I was reading FourFourTwo the other day and there was a letter from a Pompey fan bored of the monotony of the Premier League. He said he was tired of going into games knowing that nine times out of ten, Team A is going to beat Team B because they’re the bigger team with more money and, consequently, have better players.
I found this interesting because I’d been thinking something fairly similar. Each season, there are only four or five teams that can have any realistic aspirations of winning the league. So, what do the rest of us have to get excited about? Sure, there’s European qualification. But only six or seven teams have a real chance of securing one of the top four spots and the Champs League place that comes with it. There’s the Uefa Cup, but do any of us care about that anymore? It’s a competition that’s been so devalued in recent years it makes the Carling Cup look like a major trophy. What’s the point in getting excited about qualifying for Europe only to give your best players Thursday night off, just so they can be fresh for another Premier League game on the Sunday? Teams that have given the Uefa Cup a proper shot have seen their league form suffer, and therefore wound up in no-man’s land with no Europe the following year. Perhaps if the Uefa Cup winner was given a Champs League spot the following season it might be a more exciting proposition.
I started to have a horrible thought. It’s quite possible that I could support West Ham my entire life and never see them win anything. When it comes to the league, the odds are very much stacked in favour of not winning it before I kick the bucket. So, I pondered, is there any point? Does it really matter whether we beat Sunderland or not? The only difference it makes is whether we finish 7th or 8th which, in a year or two, I probably won’t remember anyway.
I started to think of how much time and money you could expend following your team, with no tangible return.
Season ticket every year for 50 years: £30,000
Programme every home game: £3,000
Shirt every season: £2,000
Half-time pie: £4,000
One or two jars: £8,000
Occasional away trip: £5,000
But then I glanced at this weekend’s fixtures, and normality was restored.
Beating Harry’s Spurs at White Hart Lane: Priceless
The thing is, being a football fan is not an equal give-and-take relationship. But that’s the beauty of it. Fans are made to suffer for the cause, but it just makes the great moments that much sweeter. I still remember our Di Canio inspired 1-0 over Man Utd and the £40 I took from the bookies because of it. I also remember being nervous they’d rumble that I was under-age. I remember his goal of the season (Di Canio that is, not my bookie), watching it over and over and never growing tired of it. I can remember Tevez’s winner against Utd on the last day of the season to save us from relegation like it was yesterday.
I remember the consecutive playoff finals, the win over Preston made all the more memorable for the pain of defeat against Palace the previous year.
The magic moments make it all worthwhile. So here’s to another one this Saturday.