Introduction by Paul Tomkins

Posted by Paul Tomkins on June 5, 2001, 03:18:39 PM

So here I am, having left Koptalk, writing a column for RAWK (as well as one for Shankly Gates).

Before I get on with the article, I thought it might be nice to tell you a little bit about myself - a nice, gentle introduction. For those of you that donít know me (and Iím not presumptuous enough to assume Iím a household name just yet), I am 30 years old, and a season ticket holder (Lower Centenary, Kop end).

I am recently married (to Gill), and originally hail from London, although I now live in Leicester. I used to play semi-pro a few years back (be warned - Iím prone to mentioning this quite a lot; first of all as a means of justifying that I know a bit about the game, having played to a decent level, and secondly, as I like to think - somewhat mistakenly - that I was something of a non-league Ian Rush. This was never the case, despite what I may try to lead you to believe. Think more ĎBarn Doorí Barlow).

I was such a good striker... I ended up playing everywhere but centre back and goalie during my two seasons at that level, and only rarely up-front, and I think that says it all (even if it did teach me just how difficult it is being a wing-back - being bollocked for skewing a cross, and then in the same breath being bollocked for being out of position as some winger who was quicker than Linford Christie sped down the wing, then, of course, being bollocked again for not supporting our attack fifteen seconds later. Thank God GH abolished the dreaded wing backs!).

I gave up non-league in 1997 when my season ticket came through, and two years later I had to give up the game completely when I was diagnosed as having ME. Despite giving up a job at The Guardian on the grounds of ill-health, I live a relatively normal life so long as Iím sensible. Getting up at 5am on February the 15th to fly to Rome was not sensible (especially as I sharply curtailed our Valentineís dinner the night before to drive to London ahead of the flight from Heathrow). Unfortunately, one of the things I live for is going to watch the Red Men, and Iím sure Iím not the only one who is far from sensible at times in this respect. At least the drive from Leicester is only two hours, and not the three it was from London. I go to some away games (5-10 a season), and usually miss no more than two league games at Anfield a season. I wish I could go more, but perhaps my limited energy supplies are a way of keeping my passion for the Reds in check - otherwise Iím sure Gill would have left me long before now...

So you could say I am committed and passionate - but like other things in life, Iím sure there are more committed and passionate fans out there. Iím not claiming to be the No.1 Diehard Red, as Iíve met some right Ďcasesí in my time (Howard Klarfeld, an old colleague is worth a mention - I was never aware of him missing even a pre-season friendly, be it Carlisle or Norway. Nice bloke. But quite clearly insane. You all may know people like him).

I donít want to get into the whole OOTS thing again - I dealt with that on Koptalk, and I donít like repeating myself, even if it is for a different audience. Basically, most people seem to accept that I am a genuine fan, regardless of my background. One fan told me to Ďf*ck off and support Chelseaí, but otherwise people seem okay with me; I proved I care, and caring is what being a fan is about (and not just gloating that Man U have won another title,when you canít even name their first team, let alone their reserves, their U19s and U17s). I apologise for not being born on Merseyside to Liverpudlian parents - I had no control over such events. I also apologise for supporting LFC because when I was aged eight, I noticed the fantastic array of trophies listed in the Panini Football Ď79 sticker book, and thought Ďtheyíre the ones for meí (they also had the nicest, shiniest badge, and I had a couple of swapsies that I ended up sticking by my bed - the first declaration of love). So yes, as an eight-year-old I was a glory hunter, but thatís when that stopped. And since I started going to Anfield in October 1990, weíve had f*ck all glory, and Iíve been subjected to the likes of Babb, Leonhardsen, Stewart, Kvarme, Dicks, Piechnik, Kozma et al, so it was nice to experience a little bit of the stuff these last few months. So donít call me a glory hunter!

Before the good times returned last season, I had regularly undertaken a 400 mile round trip (260 the last two years), paying good money in the meantime, to watch that shower. A dayís hard driving, a lot of cash, all undone by Phil Babb.

Donít tell me Iím not a true fan just because Iíve got a southern accent! I know itís never easy living on Merseyside when weíve lost the derby, but I can assure you itís almost right up there with living in Leicester and having to endure the fact that until last season, they had won two trophies since our last win in 1995, and the fact that they regularly beat us. My one regret from last season is that my gobby next door neighbour moved house when Leicester were above us in the league last autumn, and I havenít seen sight of the bugger since!

Iíd usually talk pretty much exclusively about the Reds, but as itís the closed season, Iím going to have a bit of a moan about... moaning players. Or, more to the point, Iím going to moan about football logic. Sometimes there is just no logic in the game. Sometimes football is just nuts.

Marcel Desailly has come out and said he wants a move because Chelsea are not winning anything. Add Poyetís and Hasselbainkís moans, and seems to me that the ENTIRE Chelsea side is going to leave because it won nothing, and because the other players werenít good enough. Hang on a minute... Chelsea won nothing - whoís fault is that? It makes me laugh when players go to certain places to Ďwin thingsí - as if all they have to do is turn up at Man U or Real Madrid and put their feet up, and wait for the medals to pour in. Of course players are hedging their bets, and itís just a turn of phrase, but it winds me up. Go there to try and help, along with the others, to win things, sure.

If Iíd gone to my manager at non-league level and said I want to leave as weíre not winning anything, heíd have told me the reason we werenít winning anything was that I kept missing the f*cking target. I imagine if Desailly had been in a defence that conceded no goals all season, heíd have the right to complain. But Chelseaís defence were nothing special (then again, itís hard to single out one defender for criticism if the other three are crap).

