The two sides of the same football coin can sometimes be summed up as being humour and violence; and what they both have in common is camaraderie, whether for good or ill. The depths of a football fan’s self-deprecating humour can be many leagues under the sea. At one of the rare Coventry versus a Premier League side games I went to, Arsenal beat us 6-1 in the League Cup at the Emirates. A night game in London, everyone had a blast, pissed up, singing the old songs that harked back to our own Premier League days. A few months later, we played Tottenham in the FA Cup 3rd round at White Hart Lane, and were duly beaten 3-0. So, what did the Cov fans sing to the jubilant Spurs fans? ‘You’re not as good as Arsenal’, because they put six past us and their North London rivals could only manage three.
Next Summer the English fans, for it is only they after the near misses of Scotland, Wales, and both Irish teams, will be heading to Russia for the World Cup. The media are already licking their lips at the prospect of trouble. A BBC documentary on Russian football ‘hooligans’ interviewed a number of organised gangs; those who caused the violence in Marseille in 2016, and were more than looking forward to the arrival of their English counterparts on home soil. There was no hint of irony in explaining how they were merely copying what English fans had been doing domestically for decades; but their perspective felt very dated, as though the UK terraces were still all-standing, and lads with mullets wearing bomber jackets, were going at each other. They are already planning pre-tournament jollies of violence, with the upcoming game between Manchester United and CSKA Moscow, where they plan to team up with their domestic rival like Zenit St Petersburg to cause havoc. No doubt Putin has a hand in it, even if it is only by riding a horse with his top off, and doing judo with giant fish in the Baltic Sea.
It is therefore nice to have a poem such as Mike Jenkins’ humorous “Alternative CCFC CV”, (his CCFC is Cardiff, not Cov) that marries the comedy of football fans with their penchant for a little bit of aggro. “I’ve stood on the North Bank, Vetch Field,/ supporting the wrong team/ (lucky we never scored!).// I’ve carried on striding/ straight into a marauding Chelsea firm/ saying ‘I’ve lived in Belfast’ to a fleeing friend.” It reminds me a little of the loveable rogue Robbo in Patience Agbabi’s poem, “A Devil in Cardiff”, ‘who would sell his nan for a pint’. But for all their love of the game and roguish ways, would you really want those types of activities on your CV? Maybe.
Mike Jenkins is a retired teacher of English at several Comps. Novelist, short story writer for both adults and young people; he blogs regularly at: www.mikejenkins.net. He’s a Dedicated Bluebird. Latest books – ‘Sofa Surfin’ (Carreg Gwalch), poems in Merthyr dialect and ‘Bring the Rising Home‘ (Culture Matters) poems accompanied by images from paintings of Merthyr artist Gustavius Payne.
Alternative CCFC CV
I’ve stood on the North Bank, Vetch Field,
supporting the wrong team
(lucky we never scored!).
I’ve carried on striding
straight into a marauding Chelsea firm
saying ‘I’ve lived in Belfast‘ to a fleeing friend.
I’ve had a whole pint
poured down the drain
by Devon cops, just because City.
I’ve met the leader of the Soul Crew
running away from trouble,
but urging us to join in.
I’ve reached the depths of despondency
after the play-off loss to Blackpool
and vowed not to eat oranges again.
I’ve been to games in the Dungeon
on wet, freezing Tuesdays
when the police outnumbered fans.
I’ve seen droogies in bowlers
carrying umbrellas on the Bob Bank;
had an umbrella confiscated as a weapon.
I’ve witnessed Boro fans doing the Ayatollah
after we beat them in the FA Cup,
when Whitts scored with a rare right-footer.
I was there when Pompey took the Grange End
and our fans climbed the floodlights
as Man U threatened to invade.
I’ve broken my mobile and glasses
in goal celebration ecstasy.
Can I have that job in Security?