Thursday, March 26, 2009

When Final Score is the last word on who we think we are

Source: South Manchester Reporter

Ryan Davies
March 26, 2009

"HE IS a Welshman who calls himself the Mancunian Candidate. He supported United but then left to support a non-league team in Bury and now claims he is a United fan again, but once wore a Liverpool shirt. I can’t keep up."

I have some sympathy with Frank Kelly, who left the previous comment about me on the Reporter’s website.

I can get confused myself at times. But then whoever said that issues of allegiance and identitiy were supposed to be straight-forward?

I suspect Mr Kelly’s real intention was to take a cheap shot at me in response to the words of support I gave to the breakaway club FC United in an offering to these pages some time ago. He does have some form in this regard.

But his email does at least raise some interesting questions as to who we think we are.

Some might not agree, but I see no contradiction in calling myself a Mancunian even though my ancestry is almost exclusively Welsh.

Manchester may be in England, but it is inhabited by people from all corners of the globe.

Do these people not make a daily contribution to making the city what it is, and, in turn, have their lives shaped and moulded by the experience of living here?

Does that not entitle them, after a suitable period of assimilation, to call themselves a Manc? Or is that noble title purely a birthright, thus excluding figures who have showered as much prestige as on the city as Alan Turning, Sir Charles Halle or Sir Alex Ferguson?

Our loyalties in the sporting arena should be far more straight-forward.

After all, the thing with being a football fan is there are no application forms to fill in, no fit and proper person test or criminal record checking.

Should Adolf Hitler be reincarnated tomorrow, there would be nothing to stop him calling himself a United fan - although as a Red I suspect I prefer to think he would have rather supported Liverpool. After all, the Fuhrer is rumoured to have visited Merseyside in 1912 and, like the Scousers, he was rather partial to a moustache.

What with Bin Laden’s well-documented visits to Highbury in the early 1990s, all we need now is to find out that Pol Pot used to sit in the family stand at Stamford Bridge and my convenient picture of football villany would be complete, but I digress.

To become a fan of a team, you just pin whatever colours take your fancy to the mast and get on with it.

Given the ages at which most footballing fates are decided, I guess its fair to say that the decisive factors rarely anything other than fairly trivial.

Was it the way the wind rippled Gary Bailey’s blond flowing locks as he embellished routine saves with a succession of dramatic sideways rolls in the late 1970s, or the three white stripes that ran bouldy down the front of the yet-to-be-bettered Admiral shirt of the same era that hardened my impressionable young mind towards the Red side?

Looking back, the cruel manner of the last gasp defeat to Arsenal in the 1979 cup final may have swung it, but whatever the reason, the decision was taken and I’ve never looked back.

Of course, being a United of Welsh origin can attract accusations of being a glory hunter.

It’s a concept I’ve never really managed to fully comprehend.

I’m not sure how much pleasure can be gained from basking in the success of a cause that you don’t truly believe in.

For me it’s when you lose that you’re left in absolutely no doubt as to which side you’re on.

I have plenty of recent experience to draw in this regard as United have conspired to throw away a nailed-on opportunity to equal the record of 18 league titles held by their most bitter rivals at the other end of the East Lancs.

Even in a week when I discovered I face the very real prospect of redundancy, the defeat to Liverpool felt like a kick to the stomach.

It left me running scared of newspapers for a week, and I haven’t been brave enough to watch Match of the Day since.

It is not as if I’ve been able to take sanctuary in the Six Nations as a Welsh side, heralded as the best in Europe only a few weeks ago, slumped to a depressing fourth placed finish, each defeat leaving behind a increasing sense of bewilderment and frustration.

So Mr Kelly, if do ever start to wonder who I am, I’ve have a simple test to clear things up. I simply put on Final Score and wait the results.

And just for the record, I never ‘left’ United as Mr Kelly suggested.

I simply offered my support to the United fans who set up their own club in an effort to make football affordable again and rid the game of some of the more commercial aspects that have sucked the life out of the the Premier League match day experience.

Should things go badly for me, it might be the only football I’ll be able to afford to watch.

I suppose what I’ve been struggling to say over the last 900-odd words or so was neatly summed up by another correspondent on the Reporter’s website in just three: Grow up Frank.