Tales from the Wilderness

I originally had no intention of blogging this week, as I have 72 more quizzes to rewrite following a structural change and new logo. However I wound myself up with a bit of statistical analysis and, following a rant on MyFaceTube, I feel the need to share.

If any of my non-UK readers of the blog were to pick up and read an English newspaper, they would soon become aware that everything outside of the M25 is an apocalyptic wilderness akin to a Mad Max movie. However, if they stuck with the London-centric propaganda until the last few pages, they would also realise that there is one small oasis in a magical, almost mythical,  place called the North-West.

There is a strange and wonderous thing called football, and this oasis is the home to the tribes of Manchester United and Liverpool, plus the smaller tribe that is Manchester City and the occasionally mentioned Everton. However, these tribes are mentioned only as they are the (superior) Barbarian rivals to the ‘proper’ London football clubs of Arsenal, Chelsea and (sometimes) Spurs. It’s a bit like the Teutoburg Forest replayed every Saturday afternoon at 3pm.

While I hate to be the bearer of bad news, there are actually 92 league clubs in England (although some of these are actually in Wales), not just the six or seven the tabloids would have you believe.

Last season (2013-14) almost 30 million people went to see a match involving one (technically two) of these 92 clubs – that’s like half the population of the UK. Of these, less than 6 million went to see six of the seven aforementioned clubs (I’ve excluded Everton from my calculations for no apparent reason). Even with my bad maths, this means that 80% of the football going population of England (and occasionally Wales) really don’t give a shit about the ‘Big Six’.

If you want to watch football on the TV, you have a choice of Sky or BT, who show many many matches each season. With Sky, 75% of these televised matches include one (sometimes two) of the ‘Big Six’. BT are even better, with them it’s 85%. This is classic Pareto at work – 80% of all televised matches are include teams which only 20% of football fans want to watch. To add insult to injustice, you have the privilege of paying mega bucks per month for this.

I’m a West Bromwich Albion fan (aka WBA, West Brom, The Baggies), a club based in the Midlands – halfway between ‘proper’ London and the ‘football oasis’ of pre-1974 Lancashire. Unlike most of the ‘Big Six’, the Baggies were a founder member of the football league back in 1888. We have won the FA Cup as many times as Man City and Everton and only two less than Liverpool and Chelsea (not bad since it’s been contested 132 times to date).


Additionally, we are in the same league as the ‘Big Six’ and England’s only clean sheet in the abysmal 2014 World Cup campaign was with Ben Foster – the West Brom goalie – between the sticks. Despite this, between now and the end of November, they are on TV twice. Compare this to Arsenal, Liverpool and Man Utd, all of whom are on TV three times before the end of August (and teams only play three times in August) – Man City, Chelsea and Everton are also on twice this month.

It used to be the case that, to know which team you supported, you got a map, looked at where you were born, and looked for the nearest ground as the crow flies, voila you have the team that you support until the day you die. The only difference to this was if, for whatever reason, this was not the same team as your Dad supported, and he took you to see his team instead – which is why Cpt. America* is a Wolves fan.

The advantage of supporting a bunch of perennial no-hopers for all of your life is that the occasional Jimmy Glass moment means so much more than feeling ‘cheated’ because you’ve only won 10 of the last 12 league titles, or because you haven’t won a trophy for the last 5 years.  While I have no problem with people who genuinely support these clubs because they are the nearest to their place of birth, those fans who jumped on the bandwagon should be firmly kicked off again, and told to go and support their local club, even if they are no good.

Football can be expensive and, due to financial and family pressures, it’s not always possible to get to see matches live, especially if two of your three sproglets are also big footy fans. This is why I shall mostly be following the (few) highs and (lots of) lows of the Baggies this season by listening to matches on the radio. I’ll also be envious of Cpt America and Parker* (Ipswich Town) who are lucky enough to follow teams in the Championship –  a league that’s much tighter, more difficult and, therefore, much more interesting to watch.

Footnote: when writing quiz questions about football, I avoid questions about the ‘Big Six’. There’s much more interesting facts and stories about the other 86 clubs, for example the first English club to beat Bayern Munich, at Munich, in the Champions League/European cup was Norwich City, and Italian giants Juventus’s strip is based on that of Notts County.

Finally, in a classic Victor Meldrew moment, today’s Daily Post is all about Alanis Morisette and her inability to understand irony. After harping on about this for blog after blog (the only thing ironic about ‘Ironic’ is that it’s written by a woman without a sense of irony, this Ed Bynre clip etc.), the week I don’t bother, I’m asked to write about it. Now that, Alanis, is ironic!!

*see Cast List

5 thoughts on “Tales from the Wilderness

  1. I am from India and a huge Real Madrid fan. If you are in Europe (especially England, Spain,Germany, Italy, France) its easy to follow the highest levels of football and still cheer for the local small club. If you are overseas, the coverage is limited to big clubs and it’s hard to follow smaller clubs.

    That being said, I have attended games at the Bernabeu and Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.. while Bernabeu fills you with awe and pride it’s still too corporate, Ramon Sanchez had raw passion of the Sevilla fans..Sevilla is by no means a small club but I had a better time there than at Madrid where every player in whites was a superstar..

  2. Remember West Ham United and Bobby Moore. That was my time and team and they only earned £20 a week.. Time flies and you can now add a couple of zeros on that 20.

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