As I flicked through the pages of Banter & Bustle, Jeff Scott’s fascinating pictorial study of his fellow Sunderland fans and Sunderland locations, caught on camera on various matchdays around the country, I began thinking about Real Football Clubs. And that in turn led me to reflect on Pete Sixsmith’s Soapbox remarks about West Ham being one of them.
When Gordon Thrower** contributed his excellent posting for the Who Are They? series last week, his fellow Hammers fans’ response was astonishing. They flocked here in their hundreds, boosting the average daily number of visits to such an extent that Salut! Sunderland enjoyed a few days in the top 75 of the Soccerlinks hit list for football websites.
This week, things are getting back to normal. Fulham fans, it is fair to say without being too harsh, have seen no reason to emulate their east London rivals. Steve Battams’s article was also interesting, all the more so because he’s played at a decent level himself. And his video clip showing him heading the ball back on to the field from the crowd raises a laugh. But if there has been a trickle of Cottagers coming this way, that is so far about it.
Yet Fulham, unlike their charmless neighbours and whatever view is taken of their ownership, have always seemed a proper football club. Like Sunderland. So it is a shame to have to be reminded that they are essentially a very small club indeed.
Of course, they will now seek revenge by cheering their team on to victory against us on Saturday, much as I hope the opposite happens.
But the point of this is not to be disrespectful towards Fulham just because their support seem to lack passion as well as numbers.
It is more my intention to showcase Jeff’s terrific portrayal of the grass roots of football support. And in doing so to repeat what we all, in our hearts, know about our club and its followers. Click on the images to enlarge them – and perhaps identify your friends.
From the girls in the first picture to the London branch fans gathered at Kings Cross on a typical Saturday morning, our fans are at the heart of football.
Forget the irritations and disappointments of relegations, exclusion from the ranks of the elite and the lamentable standard of much media reporting of our club. Think of the positives. Real club, real fans, real passion.
* I will have more of Jeff’s pictures to show next week, before his book signing at Waterstones in The Bridges, from 10.30am to 1.30pm on the day of the Manchester City game.
Banter & Bustle by Jeff Scott (Cork Street Press, £9.99….follow this link)
** Read Gordon’s entertaining account of his weekend Up North. Forget his partisan view of the game – he’s a Hammer; why would he take any other view? – and just enjoy his description of Hartlepool by night, the Stadium of Light by day.