But nothing is funnier than Teddy Sheringham turning up at United to win things... then winning nothing. Shame the old twat then won them the treble. But it begs the question: why has he gone back to Spurs? To win things? Oh Teddy, you are surely a comedian? At what point to players stop wanting to win things and protect their bank balance? - because, letís face it, Spurs are going to win F.A. (and I donít mean the cup). Or, that old chestnut: ďIím too old to sit on the bench?Ē Even crazier, it seems that seventeen-year-old YTS boys are now no longer happy with sitting on the bench ďItís no good for me at this stage of my career.Ē Precisely what stage of a playerís career is it BENEFICIAL to sit on the bench? Get on the f*cking bench, spotty, and ask for a move once youíve got more than eight minutes of first team action under your belt. Even more amusing is Darren Anderton moaning about whatís going on at Spurs - as if his opinion counted! Say Darren, maybe you could play a game or two for the club before you moan about whatís going on? A new contract waits unsigned because Darren canít grip a pen without tearing the muscles and tendons in his forearm.

That said, I do sympathise with Gareth Southgate and David James. Villa really are such a poor team (I canít stand them, even though my grandfather played for them between the wars). But the thing is this: Villa have never been any good, bar a couple of years at the start of the eighties, and maybe back in the annals of time, Ďbefore records beganí. Then they go and buy David Ginola, and then donít play him because - shock horror - he wonít tackle back. Jesus Christ! Thatís what the other ten talentless muppets are in the side to do, surely? - youíre not telling me Steve Stone, Ian Taylor, Lee Hendrie and George Boateng are there for anything else, are you? But I canít stand Ginola, so itís cool to see him humiliated - it makes me laugh. He said some nasty things about GH, so we donít like him, so Ďnahí.

So we hear that Robbie will move to Villa (all last season, on and on, until I was bored of it). Robbie, who constantly talks about being insanely jealous of all the winners medals down the East Lancs Road, will be moving a club where heíll be first choice by virtue of the fact that neither of the expensive Dublin and Angel can kick a ball straight, and cheap-and-cheerful Leicester reject Julian Joachim canít even kick a ball AT ALL; to join a bunch of journeymen who couldnít set up a goalscoring chance if they had kick off and the opposition didnít even turn up (theyíd play it back to Jamo, whoíd kick it into touch). Robbie leaves the Reds for mid-table mediocrity - yeah, okay. Or then heís going to Leeds or Arsenal... but hang on a minute - donít they operate the exact same rotation policies that we do? Only with his arrival would have EVEN MORE forwards (five each) than we had when he was with us (just the four)...

Villa are allegedly underachieving, and yet every team that finished above them last season was a bigger team - even Sunderland could argue the fact. Certainly the Stadium of Light, which holds more than Villa Park, is never seen half full. So how come theyíre underachieving? And Spurs fans, whose team havenít won the league for forty years, are the very good at this. Spurs are a massive club, etc, etc, at the time of the George Graham crisis. No theyíre not. And there was Andy Gray on Football365 saying that big ears Jeffers shouldnít be leaving Everton as theyíre a massive club. But are they? They canít even afford to pay the tea lady any more, and even sheís looking to move to a bigger club; Tranmere are rumoured to be monitoring events closely. And Bill Kenrightís using his theatre contacts and clout to keep hold of Michael Ball - he wants him back in Les Miserables. Love does indeed change everything, Michael.

We have this tag as well, I guess. We were accused of not being a Ďbig clubí anymore for a while. Apparently the Mancsí official magazine said we were a Ďsmall clubí, which surely makes our achievements (18 titles, 4 Euro Cups, 3 Uefa Cups) all the more outstanding? To do that without their financial might and general Ďbest-in-the-worldnessí must be some story?

Our status as a big club was doubted in the Ď90s, but we had the most League Championships in English history (still do, easily). We had twice as many European Cups as any other English side, and more than only a handful of teams across the continent (still do). We had several million fans in this country alone, not to mention all the fanatics around the globe that canít even dream of seeing their heroes in the flesh. So even when we were crap, we were still a big club, but finally we are up where we belong again (and by this I donít mean that we have a divine right to win things: we donít. But our heritage tells us that we should be challenging for honours, and the club is geared up for this kind of success).

So Everton and Spurs are like Burnley and Blackpool - big clubs, once. But not any more. Just normal, medium-sized clubs now, Iím afraid.

My favourite lack of logic, though, goes to managers. TEAM A misses five sitters, is denied two penalties, then scores a goal with the last kick of the game to equalise. TEAM Aís manager then says that had they taken their chances, and been given the penalties, they would have won. In Manager Logic Land, every penalty is scored. And, of course, cause and effect donít exist - ignoring the fact that TEAM B were on the pitch too, and had their own chances and their own injustices. And if TEAM A had been awarded the first penalty, irregardless of whether or not they actually scored it, the game would have re-started at a different point on the pitch, and what happened next could not, in any way, have been what happened if the penalty hadnít been awarded. Iíve also seen managers moaning that Ďtheir keeper made three fantastic saves, denying us three goalsí when all three saves came in the same bit of goalmouth action. It reminded me of the Alan Partridge commentary on The Day Today, when a player scores and, as a delighted colleague lashes the ball into the empty net in celebration, Partridge screams ďAnd theyíve got another!Ē.

Ah, football logic.

Or maybe itís just me. Maybe Iíve been in the sun too long...

© Paul Tomkins 2001

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