league football team or one or if you’re a little bit older a very big non league team who were regularly playing and beating league teams in the FA Cup in your own town and you didn’t even acknowledge their existence. Have you ever read a newspaper? have you ever extracted your head from deep within your anus?
But back to the big clubs you love. We’ve established that they don’t/didn’t need your support so why did they get it? What’s that you say? 19 league trophies? 5 European Cups? Biggest teams in England and Europe? Hang on, aren’t all these things related to success? And glory? And winning trophies?
Oh right – now we’re getting somewhere – I thought you said that us Wigan Athletic fans were meant to be the glory hunters!!
So did you ever think to look around you, a little closer to home, where a small football club was desperately trying to keep it’s head above water and struggling to manage the wages. Where your few quid a week would really make a difference. Where even now there are thousands of empty seats available for the people of Wigan to occupy but people like you prefer to associate yourself with a team you never watch in the flesh but sit in the alehouse shouting at the box of valves and wires? ‘Ha ha stupid Wigan, s*** crowds, ha ha they’re not my team, that’s not my problem’
Well, not quite you see it is. It’s not the Wigan Athletic fans who turn up week in, week out who deserve the stick – it’s people like you. People who saw a small but perfectly formed football club around the corner but turned their nose at them and aligned yourself loosely with one of the two biggest football clubs in the world who barely needed your support.
‘Yeah but you Latics fans are all glory hunters. Where were you all at Springfield Park? Where were you all before we got into the Premier League?”
You know what, that’s an excellent question and one many of us Latics commentators have asked ourselves many times over.
And we’ve decided that the answer is as follows: It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter whether you were one of the remarkably large number of people who claim to be part of the 1,500 who were there during the darkest days at Springfield Park or this is your first season. What matters now is that you are here now and you are here to stay.
And most Wigan Athletic fans are here to stay: our crowds have remained remarkably resilient throughout the last six years and although around 2,000 disappeared after the initial novelty of Premier League football wore off, our current average of 17,860 is barely a whisker off the 18,000 who have formed part of our regular attendance ever since.
We support a family club with reasonable prices who have no delusions of grandeur and are yet again building a great team with an amazing spirit on a shoe string budget by Premier League standards.
We’ve been fighting relegation in the biggest league in the world, at best briefly climbing up to 10th-14th and have got used to winning a handful of games a season. Yet the fans stand by their team because we know that success is only part of it. When it has come to us, we have enjoyed stuff our wildest dreams could never envisage and we did it watching our home town team and not expecting any of it. Believe me, it makes it all the more amazing when it happens.
Can you say the same about YOUR team, when you don’t live in the city of the team you support, rarely visit the ground and don’t have any biological connection to it? It’s great when you win trophies, trophies that we could never dream of but have you won the right to boast about them fair and square?
Or are you boasting about the success attained by a sporting team from another city, whom you have only attached yourself to BECAUSE they were successful. You went looking for success and found it elsewhere which is miles hollower than supporting a team with no qualms about expecting to win anything.
I’m sure you’ve seen the latest Internet “joke” about Chelsea fans everywhere swapping their shirts for Man City ones. Ho ho ho as a jolly fat man likes to say at this time of year. But whereas the tormentors may have a point – and it will happen in Wigan no doubt about that – isn’t this just more football snobbery at work? What right have Wigan based Liverpool & United fans on Facebook got to mock Chelsea and City fans for supporting a “Glory team”? Again, just remind me: why did YOU choose to support Liverpool or United in the first place?
We have seen this week with the endless bickering over Suarez that these two clubs and their masses of armchair fans seem to think that they are all that matters in football, that they are above the law in many senses. Club loyalty over moralty in some cases. Yet in fact they are killing the game by stealing fans from every town and city across the country, only for those self same fans to turn around and knock the more modest football fans in their community for following a s*** team whose ground has empty seats.
