The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

15 seconds of fame

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Last night I was having a fairly harmless, semi-serious discussion on Twitter with Cardiff City blogger Joe Harrison about Torquay’s relationship with Preston. The subject arose because former Cardiff player Paul Parry had scored for Shrewsbury against his former club.

Along with various criticisms of Westley and Ridsdale, I also happened to mention that “we” (as in Torquay United) hate Preston because of an incident between Torquay’s Darren Moore and North End’s Paul Rayner (now assistant manager to Steve Evans at Rotherham) in a play-off semi-final second leg in 1994 (which I wrongly gave the date of as 1995 initially, before correcting myself). I went on to explain what happened – for those who don’t know, Rayner dived, claiming Moore had elbowed him; Big Dave was sent off and we went on to lose the match and the chance for a trip to Wembley, leading to our struggles over the next few seasons. I went on to say nothing especially radical, adding that Preston weren’t the most popular club at the time anyway due to the plastic pitch at Deepdale.

I first noticed something odd not long after – my tweet had been favourited (which is like a bookmark – allows you to save tweets, essentially) by a presenter from Radio Shropshire. Then this morning I see the radio presenter had mentioned me in the credits for his show. I scroll through his timeline to look for clues and find the subject of his show this morning was on why football fans hate each other.

So I listened to the show on iPlayer (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/p00wv4v7). Apparently this guy seems to think that because in the Olympics everyone got on and supported all athletes (which is bollocks itself – I’m sure there were plenty of British people who didn’t want the Germans to win something, for one), why shouldn’t football fans behave the same way? Hilarious logic, I’m sure you’ll agree.

About 20 minutes in, he starts mentioning tweets from last night that he’d found (clearly he’s just done a search for “Preston” and favourited anything that mentioned something along the lines of hating Preston). He then mentions my tweet, about how it’s a “mysterious grudge” (even though I’ve clearly explained why) and says “this was 17 years ago – get over it”. He then mentions a tweet from a Sheffield Wednesday fan ridiculing Sheffield United, and says he can’t understand why people from the same city hate each other (which on balance I think is even more hilarious than bringing up what I said).

Clearly this guy has absolutely no understanding of football whatsoever. Not only does he not fully understand the context of the Moore/Rayner incident – that it took place in a massive game for the club and had huge ramifications in the years after – but also that when football fans (or at least sensible ones) say they hate a club, they mean the institution, not the people. Just because we say we hate Preston North End FC, that doesn’t mean we hate all Preston fans as individuals – the same goes for Plymouth, Exeter or whoever. The whole idea of dismissing rivalry in football as unnecessary is absurd, even speaking as someone who isn’t all that bothered about Argyle and Exeter anyway.

Football, or even sport generally, without rivalry would be completely soulless. Anyone who pretends otherwise is an idiot – there has to be a context to make things exciting. Take the end of last year’s Premier League title race – it was good on its own, but what made it great was the fact that it was Manchester United versus Manchester City, two of the fiercest rivals in English football. To pretend that this wouldn’t have been as significant if football fans all loved each other is crazy.

And, finally, there’s also the context of my tweet – “hate” takes up 4 characters out of 140; “don’t like” takes up 11. He definitely didn’t think of that…

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Written by James Bennett

August 22, 2012 at 15:08

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