The crowds are roaring, the cameras are rolling, and the Premier League season's underway. Things have changed so much since I first started going up the football, in the days of terraces and steel fences, industrial-strength language and an always-heavy police presence. The action on the pitch was usually rough and ready, and so was the crowd control. I remember blokes getting frisked and searched on their way into the ground, a scene forever accompanied by the grasshopper-clacking of the turnstiles. I remember having a copper confiscate a bottle of pop off me on one occasion, in case I used it as a missile. I was seven at the time.
The intervening years have, of course, seen a bourgeois revolution in the beautiful game, with obscene amounts of money changing hands in the sport, and - get this - teams being judged by how fashionable they are. "Manchester United? That's so last season, darling. It's all about City this year, yah?" This cringeworthy culture, proliferated mainly by overactive journalists and a plague of tossers with more cash than brains, means that unless you support a big-money team - or one of the London clubs - you may as well not exist. Your opinion as a football fan is worth less than nothing.
In spite of all this, I'm proud of my unfashionable club. I'm proud that it was my local team growing up. I'm proud that at least 90% of its fanbase come from a broadly working-class background, and most live locally. I'm even bizarrely proud of the fact that we haven't won a major trophy in four decades. Because when the money-men have finally grown bored of their expensive playthings and gone back to their mansions and yachts, we'll still be here. Don't get me wrong, I think we're going to get our arses soundly kicked today. But I'll still be cheering like a mentalist, because its all I've ever known.
- 7.2mp DigitalCAM