Kill – that’s a strong word. And by that token I don’t want the big clubs to die. I’m quite happy for them to continue to thrive and prosper. I just think that these clu
bs and the majority of their fans, especially fans who reside elsewhere from their host city need to learn to appreciate and respect the smaller clubs up and down the country a little bit more.
I always liken them to Tesco and Asda – always bickering with each other over price wars/market share – arguing who is bigger and better essentially. Meanwhile do they give a toss about the hundreds of small grocers and corner shops they are putting out of business as they drag more people into their web? There’s no socialism in football at the top level, capitalism rules in the race to the top and bullying of those clubs at the bottom is practised and endorsed by a million and one internet whoppers associated with these clubs up and down the land. You’re small = you’re s***. We’re big, we’re massive.
But who is we after all? Is it the bloke in full Liverpool kit in my gym the other day telling me ‘we showed you great support last night. Couldn’t hear you on the telly?’ This fella had the broadest Wigan accent I’ve heard this side of the 19th century! Without putting that Mitchell & Webb clip up again – Yeah you really showed me there didn’t you sat on your a*** eating cheesy wotsits passing expert opinions while I was at the game!
At this point I need to pause for breath and point out that it’s not all that way: organisations such as Spirit of Shankly, MUST and FC United are full of inspirational people who make huge personal sacrifices in support of their respective football clubs and fighting for what they believe in. We can all learn immensely from that hardcore of supporters nearly every big club possesses. It stands to reason that as bigger clubs they will have a greater number of amazing supporters.
I would never intend knocking any of them in this or any other piece because I know what they put into these things and it’s far more than the rest of us know. But the trouble is that their football clubs don’t want to know, they exist because of the route their clubs have taken: the Premier League, the ticket prices, rampant wage inflation, the race to the top and are doing everything in their power to fight against the greed that exists within their clubs and ultimately make it fairer for everyone.
And of course that multiple of having the greatest number of great supporters also applies out the other end too and for every one of them there’s a hundred tosspots up and down the country who wear the red shirt whilst tweeting racist abuse to Stan Collymore. I’d like to think that even as I rant away about the evils of their football clubs and await the incoming abuse, the ones who truly understand football, the thinkers, the representatives of the working classes amongst the various trusts and fan groups might not completely disagree with what I say when I’m having a go at their team.
Well I know it for a fact as I’= speak regularly to some of them about it and they have nicknames of their own for the nation of plastics who attach themselves to their clubs. Even some of the Wigan Reds/Blues get it and we can live with them, they’re the minority who actually go to watch the team and the lads who will be the first ones at the DW when their own team is not playing because they love football and not necessarily the esteem boost associating themselves with success gives them.
But in Wigan and indeed everywhere, they just about form part of that clued up minority and because they usually do have some genuine well wishing feelings for their home town team you can kind of forgive them. But again we go back that 10:1, 50:1 or even 100:1 ratio of them being outnumbered by idiots in replica shirts who clog up pubs up and down our fair nation.
The type who seem to think they have some kind of moral high ground or superiority over the likes of little Wigan because they’ve chosen not to make the braver choice many fans of smaller clubs up and down this land do and show loyalty to their town even though their teams might not be much cop. They like to celebrate goals which could get their home town football team relegated and laugh at their empty stadium without a hint of irony when it was built for people like them. The people of Wigan.
There’s a little gag I like to tell which sums it up perfectly:
Q. How does a Wigan Athletic fan go from being a s*** football fan to being a great one overnight?
A. He becomes a Man United fan
It’s as simple as that in the eyes of many of the sheep that have attached themselves to the beautiful game and like to put the boot into fans like me or you, whether you’re Wigan or whoever.
Well we’re doing alright thanks and whereas we may achieve less, what it means is usually so much more
So we didn’t get tonked by Liverpool on Wednesday. For that we can be rightly proud
We might get battered by United on Monday. But even so, we can be rightly proud.
Be proud of your team. Be proud of your town. Don’t let the whoppers win.
Keep the Faith and above all
Merry Christmas fellow football fans of Wigan and beyond…….
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