The fan - Hunter Davies yearns for the Corinthian spirit
When a player gets sent off, shouldn't we fans get some money back?
There are so many things I hate, being a football fan. Getting to the ground, that's a real drag, whether by public transport or by car. Got so much worse these past few years. Football programmes, what a waste of money. And the nasty, overpriced tea and coffee in nasty plastic cups, ugh, do I not like them.
Players wearing gloves, what jessies, how can they? Players wearing black armbands because some director you've never heard of has died, or there's been a terrible disaster. Not outside in Tottenham High Road, or Highbury Fields, or in the middle of Stanley Park, or on the edge of Trafford Park, but all because something awful happened ten thousand miles away across the globe and it's just been on the news. If I want to grieve for the victims, as well I might, I don't need some craven football club to tell me how and when.
TV football commentators who promise us that at half-time there will be some "talking points", which you know fine well will be proof that the ref or linesman gave a throw-in to the wrong side, no, really - or video replays which will show that a goal kick was not actually over the line, wow, did you ever.
A "big talking point" means a penalty disallowed. A "major talking point" will be handbags and hisses at three feet.
I sit there, stunned by the pointlessness of it all, and shout, "No one is talking about any of these in our house, so belt up!"
But what really, really does seriously upset me is Ten Men. Once I see a red card being brandished, and a player about to leave the field, very slowly, effing and blinding, turning and cursing, stopping and slobbering, I immediately want to give up. Whether I'm at the game, or watching on telly, I think: That's it, might as well pack up, the game's ruined.
Now it is true, on some occasions, that the team reduced to ten men plays better. Spurred on by the injustice of it all, or a backs-to-the-wall mentality, the remaining ten often give 10 per cent more. And often that equals 100 per cent, or a new player. Ergo, it's now back to eleven v eleven.
But it rarely works that way. The team reduced usually substitutes another man, often taking off its best attacker, rearranges its formation, chucks away its game plan, and tries to hang on to what it's got, if anything at all, or attempts to minimise the chances of being stuffed.
The team on the park with 11 men relaxes, thinking it's going to be a doddle, while the team manager, knowing how stupid footballers are, tries to counter this by tinkering with his own formation to parry the changes the opposition has made.
Either road up, the game is immediately a nonsense, excitement
goes, expectations on either side drain away. The game we'd all turned up to see has gone.
In the past couple of weeks, when Didier Drogba got sent off in Chelsea's first-leg Champions League game against Barcelona, the effect on Chelsea was to become tired rather than inspired. When Olympiakos, in the first leg of the Uefa Cup against Newcastle, went down to nine men, Newcastle still didn't play any better.
I often wonder if we can sue for compensation, we football fans. We have paid for our season ticket, or our Sky subscription, to watch a game clearly billed in the programme as eleven against eleven. We have thus been short-changed when one team ends up a man down. Could we claim one-twenty-second of our money back? Not piddling, when you think Premiership fans are paying £1,000 a year.
Alternatively, teams could behave like the Corinthians used to do, back in the 1900s. They were the totally amateur, public-school, Oxbridge team that put fair play and moral values above such sordid, vulgar things as winning. They never argued with the ref or entered any competition where there was a prize. If by chance the other team lost a man, either sent off or through injury, they immediately and voluntarily sent off one of their own men, just to keep things even.
Jose, are you listening? You're supposed to be cool. Why not try it next time it happens to Chelsea? You'd win house points.