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14 December 2016

What kind of football snob are you?

From where you go to what you eat, football is full of snobs. Who doesn’t like looking down on other people?

By Hunter Davies

About 40 years ago, my wife got a commission from her publisher, Secker & Warburg, to do a biography of William Makepeace Thackeray. She decided to write it as if he had written it – as a memoir, in his own words. She would also use his drawings. Clever, huh?

I thought so, but Tom Rosenthal at Secker did not. He wanted a more conventional biography, in the third person. What would the bookshops say? And the critics? Would it be considered fact or fiction?

Margaret was so upset by his reaction that she got out her chequebook and paid back the advance. I was furious. So was her agent. When she finally finished it in the way that she wanted, she submitted it again to Secker. “They were awful to you,” I said. “You should have sent it elsewhere.” Secker took it. And paid her back exactly what she had paid back.

The other thing I remember about this long-gone incident was The Book of Snobs by Thackeray – social satire, with different classes of the times looking down on other classes. I had read Vanity Fair, like all teenage girls, but I never knew he was a journalist, or that he had worked for Punch, which I also did, for many years.

The Book of Football Snobs is long overdue. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. Too late now for this Christmas. But here goes.

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Lower-league snob I follow Dagenham and Redbridge and I was brought up West Ham. But frankly the Premier League has ruined football with its money-grubbing. I refuse to watch the Prem on TV, or allow my children, or my dogs. At lower-league games, you are communing with the true spirit of the game – chaps playing for only £100 a week, washing their kit, coming to the game on their bike.

You can move around, there’s so much empty space. When Daggers were away at Guiseley, I rang up and asked what time kick-off was. They said: “What time can you get here?”

Travel snob I first travelled abroad to watch Spurs against Feyenoord in 1974, a long time ago, but I am lily white, all the way through. Have been since birth – before birth, actually. My mum gave birth to me on
a Danny Blanchflower blanket. I was probably conceived there as well, har, har.

The fights on the ferry were massive. We put 50 of those Dutch bastards in hospital. They started it, of course, shouting, “Yiddos!” Since then, I’ve not missed an away game, anywhere in the world. Iceland, Monaco, Bucharest, you name it, been there, supporting the lads, Totting-ham,Totting-ham. You been to Guiseley? Shithole.

Stadium snobs I gave up following Sunderland when they knocked down Roker Park, tragic, all that history.The architecture was superb. Built by Rennie Mackintosh. Or was it Archibald Leitch? Some Scottish architect. I stood there with 75,000 Sunderland fans, shouting my little head off. It was the only way to keep warm. The cold, my God, and the wind, straight off the North Sea. But you felt in tune with all those who had gone before. Never been to the Stadium of Light. Stadium of Shite, I call it. Just look where they are in the League. I blame the new stadium.

Food snobs It has to be Bovril and a Scotch pie. You know, those round, flat meat pies? Delicious. Did you read that an American baker now makes Scotch pies – bestsellers, coast to coast? Trump eats one for his breakfast, with his Diet Coke. Ugh. The only thing to drink with a Scotch pie is Bovril. These poncey people who drink Pinot Grigio and eat prawn sandwiches. Dear God, give me strength. Watching football is all about ambience. Which means a Scotch pie and Bovril.

Stats snob You do know that every member of the West Ham Cup final team of 1975 was English? Born within hearing distance of Bow Bells. Bobby Moore was born in the dressing room in a laundry basket. Not many know that.

Scotch fans I live in Argentina, came over in 1978 with Ally’s Tartan Army, got drunk, lost me passport. I am in touch with me dad, though. He went with Celtic in 1967 to Lisbon, one of the Lisbon Lions. When he comes out of prison, he’s coming to see me. 

This article appears in the 06 Dec 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump