The Fan: topless goal celebrations

In the old days, goal celebrations were gentlemanly affairs – and what's wrong with showing a bit of skin?

I wrote a really good column about a month ago. The joy was unconfined as I put it away, finished it all off – what a surge of emotion – so naturally I jumped in the air, ran round my room, then I tore off my shirt and rushed topless down the stairs.

The grandchildren, who were sitting drawing with their coloured crayons and eating muesli, their favourite occupation, carried on drawing and eating muesli, too young of course to understand how it feels to score a really good column. I went out in the street, looked for a crowd to jump into or even someone to hug. The postman was coming out of No 9 next door, so I jumped into his arms: what a fright he got, spilling all his Christmas cards. It was only then I realised how cold it was. I started shivering and couldn’t find my shirt or get back into the house, so had to ring the bell. My wife wouldn’t open the door. Eventually she appeared at the front window, holding up a yellow card, freshly coloured by the grandchildren.

I do so understand how players feel when they have scored a goal and I think it is really rotten that the ref always gives them a yellow card, two of which leads to being sent off, which is so unfair. What harm are they doing? How else are modern players meant to show their feelings?

In the old days, you walked back to the centre spot, perhaps the captain gave you a quick handshake, and that was it, on with the game. I have images in my mind from the 1960s of Bobby Moore with his shirt off, but this was after a game, swapping shirts with Pelé, en route to the dressing room.

Now we have all this emotional cuddling and kissing, not like traditional Englishmen. By the left, as my dad would have said, set the dogs on them. Either you have a group love-in, when they all pile on top of each other, often the whole team. Injuries do happen and it can take ages to unravel them, yet a ref never penalises them – oh no. Or you have an individual clutching his badge, which is totally phoney, as you know they will be off in the morning, given a half decent offer, or pointing at the name on his back, which is just showing off.

But when a single triumphant player takes his top off, he’s in the book. Why does he do it ? A need to wave something, feel free and naked, show off his toned torso, or just because he has seen others do it? That bit-part Morrocan player Oussama Assaidi, who came on for Stoke last week and got the winner against Chelsea in the 90th minute, had his top off in seconds and probably didn’t mind a yellow. A moment of glory, unlikely to be repeated.

But star Prem players do it as well, unable to help themselves. They don’t, after all, get many chances to let free. All those millions, the monster gated mansion, three top of the range motors, all the girls they can eat and yet they get so little joy.

Look at them, such miserable sods, bags under their eyes, weighed down with stress and pressure. So come on, we must allow them to celebrate that miraculous moment when the point of all their hard work and training, discipline and sacrifice, is at last achieved – the scoring of an actual goal. And yet they are not allowed the simple act of shirt-removing.

Oh it is so cruel. How they must envy those Geordie chaps at Old Trafford last week who spent the whole game half-naked, despite the bad weather, cheering on their heroes beating Man U. How did that start – fans stripping off? I don’t remember it in the past. Copying the goal-scorer? Proof they are tough and true supporters, unbothered by the cold? Showing off their torsoes? Ironically, as they are mostly lardy.

They don’t get penalised for doing it, which is good – in fact, I think they should be rewarded. Now that football is getting another £1bn from BT, where do you think it will go? Into the pockets of the players and agents. Yet it should go to the fans, if it is true as Barclays tell us that we are football. Reduce all ticket prices. With free tickets for topless fans.

Right, that’s another one done. No triumphant display this time. Boring, midweek away-draw sort of column ... 

Edin Dzeko of Manchester City celebrates his second goal during a Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns on 20 October 20 2012 in West Bromwich, England. Photo: Getty.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 12 December 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Power Games

Photo: Justin Tallis/Getty Images
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What does our latest poll mean for the Labour leadership race?

Jeremy Corbyn is ahead among councillors - and looks ever more certain to become Labour's next leader. 

This morning the Labour History Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin University released its last set of polling data of Labour councillors in marginal constituencies’ prior to the election of the new leader.

It’s certainly a limited enough snapshot but in broad terms the data suggests four things. Firstly, that Jeremy Corbyn will win the leadership. Perhaps no great shock there at this point. But Corbyn’s slight lead in our poll of only two points or under above Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham masks the fact that he has picked up over 11 per cent of councillors since June - whilst all other candidates have lost support here. Given his reputation as a centraliser, it is remarkable that Corbyn is also neck and neck with Andy Burnham as the candidate councillors believe ‘would be best for local government.’ If he’s just about won over this tough crowd it may indeed be game over.

Secondly, the £3 registered supporter experiment is viewed as a damaging one by many within the party. With almost six in ten councillors thinking it should be ‘scrapped ahead of any future contest’ compared to just over one in four seeing it as a positive, there may well be clamour to reform this model going forward. Whether Corbyn will want to challenge the legitimacy of a reasonable proportion of his backers is one thing, but he would likely have some support in doing so if others were to press the issue.

Thirdly, on whatever mandate Corbyn is elected the good news for him is that key councillors clearly back Corbynomics. His plan to create a regulated and publicly-run service to deliver energy supplies is backed by 78 per cent of councillors who either “strongly agree” or “agree” with the policy, while 77 per cent support nationalising the railway network as soon as practicable. Introducing a 50p top rate of income tax is backed by 79 per cent of councillors, while 73 per cent agree with a “mansion tax” on homes worth over £2million. Most of those individually poll well amongst the electorate, though the 75 per cent of councillors who think scrapping tuition fees would aid the Labour vote in their constituency are out of kilter with the only one in six members of the general public who support that measure.

But lastly, perhaps most crucially, the rub is that less than two in ten councillors surveyed think Jeremy Corbyn will win the 2020 General Election. Even amongst councillors pledging to vote for Corbyn that figure tops out at six in ten.

Our data aside, Corbyn’s medium term challenge will clearly be enormous, as they would be for any new leader. For one, Labour’s current core vote just doesn’t turnout in enough numbers – not only in terms of voting for Labour, but at all. In 2010 and 2015 Labour’s most successful demographics were the semi-/low skilled working class (40 per cent to 31 per cent over the Tories in 2010, 41 per cent to 27 per cent in 2015) and ethnic minorities (60 per cent to 16 per cent in 2010, 65 per cent to 23 per cent in 2015). Turnout for both these groups is at least one in ten less than the national average, and barely bobs over one voter in two generally.  

Instead, in 2015 the most likely people to vote were men over the age of 55 (79 per cent), the middle class (75 per cent), or property owners (77 per cent). And so Jon Cruddas’ reviews’ conclusion that Labour has fallen behind on the average Prospector vote – those who ‘vote pragmatically for whichever party they think will improve their financial circumstances’ – has much resonance. The grey middle class might not be the sexiest of demographics, but they often decide elections. Miliband may have gained 12 per cent more 18-24 year olds (turnout 43 per cent) in 2015 than five years earlier, but the fact that he managed to do 8 per cent worse than Gordon Brown’s 2010 performance with the crucial over 65s (turnout 78 per cent) put the final chisel in the Edstone.

Perhaps if you give young voters a “radical alternative” they really will turn out – though worth recording that turnout amongst under 25s at the ‘real choice’ election of 1979 was the lowest either side of the majority Labour governments of 1966 and 1997 – but there are no guarantees. All this is a challenge for Labour per se however, not just Corbyn.

For the bookies’ favourite himself there are some specific complications. Big ticket policies like People’s Quantitative Easing have been queried by fellow leadership candidates (to declare an interest, while I am a Kendallite, I wrote a report arguing for a much truncated, one-off form of People’s QE in 2012), though it is just about backed by councillors in our survey. Corbyn’s foreign policy choices of threatening to leave NATO (rejected by two thirds of councillors) and scrapping Trident (rejected by a third) are also likely to be controversial. And the sum total of a left leaning agenda – as Ed Miliband discovered – is often less than its constituent parts. If Jeremy Corbyn is going to become the first opposition leader since 1906 to gain a full parliamentary majority whilst pledging to raise the top rate of income tax, he’s got a lot of work to do.

But our survey suggests that he’ll get the time to do it. If our data suggests Corbyn is at present unlikely to be Prime Minister, for all the talk of an early coup against him, he looks in a strong position to at least contest that election. And that remains an astonishing rise.

Richard Carr is a Lecturer in History at the Labour History Research Unit (LHRU), Anglia Ruskin University. The LHRU has today released new polling data on the Labour leadership. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the LHRU, the kind councillors of all parties who took time to answer the survey, or Anglia Ruskin University.

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