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28 November 2013

The Fan: On the obscurity of Premier League football slogans

"We're not really here!" yell Man City fans.

By Hunter Davies

Hurrah, another long weekend without the Prem is over. How I hate it, how time hangs, like being a teenager again. Why do they do it? The answer is international football: they close down the Prem and the Championship, which means the loss of 22 games, so that we can all suffer watching Roy’s Boys being humiliated in a friendly by Chile.

It looked liked men against mice, with Spalling stood towering over three titchy Chileans, till they started playing, running rings round him. England really are lumps. The only reason they got through their World Cup group was by being the least lumpen.

At least in the other friendly, against Germany they managed to pass to each other – now and again. So over the weekend I watched a lot of rugby, including England-New Zealand at Twickenham, where my eyes alighted on a perimeter advertising hoarding that said, “Made of more”.

What the feck does that mean? No clue as to the product being sold. Was it a song, a biscuit, a religion, a tantric sex potion?

All season in football we have been bombarded by these meaningless slogans, which seem to be copied from the stupid messages you see on food packets, such as “Chosen by you”.

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It began with Barclays saying “You are football – thank you”, which I thought was just a passing piece of cute, but dear God, it’s never stopped. At every Prem ground, it constantly flashes up.

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Then there is “Hello Tomorrow”, which I saw flashing at the Emirates. Something all fans can relate to but what is it selling ? The Sun newspaper? Faith healing? A new car ? (I did actually find the answer to that one: Emirates Air. I suppose it does make a sort of sense.)

But “Make it Matter”, which I saw flashed up at Spurs, has still not revealed itself, nor has “Be One With it”. Both phrases could cover anything. Or nothing.

“Are You Watching?” was a good one, making you want to find out, but I gave up and looked away by the time it explained itself.

“Open Your World” was constantly flashing on a hoarding during a Euro game, the only clue being a little red star, with no other wording. I fear it might have been for some nasty lager.

Spurs’s own club slogan, which they have up everywhere, is “To Dare is to To Do”, which I always read backwards: “To Do is to Dare”. It makes just as much sense and is a better exhortation. Yes, I know it comes from the Latin audere est facere, I did do O-level, but the Romans could be just as flip and glib as any modern copywriter.

They are, of course, taking the piss, having fun, sitting around thinking up pretentious phrases that mean bugger all, but which, with a bit of luck, people will find lodging in their brains and always associate with a certain product – if, that is, they ever discover what the product is. Which is a good joke in itself.

We have now got to the stage of the season where the fans have cottoned on to the silliness of the slogans they are being bombarded with at every game. The best one so far has come from the Man City fans who have taken to bouncing up and down and yelling, “We’re not really here!”

Now, that is funny. It reminded me of a slogan I saw painted on the side of a Brighton beach hut once that read, “I feel a bit normal today”. Hmm, why did it remind me of that? No connection, really.

Some slogans make perfect sense, as long as you know the history and the context.

At Chelsea there is always a painted banner that says “Born is the King”. It refers to – er – I’m not sure.

Used to be said about Kerry Dixon. Do Chelsea fans now say it about John Terry or Lampard or possibly Drogba? You have to have been there.

Columns can also have confusing titles. Is “The Fan” about Lady Windermere, that awfully good fan museum in Greenwich, or sports fans – in which case, which sport ? All pretty meaningless, really . . .