I have a message for Mark Lawrenson, Jonathan Pearce and the BBC. Do us a favour: the next time you promote the FA Cup, please stop using those iconic images of 1970s Herford United fans running on to the pitch directly after Ronnie Radford blasted one into the top corner. Every year those special scenes at Herford are repeated, and yet when a similar thing happens at Villa Park in 2015, the media reaction is one of utter disgust and contempt. The revulsion in which BBC’s commentary pair Lawrenson and Pearce carried, was enough for a blind viewer to wonder if the Villa fans were having sex with farmyard animals in full view. ‘This is a disgrace’ ‘appalling scenes here at Villa Park and they’ll all be on CCTV” said Pearce in the shameful hope that these fans would soon face banning orders.
A young kid on the pitch was shown on camera holding up a Villa scarf and he looked overjoyed as Jonathan Pearce spoke of ‘Ugly scenes at Villa Park’.
When listening to such drivel, I feel like I’ve entered some kind of Twilight Zone; an upside down world where people being happy and exuberant are now the bad guys. A few rules were broken – so fucking what. Get over yourself, it’s just a game. Our game – and these establishment guys really don’t like it when the genuine custodians do something spontaneous.
Villa fans have had very little to cheer about in the last two decades, so how can such an outpouring of hope be so misunderstood?
Lawrenson snarled “It’s like a return to the 1980s” Yeah it was, which was why it was so brilliant.
When did a pitch invasion/celebration become a bad thing? I recall in 1988, at the age of ten, witnessing a manic pitch invasion at Highbury. 2,000 happy Gooners ran on the pitch to celebrate Arsenal getting to the League Cup Final. That kind of thing got you addicted to being a football fan. I urge you readers to watch that Highbury clip by going to youtube and typing in pitch invasion at Arsenal v everton.
When watching this video, please note how casual the commentator is compared to the reaction of Lawrenson and Pearce.
Today’s line of outrage is almost exclusive to the modern media. Most people I’ve spoken to, and most comments I have read on social media, emphatically conclude that the Villa fans did nothing wrong.
I coach children’s football and this week I asked them what they thought of the Villa Park incident. These ten year old kids thought it was wonderful. They identified with the excitement and passion and they could not understand why the Villa fans were so heavily condemned. One kid thought it was absurd that anyone would conclude that it would have ruined Tim Sherwood’s day, as suggested by some in the media.
Step forward Des Kelly from the Evening Standard. His outrage of the pitch invasion was enough for him to proclaim ‘Give me the Library (silent atmosphere) any day’. Next to his article were pictures of happy Aston Villa fans alongside the words “Disgraceful scenes at Villa Park”
Des, why so angry when you actually get what you want 99% of the time. In fact you’ve had what you prefer for a couple of decades now; as most games today will carry that dream of yours. Why
are you complaining because of one small incident – you get what you want every week – a boring and static atmosphere!
What was most appalling about Des Kelly’s classist article was that he claimed that the only people who complain about the sanitisation of football were aging white men. This is not true at all and how dare Des Kelly (a former writer for the Daily Mail) claim to know how ethnic minorities feel about the way football should be watched; I can confidently state that most black football fans I speak to long for the days when passionate crowds cheered on their team old school style. In the 1980s clubs such as West Ham, Birmingham, Man City and Spurs had a lot black fans who attended games, arguably more so than now. Just like ‘aging white men’ ethnic minorities do not appreciate being priced out of football and being told how to behave by orange coated kill joys.
I’ve been part of Arsenal fan protest movements where the the actual organizers have names such as Raj and Omar. They don’t like the modern game any more than so called aging white men.
Was there some overt racism in the 1980s – yes of course and aside from a few Chelsea morons on the Paris Metro last month (who exist today but somehow the 1980s got blamed) – nobody is calling for a return to that. However, fans of all races, genders and ages do want a game where supporters have the freedom to show a bit of exuberance – without being labelled as scum or village idiots.
Written by Matthew Bazell