Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Football (Writing a story – pt2)

So continuing my promise to try and write material every night…. A new section… I have a problem with my jaw so immense headaches so this might be terrible and end abruptly. However if it does rest assured I’ll be crying somewhere while clutching a bag of frozen southern friend chips close to my face…

One of the things you find when you go to football cities like Newcastle or Manchester, Liverpool or Glasgow, cities that have football in their blood, or maybe football’s covered in blood, what you find when you go to those cities is an overwhelming unquestioning passionate gutwrenching love of their club.

I’ll ask someone about their team and they’ll say, “I fucking love united, I’ve loved united longer than I’ve loved anything, I loved them in the womb, I fucking loved them as a foetus, when I was a sperm, a sperm right, when I’d just been ejaculated, and I was travelling along, waggling my little tail,  I fucking loved united. Even then, I fuckin’ loved them, yeah?”

Then they’ll turn on me and ask me about my team, that’s how it works, and at that point you’re in a dangerous position, you’re in a dangerous position because there are only two reactions you can get from the football supporter. You can either support the same team as them, which is good. You can support a rival team, which is bad. You’ll either have them with their arm wrapped round you as they show you their tattoo of the club and offer to buy you a pint and some charlie powder, yep, charlie powder. Or they’ll wrap their arm around you and tell you what a twat you are, how much of a twat everyone in your team is and will tell you to fuck off.

Now these should be the two default positions. Love or hate. It’s in the nature of the game, you can’t really have a friendly.

Now I support Newcastle, but i’ve not always supported Newcastle, before I supported Newcastle I supported noone. I didn’t get football, it’s just a load of blokes running isn’t it, it’s just overpaid people kicking a ball. It was pointless.

Then I got to secondary school, now I went to a typical secondary school where I was told in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t like football that I was a queer and possibly also a gaylord and that with the addition of my glasses I would undoubtedly endure 5 years of bullying at the very least. Now bare in mind that these same people who said I was queer or a gaylord for not liking football were the same people who obsessed over Panini stickers, they collected pictures of men, not just pictures of men, because the best 3 stickers you could get were the Ryan Giggs sticker, the David Beckham sticker and shiney’s, which were glittery stickers. And I was the gay one for not liking football.

So I decided that I should start to like football and so shopped around for a club, now I am from Scarborough so there are no obvious candidates so I had the option of choosing the best team for the job – and I chose Newcastle United.

Now Newcastle, for clarity, were an upcoming force at that point, they were going to dominate the league for the next ten years with Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand hitting goal after goal after goal. They seemed like a great option. They were continental, I mean imagine being 12 and hearing “Srnicek to Albert, Albert to Ginola, Ginola passes one, passes another, swishes his hair, across to Gillespie,  right footed to the centre, where… SHEARER!” It was magical.

Now in retrospect I made a poor decision. But it opened up a new channel of conversation with football fans, because Newcastle, pretty much the second I started supporting them became the leagues comedy turn. It started with Keegan loving it if we beat them, then we had Fat Freddie, Boumsong and Bramble, Stéphane Guivarc’h the French World Cup winning striker who scored no goals for France and then no goals for Newcastle, Michael Owen, relegation, Joe Kinnear telling everyone they should go fuck themselves on his first day in the job.. They have always been, and I say this as a fan, a bit of a joke.

But they were my joke, I loved them for it, they were a beautiful team of heroic failures. There was something good about it, instead of the conflict with other football supporters there would be just joy, do I remember when Newcastle lost to Stevenage Borough, Why Yes I Do!

But of course even though I started supporting a team to avoid being bullied and actually prefer it when my team do comically badly to do well, I still think I know more about football than everyone on the pitch. Now this happened a couple of years ago, I’d always been aware of it, and what i’ve noticed is how remarkable it is that 90% of the men in this country can see, clearly see what the team is doing wrong and how it could be fixed, but how this insight, this knowhow, this experience has had practically no impact on England winning anything for over fourty years. I first noticed it in my dad. Now he’s a calm chilled out sort of guy, but when watching England games, he’d change, he’d point out that failed passes were easy, that tactically they were set up all wrong and that anyone could have finished that. And I’ve started to do the same… Little comments escape me, he should be pushing back the wing back. I don’t even know where the wing back is, a chair? But I think I should be pushing the wing back back. I even got this little twitch in my leg, when an opportunity came close my leg would twitch involuntarily, as if striking the ball. I took this as a sign that I was born to play.

I think everyone has this idea that they could be a natural at something but very rarely try it just in case they’re wrong. For example I can watch Golf and tell that it is a simple game that requires very little skill just an atrocious wardroble and a leather bag with some sticks in. I know I’d be intuitively good at it, it’s simple to me, aim at the hole, avoid the deep.. But football…

Then I got my chance, Gareth who was my flatmate at the time asked me if I wanted to watch his team play, a little local league game and did I want to go along.

Why Yes! Just to watch, don’t want to embarrass the amateurs, but I could shout some tips from the sideline.

Ran out of energy here…. Thoughts… Needs Work…