Football Without The Fans Is Nothing | West Brom/Inverness CT | The great Jock Stein played his part in changing the face of football. The legendary manager was famously quoted as saying, “football without the fans is nothing” how right he was! Here at 90 Minute Cynic, we want to reinforce the great mans words and give the games most important people, the fans, their say.
What team do you support?
Dual nationality (lived in England for 23 years and Scotland for 36 years) has afforded me two teams: West Brom and Caley Thistle. I’m an original #BaggieJaggie. I grew up on the Brummie Road End in the late 60’s, the era of Astle and Brown. The Inverness connection came about when I met my wife. I’d not really ‘followed’ a Scottish team since moving north but when we met in 1995, Caledonian Thistle, as they were back then, had just joined the league and as she was living in Inverness, we just started going along with one of her pals. The rest is history: 42 league grounds and ten Highland Marches later…
How often to you go to watch your team?
#TheBaggies: rarely because of the cost. One round trip for myself and the two boys to the Hawthorns is circa £150. That’s daft money. When I was a lad, it was five bob for blokes and half a crown for kids.
#TheJaggies: usually around ten games a season. I’m a Central Belt away supporter: I’d take the craic of an away day every time. It’s a Fergie thing innit, you and your team against the West Of Scotland bias…
What’s your first memory of “going to the football”?
Easy: an evening not to be forgotten for all the wrong reasons. 31stAug 1964, the week before I started at the big school and Villa were playing at home to Chelsea on a Monday night. This was the Villa team spearheaded by one Tony Hateley, father and grandfather of the Hateley clan. One of my mates’ dad was a polis and we went to the game with him: stood down the front of the Holte End behind the goal. Chelsea led 2-0 with a few minutes to go before Hateley grabbed a late double and the place went mad. I got shoved into the spiked railings and there was blood everywhere: got carted off on a stretcher, into the ambulance room then got the nee naw treatment to A&E. This being in the days before we had a telephone, the old fella wasn’t amused when I got home around three in the morning…
What do you think of entrance prices at football?
Disgraceful. I abhor the notion that a top player has the right to cream off enough cash during a ten year career to see him through the rest of his days on the golf course. I say to these overpaid stars “see when you retire son, go get yersel’ a proper job”. Even if it means having to put out a team of kids every week, I am wholly in favour of slashing admission prices to get people through the turnstiles. Football is a habit and once the habit has become ‘not going this week’, you’ve basically lost it.
What’s your average spend on match days?
Train £20 (thank goodness kids go free), admission anything from £30 if there’s a kids’ deal on, to £60 if there’s not. Throw in a few beers and Irn Bru’s and you’re talking a hundred notes. That’s why I only do ten games a season.
Do you buy club merchandise from official club outlets if not why not?
I guess I have about five #Jaggie shirts and three #Baggie shirts. But I’m strict: if I don’t like the latest design, I won’t buy it. You’ve got to be careful as a central belt #Jaggie, I never buy the blue Inverness top. My favourite, by miles, is the Barca lookalike red and blue stripe job with the black pinstripe: it’s a fine mix of the Caley blue with the Thistle red and black.
The kids get a new strip every season. #Baggies and #Jaggies. It’s a pride thing at football training and every available opportunity to show your allegiance, especially on the train heading to an away day.
Do I buy from the club shop? Yes, every time: the club deserves the money.
Do you think your club could be doing more to “connect” with fans?
Inverness has a Supporters Trust and a vibrant supporters’ website so on the social communication side of things, they’ve probably got it well covered. However there’s one thing that EVERY club in Scotland could do, and I’m convinced it would put more bums on seats, and that’s to sell ‘away’ season tickets. By that I mean that I, as an Inverness fan, could buy a season ticket book, attractively priced the same as a home book, that would allow me entry to each of the SPL grounds on the circuit, no questions asked. Would I buy one: yes; Would I go to more matches: yes; Would it encourage a habit of going, as opposed to not going: yes; Clubs, just sort it and stop hiding behind a veil of self interest and protectionism.
Are you in favour of reintroducing standing areas at stadiums?
Absolutely. Even taking into account that first eventful experience at Villa Park, I’m bound to say that you can’t beat the atmosphere of a packed terrace. Inhibitions melt away, humour comes to the fore and the whole electric experience of ‘being at the fitba’ is magnified ten fold. I’d take a terrace wag over a sweetie rustler any day of the week.
Do you play at any level?
Not played in forty years. Next…
If so what do you think of the cost of playing?
Seen through a parent’s eyes: a hundred and fifty quid for a pair of slippers that some wee diving so and so wears in FIFA? forget it son: get yersel’ a paper round…
Do you or would you consider coaching at any level?
My ‘other’sport was always athletics and I was a middle distance coach in the 80’s and 90’s: I still advise people on how to beat their PB for 10K but work and family commitments took me away from full-time coaching . So now I take that knowledge along to my youngest lad’s youth team and take care of their fitness work on a training night. It works because my job is to deliver boys who can perform at the same level in the last ten minutes as they do at the start of a game. But come kick off on a Saturday, I’m back to just being a dad on the sidelines like everyone else.
If you could implement one thing for the good of the game what would it be?
Away season tickets for people who follow a team but don’t live locally (see above).
Favourite moment following your team?
When you’ve followed football for fifty years and been at literally hundreds and hundreds of games, it doesn’t seem right somehow to be able to home straight in on one event, but every Inverness fan who was in Celtic Park on 8th February 2000 will know that that was the moment; that was the night we went from being a wee Highland outfit to the immortal SuperCaleyGoBallistic. A clock never ticked more slowly than in the minutes after Peanut slotted that penalty at our end.
Favourite football moment not featuring your team?
Leaving aside the misfortune of Wolves blowing a huge lead to miss out on promotion to the English Premiership in 2002 (tee hee hee), it would have to be something to do with a goal, and not any old goal either. So I’m going to go for two: Ronnie Radford’s Rocket for Hereford v Newcastle on a bog of a pitch in ’72 (I could watch that clip a hundred times and never tire of seeing it) and Jimmy Glass’s last minute goal for Carlisle that kept them in the Football League: that goal was surely scripted in the Melchester Rovers coaching manual…
If you could have been at any game in history what would it be?
Real Madrid-Eintracht Frankfurt, Hampden 1960.
The thing that annoys you most about football?
Where do you want me to stop: players’ wages, ticket prices, cheating to gain advantage (on and off the pitch), stewards…
What makes your club so special?
Founder members of the Football League
Jeremy Peace refusing to sell the club’s soul to the money devil
The commitment and sheer work rate of the inspirational Shane Long
The nous and tactical genius of Steve Clarke
The only team (ever) to have beaten Celtic and The Rangers in their own back yard
Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious
The Highland March (go to www.highlandmarch.co.uk for the full story; I was/am Interthenet and Yompa)
Anything else you want to say?
Football: you either ‘get it’ or you don’t. It just doesnae come in hawf sizes…