* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

In A League Of Their Own

13 January 2003
Jamie didn't mean to write about football.

It's always an awkward moment when people ask me what team I support. Not at all embarrassing for me, but for them: they never quite seem to know how to react. I'm not sure myself. What's the correct response when you've been having a long, in-depth chat about high-level football, then the supposed giant of football intelligence before you blurts out that he's a Woking fan? [From what I've seen, the generally accepted procedure tends to be a brief look of confusion, and the subsequent question 'and how about in the Premiership?', as though everyone automatically attaches to a top-flight club; though Debrett's is strangely quiet on the subject.]

Yes - all my life I've felt discriminated against for my allegiance to my humble, Conference-gracing hometown team. It's especially galling in foreign climes, where they have at most two professional divisions and you have to tell them the club you support with all your heart is in the English Fifth Division. Americans, with only twenty-odd teams in any given sport for a population of 250 million, probably wouldn't even believe me. Why would someone support a club with no fame, no money, and no chance of glory?

Well, the glory thing's relative. Back in the mid 90s, we were one of the most successful clubs in non-League football (go on, be impressed). We won the FA Trophy three times in four years, and had a series of FA Cup runs, which made things exciting; but it's not like I'd ever be accused of being a bandwagon-jumper. To be honest, the main reason I started going to games was the fact that they lived just across the park from my house and you were guaranteed you could get tickets (for about three or four quid) for pretty much every game. You can't say that about Man U.

Then there was the atmosphere. I've been to your Premiership grounds with all the plastic seats and big stands and millionaire players, and it's all very impressive; but it doesn't compare to being huddled together on the terraces at the Kingfield Road End, crammed against the barrier as you all 'sing your hearts out for the lads', the surge of bodies when something happens on the pitch, the sight and feel of being part of a body of a hundred or so grown adults jumping up and down singing 'Woking Woking Boing Boing' when we score. And given the fact that as long as I left at 14:28 (by my hi-fi), wore my Tasmanian devil socks, home shirt and club scarf (but not hat) and went in through the turnstile manned by Les we always won, I got to experience that a lot. Until my mother threw out the socks for being more hole than sock, of course, at which point it all went belly-up.

There is another argument, of course. When I wrote an article attacking wannabe fans (mainly, but not always Man U) who went on and on about the game without ever seeing a match first-hand (and generally lived off the scraps of Match of the Day, not being of pub-going age to catch Sky), I felt the backlash of the guilty parties. It goes like this: supporting a 'nothing club', in the lower echelons of the League or (even worse) buried in the obscurity of the amateur game, is only so much posturing, a pretentious attempt to stand apart from the crowd, a worse act of football pseud-ism than the Croydon Reds. It's all a big joke, you'd much rather be supporting a big club but just don't think it would suit your image. Like stubbornly wearing Green Flash plimsolls instead of Nike trainers - before they came back into fashion.

Well, that's one way of looking at it. I'll admit, sometimes I really do wish I supported a Premiership club, that I could see my players on TV the whole time and read about their exploits in the papers. That every now and then we'd win a major trophy, or have a season in Europe. That we'd sign a player we'd drooled over in the World Cup rather than scraping round the lower leagues for bargains or overlooked youngsters. But I'm trapped. I could start following a First division or Premiership club (I can afford to go to the games nowadays), and I could learn all the songs and maybe even start to feel some attachment to the stadium, to the players.

But there would never be the same emotional bond like there is with Woking. Anyone who accuses me of being a fake fan didn't see me huddled alone in my room, 5 Live keeping me up to date with live commentary on our FA Cup third-round replay with Coventry City (after a heroic 1-1 draw at their place, one of the happiest experiences of my football life, enhanced by the article in Monday's Telegraph by Henry Winter beginning with the immortal paragraph 'Not since the bar steward on the Titanic enquired whether anyone needed more ice has there been a more inopportune outburst than the Coventry fans' chant of 'We are Premier League' on Saturday. If that is the yardstick by which things are to be judged, then Woking are pushing for Europe'), chain-smoking and moved to the point of tears when the commentators started going all misty-eyed about the magic of the FA Cup and how moments like this were getting rarer and rarer. They wouldn't have known the mixture of pride and disappointment I felt as we went out 2-1, having been denied only by the Ugly XI's first choice stopper Steve Ogrizovic and an inexplicable own goal by the Southgate-esque figure of Steve Foster late in the second half. They don't know what it's like to come up against a side 83 places above you in the league and still give them a hell of a run for their money; think of a classic WWII movie, a handful of soldiers standing to the last man against a vastly superior force that ultimately overwhelms them, and you get the idea.

