Sometimes I hate not being the driver.
When I’m not the driver, I’m not in control of the radio. And this can have disastrous effects on my health – medically, I don’t need to have a CD playing Belle & Sebastian (though my car currently in enjoying their dulcet tones), I do prefer it to most talk radio stations.
On Wednesday evening, on the way to a local five-a-side centre that I play at, I was not the driver and, as such, was listening to something that wasn’t late-90s indie-pop from Scotland. It was a commercial radio station. Now, I don’t want to upset them, so I think it’s best that I don’t name them, but let’s just say that they talk about sport.
As we were picking up one of our players, Ian Rush was being interviewed about how Brendan Rodgers had turned around the fortunes of Liverpool and he uttered a phrase that almost had me leap out of the moving Peugeot my father was driving and beat my own brains out with the Road Ahead Closed sign that was blocking the small street to our left.
“He knows what an important club he’s at,” Rush commented, presumably with a completely straight face. “He learned the history of the club and reminds the players about it.”
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Liverpool’s history has absolutely nothing to do with their success this season. None. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Toss all. Luis Suarez cares not about the league and cup doubles in 1982, 1983 and 1986. Daniel Sturridge is more interested in some crap dance move he pulls than how well Jan Molby did in his 12 years at Anfield. I don’t mean this in an antagonistic way, but a football club’s history is just not important to its current players.
This, rather clumsily, brings me to my point after far too long of the article. When Manchester City tore Manchester United a new anus on Tuesday evening, there were a number of dissenting Reds fans who got in touch (on Twitter or Facebook or whatever social media; it doesn’t really matter because I’m making it up) to tell me that, while the Blues may get the odd win against their rivals, they will never have the history that the Old Trafford club does.
Good. I’m glad. How droll their history is.
I’m going to have to interject here with a brief aside, because there’s been a grave misunderstanding as to what the word ‘history’ means when it’s applied in a football context. History is everything that has happened to the players, team, pitch, stadium, owners, fans or anything else connected with the football club. And what history is often mistaken for is ‘we’ve won more competitions than you in the past’. Which is lovely and all (and well done to you, you did have a successful team in years gone by), but that means a whole cock all when it comes to what’s happening right now.
Every single football club has a rich and full history (probably… I’ll be honest, I don’t really care what happened to Grimsby in the 1920s or to Northampton during the Second World War, so I didn’t bother to check, but I’m sure their fans will find it interesting).
If a club’s history is simply a list of major trophies they won in their heyday, then it’s being reduced to something that lacks emotion and (beware some philosophical bollocks here) what is football if it’s emotionless? Football is all about the fear of being dicked in the derby or the last-minute winner or the underdog winning the cup (except when they beat City in the final because that’s just annoying). It’s not a ‘my club did better when we were good than your club did when they were good’ competition.
City’s history might not include as many major trophies as United’s, but it’s easily more varied and more interesting. It’s one that the fans embrace and it’s the very reason why so many absolutely love the club to the bone. How many United fans will become less interested should the club go on a tour of the football league in 15 years’ time? Those who grew up before the Reds’ most recent success have a sense of perspective, while those who have known nothing but winning and have mercilessly mocked everybody else now can’t deal with having a bad season. These aren’t the dark times – seventh in the top flight would have been a dream for Tommy Docherty when he saw them relegated in the ‘70s.
There’ll be no sympathy from City fans – and rightly so, given the nuclear bunkers they’ve had to hide in when their club’s done something stupid.
But that something stupid is EXACTLY what City fans are proud of and it’s that that the Reds’ fans – maybe not the older or more sensible supporters, but certainly the younger ‘known-only-success’ followers – just do not get.
How can you not love a club whose manager takes a toy horse called Beanie onto the touchline as a good luck charm because his tactical awareness is substandard? How can one not adore a team that holds the ball in the corner because a 2-2 draw isn’t quite enough to keep them in the division and needs one of the subs to come running out of the dugout to suggest a quick change of tactics from ‘hold what we’ve got’ to ‘for Christ’s sake, get a bloody shot in, we’re going down’?
Tell me, who else has been knocked out of the FA Cup by a balloon? Who else has been leading 6-2 in an FA Cup tie when it was abandoned and gone on to lose the replay? Who else has been relegated while being reigning Champions and ending the season as the division’s top scorers? Who else has had their fate in their own hands with two games of the season to go and thrown it away with a spectacular own goal? Who else have had a player voted by opposition fans as more influential that Our Lord Jesus Christ because of that self-same own goal?
That’s real history.
Don’t get me wrong, fans love a good cup win or a spell as Champions, but that’s hardly the bee-all and end-all of life. Fans look back at the stupid stuff the Blues have done and laugh about it – that is what supporters of other clubs often don’t get.
It’s all well and good United fans telling me they have more history (when they mean more trophies) and I honestly do not care one jot. It comes out of a fear that what they’re currently witnessing is a spell that might end very badly for future success, so it’s a desperate bid to cling on to previous glories, especially as there’s potential in Manchester City to go on to be a superpower for years to come.
The funny thing is, City’s time at the top WILL come to an end, too – and even that will probably be funnier and more ridiculously unbelievable than anything that’s ever happened before.
Anybody that actually uses the ‘no history’ argument won’t see it the same way and, as is the way with somebody with a bee in their bonnet, no matter how much evidence you provide to show them they are wrong, they will dig their heels in and dogmatically defend their position.
So the next time somebody tells you that Manchester City have no history, don’t try and offer a correction. Simply smile, agree and whisper, “that may well be true, but what a future we have instead.”
Written by David Mooney