Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Manchester United FC

I HAD an exchange with a United fan this morning.

I expected him to be full of the joys of Spring, what with it being actually Spring (definitely helps) and the fact that his team had just bested their rivals, in their rival’s own back yard. Oh, and to add to all the things that had already gone his way, the three points, the Spring that was definitely in the air, he had also seen Gerrard, often his nemesis, sent off after about 40 seconds. I mean, if I was him I’d be happy. Wouldn’t you?

But he wasn’t happy. He wasn’t happy because “there were twats in our end”.

Shortly after I spoke to a Liverpool fan. Obviously with his fortunes being the reverse of the United fan, and identical to my own, I fully expected the darkness in his mood. I fully expected the misery brought upon by failing to compete, by not being any good at the actual football and by seeing our talismanic skipper do something so unlike him, so unlike him to be unjustifiable and stupid at the same time. But in all honestly he wasn’t that bothered about any of that. He wasn’t that bothered because “there were twats in our end”.

Peculiar concept this, isn’t it?

I would’ve thought, depending on how charitable your outlook is to your fellow man and woman, that if you’re anywhere where there is likely to more than about eight people that you run the risk of encountering a “twat”.

Twats at work.

Twats on the bus.

Twats in the queue at Sainsburys who have collected loads of coupons, amassed billions of points on their nectar card and then scrutinise the bill and the work of the lowly-paid cashier to ensure they are actually saving the £1.27 that they are entitled to while you’re standing behind all of this and the frozen food that you bought, what seems like three days ago, starts to melt.

Twats are everywhere, right?

So how is Anfield, a place that holds over 45,000 actual humans, supposed to be “twat free”?

The obvious answer is that it isn’t but, I repeat, it’s peculiar that people expect it to be.

So, I went back to the United and the Liverpool fan, joined together across the M62 in their anti-twat stance, and asked them, “What were they doing, these “twats”?

Their answers were remarkably similar and centred around this concept of “not real fans” — a group of people who despite going to the match, despite wanting their team to win, despite financially supporting the club they, er, support will never quite make the transformation into “real fan” status. Doomed forever to play the role of “twat” and anger the self-identified “real fan”.

Interesting, I thought. Better make sure I’m not one of these “twats” then. What’s the profile? How can I stop myself being one and remain a “real fan”?

Apparently, it’s the little things, the devil in the detail. So I listened carefully and wrote it all down in my “How not to be a massive twat” book. Volume 17. And here’s what I learnt:

1) Taking photos is a complete no no.

Only to be possibly excused if a massive flare goes off or real fans of one club are hitting real fans of another club. The absolute worst crime here apparently is to take a photo of yourself at this game that you may have travelled hundreds of miles to get to. Rumour has it they got that rule from the newspaper seller outside The Empire State Building who gets REALLY annoyed when tourists take photos of that great big massive building he happens to work in front of. Sorry, you’ve done that too?

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Old Trafford

2) Hang on, did I say worst crime? Sorry, my mistake. Apparently doing all the above with a selfie stick is even worse.

I too tried to get angry at these when I first saw them but I found it really difficult because it’s fundamentally just a stick that you put your phone on so you can take a better picture of you and your mates from a higher and more flattering angle. Wish I’d thought of that. Sorry, my fault, went off message then. Yeah, selfie sticks. They’re bad and if you’ve got one you’re obviously a twat.

3) A half and half scarf is the worst thing you can ever wear at a football match.

I must admit this one came as a bit of a shock to me. It came as a shock because I regularly see people wearing bootcut jeans and sometimes I even see people wearing bootcut jeans AND boots. I also sometimes see people wear those combat trousers with about 83 pockets and a Karrimor fleece with loads of dinners down the front. Often these people also have those all terrain shoes when the only terrain they are likely to encounter is pavement and carpet. And once I saw someone wearing a Marillion T-Shirt from the “Conspicuously Unsuitable” tour. Honestly, away at West Ham I think it was. But look, I’m not making the rules am I so half and half scarves it is — they’re definitely the worst thing you can wear at a football match.

European Football - UEFA Europa League - Round of 32 - Liverpool FC v Besiktas JK

I can testify to this too, to the shame this brings upon a “twat”. I once saw a “twat” away at United in the League Cup who was wearing one. I had got talking to him. It was his first game, he had travelled all the way from Hong Kong and he was as childishly enthusiastic as you would expect a person in that position to be. He had got to the ground and saw people who weren’t from Hong Kong selling half and half scarves so, keen to fit in and pick up a souvenir from his big trip, he went ahead and bought one. And everything about that tiny transaction seemed to be going well until a bunch of “real fans” turned up, five minutes after kick off, and publicly shamed him. I looked at the “twat” about five minutes later and the scarf was in a bag and his bottom lip was trembling. What a “twat” for trying to fit in eh? Good thing those “real fans” sorted him out.

4) When your team scores you MUST celebrate in EXACTLY the same way as the real fans.

I wish someone had told me that at Villa away this season when Borini scored after 24 minutes and I accompanied it with a mild celebration befitting of a man who never likes to get too carried away with himself and who was simultaneously conscious of the fact that there were 66 minutes left in the fixture. Because the fella in front of me, who up to that point hadn’t really been watching the game, went absolutely mental when we scored and then turned round to me and, clearly affronted with just mild pleasure, shouted “Come on! We’ve just scored!”. I wish I’d known this rule then so I could’ve avoided ruining this fella’s day.

Football - FA Premier League - Aston Villa FC v Liverpool FC

5) Finally, appearing to obviously be from somewhere else like Hong Kong, Scandinavia, America, South Africa or Australia when the tickets are in high demand and only meet certain criteria also makes you a massive twat.

Yes you. It’s definitely not the fault of the club you support who may sell a portion of tickets to the highest bidder or the “real fans” who credit hunt so they can sell tickets for a profit. No, it’s not their fault at all. It’s yours. You’re a twat.

Phew! Good thing I’ve got all that noted then. The last thing I would want is to go the match and for someone to think I’m a twat just because I’m not exactly like the people who decide who the twats are.

And there was me thinking the “twats in our end” were the people who had adopted “Grumpy Old Men” as a lifestyle choice.

And there was me thinking the “twats in our end” were the people who make being a fan a competition where all of the rules are decided in their favour

And there was me thinking the “twats in our end” were the people who sneer and belittle people for being different and allowing this sneering and belittling to ruin their own experience

And there was me thinking the “twats in our end” were the people singing “Always the victim it’s never your fault” during an inquest process that seems to be doing a good job of deciding fault, and the fans who retorted to that with shouts of “Shut it you Munich bastards”.

Yes, there was me thinking the “twats in the end” were the “real fans” with their unreal axes to grind.

But how wrong I was, because all along the “twats in our end” were the people in the half and half scarves, taking the photos and just being themselves. The people refusing to have a competition, refusing to sneer and belittle and refusing to sing any of those songs.

Silly me.


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Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda & PA Images

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