Sunday, 4 April 2010

Sarcasm and the Football Fan

Something struck me the other week (what? An original idea for an article? Nah!) Not something physically although the infamous Mrs Smith did interrogate me as to why it took nine hours to get home from Tynecastle when we beat Hibs last month. She wasn’t convinced the traffic upheaval caused by Edinburgh’s tram works was the cause, as I suggested - rather she heavily suspected I had been partaking alcoholic refreshment in a hostelry or two in Gorgie, celebrating Hearts triumph. What occurred to me during that afternoon was how football fans have changed over the years. In particular the chants emanating from the stands.

Those of us who can remember standing on the terracings of Tynecastle and most other football grounds in Scotland will recall a very different society to what we have today. I should point out to younger readers that the majestic splendour that is Tynecastle Stadium today wasn’t always around. In the dark days of the 1970s and the happier times of the 1980s, most fans stood to watch the famous Heart of Midlothian at Tynecastle - and the majority of other grounds across Scotland, the all-seated Ibrox and Pittodrie Stadiums being notable exceptions. Hearts fans were likely to remain in the likes of the Tynecastle Arms and The Diggers supping a pint until about 2.45pm before heading for Tynecastle and standing on the crumbling old terracing. No ticket required, just pay at the gate and walk in.

Football began as a working class game and epitomised its class with the average punter heading for the cheaper option of standing on the terracing while those who could afford to would pay that little bit more for the luxury of sitting in the main stand. I always used to smile when I heard it called the main stand - for the majority of my four decades following Hearts there has been only one stand.

For those of us stood on the terraces the spirit of togetherness would forge an atmosphere that would define our status. We had worked damned hard all week for not a lot of money but we chose to spend our hard earned cash supporting the team we loved. Moreover, that atmosphere created songs and chants which reflected the mood of a less prosperous time. In the 1960s and 70s in particular, violence at football was, sadly, all too prevalent. Fuelled by alcohol - during those decades, it was still possible to take alcohol to football and many fans supped from cans of ale while cheering on their heroes - some football chants were dripping in hatred. ‘You’re gonna get your f***ing head kicked in’ and ‘It’s magic you know, there’s gonna be Gorgie aggro’ were heard most weeks from those wearing maroon and white colours. It was a sad indictment of the time that ‘You’re going home in a f***ing ambulance’ was often proved correct to some unfortunates who followed the opposition when they were set upon immediately after the end of the game.

We still have football related violence today although it now rarely happens inside the ground thanks to all-seated stadia and close circuit television camera. Any violence is more likely to take place in nearby streets although police intelligence has reduced this to an exception rather than a rule. For that, we should all be grateful.

Perhaps this is why the football chants of today are different too. My view is that sarcasm is more likely to be used now than any threats of violence. This was particularly so during the aforementioned Hearts victory in the recent Edinburgh derby. Hibernian are the self-proclaimed purveyors of silky, flair, Brazilian like football - as their fans never tire of telling us. So when Hibs keeper Graeme Stack launched yet another high, long and aimless ball to his hapless team mates the chant from a mocking home support in the Wheatfield Stand was ‘It’s just like watching Brazil!’

There are many other such ditties. Before he left for Middlesbrough, Aberdeen’s Lee Miller was taunted by ‘You used to play for a big team’ from Hearts fans who recalled his spell at Tynecastle a few years ago. Rangers fans have recently taken to chanting ‘There’s only one Tony Mowbray in recognition of the former Hibs manager’s less than successful few months in charge of Celtic. One of the most memorable chants came a few years ago when Rangers and Scotland keeper Andy Goram pulled put of the national team because of an alleged schizophrenic related health condition. Cue the Kilmarnock fans chanting the next time Rangers visited Rugby Park ‘There’s only two Andy Gorams

We should be thankful that fans are no longer singing about kicking each other’s brains out and are instead offering the opinion to opposition fans that ‘you’re not very good’. It’s an old adage that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. As far as Scottish football fans are concerned, it’s developed into something of an art form - something at which they are very good!


  1. During the Le Guen years Celtic visited Tynie and Hearts and Celtic fans erupted in chanting
    "Lets all laugh at Rangers" and a good time was had by all!
    Some romanticise the old days, lets remember the good bits and forget the bad. They old days were not always that good!

  2. During the (much missed) pre-Souness era at Ibrox where Rangers were usually toiling miles behind the leaders, any team who were getting whumped by Aberdeen (again much missed) were regaled with the gleeful 'Are You Rangers In Disguise?'

  3. I think it was Aberdeen fans who first started singing Sign On, Sign On With Hope in Your Hearts Cos You'll Never Get a Job at Celtic Park - a take on You'll Never Walk Alone. Brilliant!