Maybe that's the attraction, ultimately, for people like me. You always gravitate to a club with your personality (if it's not done on a geographical basis); that's why Spurs fans are irritating, Man U fans are arrogant sods with no heart, and Aston Villa fans are disillusioned and living in the past. I'm not going to be world-famous, but I'm going to have a pretty good, steady time of it (with some minor successes from time to time) and make a few friends along the way. And I'll know that every time Woking get mentioned on the news, or have a bit of a cup run and get featured on Football Focus, there are going to be some of those friends from the past who suddenly get reminded of my existence and think of me. Now that can't be all bad, can it?


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
13 October 2003. Jamie writes: The Persistence of Memory
22 September 2003. Jamie writes: The Email Eunuch
1 September 2003. Jamie writes: Credo
11 August 2003. Jamie writes: Brad and Jennifer and Me
21 July 2003. Jamie writes: Interruption
30 June 2003. Jamie writes: Do you remember the first time?
12 June 2003. Jamie writes: Forthcoming Attractions
19 May 2003. Jamie writes: Stupid Mistake
28 April 2003. Jamie writes: Hoping and Praying
7 April 2003. Jamie writes: Strangers on a Plane
17 March 2003. Jamie writes: Q&A
24 February 2003. Jamie writes: Altered States
3 February 2003. Jamie writes: How to say goodbye
13 January 2003. Jamie writes: In A League Of Their Own
23 December 2002. Jamie writes: What's in a name?
2 December 2002. Jamie writes: Lies, Damned Lies and Spastics
11 November 2002. Jamie writes: Memoirs of a Gaysian: A Preface
21 October 2002. Jamie writes: Love is blindness
30 September 2002. Jamie writes: Time for bed
9 September 2002. Jamie writes: Angry Exchanges Can Be Puzzling [10]
19 August 2002. Jamie writes: High Speed
29 July 2002. Jamie writes: Firkin Hell
8 July 2002. Jamie writes: Do you, er... haiku?
13 June 2002. Jamie writes: Unnatural Porn Thrillers
20 May 2002. Jamie writes: The Triumphant Return of the Septic Fiveskins
25 April 2002. Jamie writes: Meeting People is Easy
4 April 2002. Jamie writes: I Want I Want I Want
7 March 2002. Jamie writes: The Player of Games
11 February 2002. Jamie writes: Fat Man Walking
17 January 2002. Jamie writes: Passive/Aggressive
3 January 2002. Jamie writes: Love (classified)
29 November 2001. Jamie writes: A Lil' Nite Muzak
5 November 2001. Jamie writes: Natural born liar
11 October 2001. Jamie writes: All I need
17 September 2001. Jamie writes: Postcards From The Edge (of the pool)
23 August 2001. Jamie writes: Class act
30 July 2001. Jamie writes: Ritchie Neville is dead
5 July 2001. Jamie writes: A Letter from God
11 June 2001. Jamie writes: "If it's in French, it must be deep"
17 May 2001. Jamie writes: Reportage
23 April 2001. Jamie writes: Show me the Logos
29 March 2001. Jamie writes: Sobering Thoughts
8 March 2001. Jamie writes: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid
8 February 2001. Jamie writes: Spent
15 January 2001. Jamie writes: Full to the brim
21 December 2000. Jamie writes: fuck xmas
27 November 2000. Jamie writes: Eye Candy
2 November 2000. Jamie writes: World-wide-web?
9 October 2000. Jamie writes: Kids' stuff
14 September 2000. Jamie writes: Scatological Warfare
21 August 2000. Jamie writes: I can't stand up (for falling clowns)
10 July 2000. Jamie writes: The Etymology of Greatness

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