It’s a strange job owning a football club.
You are expected to invest millions of pounds (or roubles, or dollars or Emirati dirham) into something which is still the assumed property of hundreds of thousands of often-drunken, often-abusive, often-tattooed supporters who have no idea about the behind-the-scenes workings of a football club.
Despite the massive investments, you are also not allowed to do anything which may give you any sort of return in case said supporters label you “money-grabbing” and accuse you of turning “their” club into a business (despite the fact it already was when you took over).
You are to invest still more in bringing in the best players and manager you can find, with the problem that, if you do, you will always have to continue, or, if you don’t, you are labeled “tight” and unambitious. Supporters will vocally extend their outrage when you try to raise money from them by changing kits every week, but will complain more loudly still if you don’t invest at least as much as last time at each transfer window in the hope of breaking into the top four (who, incidentally, could sell one player and use the funds to buy your squad).
The rights and wrongs of this situation are there for argument; they are not the point of this article.
The point is, as much as you may have invested or arranged for investment, it is the supporters who inevitably feel the need to tell you when to go.
Supporters love a good protest. Newcastle fans like to stage one before every home game – apparently the clapping and chanting really warms up your shirtless body. Liverpool fans are annoyed at the board’s failure to build a new stadium and want them out after just months in charge of the club; the toilets at Anfield are in a shocking state and no amount of Robbie Keanes or Spanish wonderkids are going to change that.
Manchester United Plc fans have got all their protesting stuff in Gary Neville’s garage waiting for an excuse to protest against their businessmen owners the Glazers, but are just going to wait until they stop winning titles before they use them. They will then trot out the old line that they don’t care about success on the pitch – Man Utd is a family club (albeit a family who lives in Essex and generally doesn’t attend their games) and should not be run by men who aren’t prepared to go bust for the cause.
Everton fans are also pissed off about their stadium, and are livid that their owners haven’t built a new one yet; evidently the credit crunch hasn’t taken effect for much of Liverpool yet, and the costly expectations have even led to Bill Kenwright attempting to raise funds by selling half The Park End at auction on the TV programme Cash In The Attic.
Some West Ham fans were rumoured to be considering a protest after the official confirmation of Gianfranco Zola as manager, due to the new boss once having played for Chelsea. They will presumably also be writing to Roy Keane, Paul Ince, Steve Bruce and Mark Hughes, demanding they resign from their respective clubs as they once quite enjoyed playing for Man United.
All seem odd to someone who doesn’t feel the loving passion of a fan of any of the clubs mentioned.
The real victims here are Aston Villa. Since being taken over by Randy Lerner, the club have done pretty well – they have a good manager, they have bought good young talent and play entertaining, attacking football. Some fans feel this has removed their God-given right to complain, and will be staging a protest before the game against Tottenham about the lack of problems with the club.
“Yes, we’ve had a few injury niggles recently,” said Steve Fowler, the head of the unofficial Aston Villa Fans’ Forum. “But nothing like West Ham’s injury crisis, or interesting like Man City’s takeover. We haven’t tried to sign Joey Barton or an ex-Birmingham player, we haven’t been promised a new stadium which never appeared and we haven’t started selling our best players- not for lack of trying though!”
“Basically everyone’s too damn happy, and it’s boring.”
Football club owners. You can’t live with ’em… but otherwise, what would you talk about?
The Armchair Fan promises to bring you all the stories from the football world which you will have missed in the regular press – check them out at his website.