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Sit down, shut up 27/12/2006

Posted by Ian Grant in Thoughts about things.

The pattern is simple enough. It’s the same old cycle, long-established; it’s the one that we’ve written about for the last eleven years: wave-crests of euphoric celebration, troughs of discordant despair. Oh, and lots of stuff in between that seemed terribly important at the time but no-one, except Matt, can now remember.

Stand selling fanzines on Vicarage Road of a Saturday afternoon and you’ll quickly realise that collective identity is a complete myth. There is no Yellow Army, just a bunch of people who happen to have a connection with the same town, many of whom seem like remarkably cheerless, uncharitable souls. On the crest of a wave, none of that really seems to matter amid the rush of shared celebration. At the other end of the scale, it all seems to unravel in the most harrowing fashion, and the idea of using the word “club” to describe the resulting melee of shouting, counter-shouting, theatrical finger-pointing and so forth is laughable. Pretty obviously, I love thinking about football and I love trying to put those thoughts into words. Analysing it too much, however, is a very dangerous thing.

Because, judging by last night’s shameful little episode, a large part of the Rookery is populated by the kind of dimwitted, parochial little bigots that I’d cross the M1 to avoid. It’s rather hard to express the sheer helpless shame of being in a stand that’s proudly belting out a song about World War Two in the name of Woffud and Ingerland, and doing so at considerable length and volume for the benefit of a television audience. That’s our Watford, is it? Plucky underdogs, family club, Elton John and all that, fine line in nationalistic bollocks on the side? Anyone fancy a chorus of “No Surrender” while we’re at it?

And amid it all, one of the most resourceful and committed team performances that Vicarage Road has seen in recent years, reducing Arsenal’s vastly over-hyped ice-skating-on-grass football to scraps and bits and hilarity. Still lost, I know, but the fight was truly something to behold. When the team needed and deserved our fullest support, a few hundred were crassly bellowing about a country whose history apparently ended in 1945 and distant deeds that they have absolutely no claim over, while the rest of us were shaking our heads in silent disbelief and wishing that the ground would open up. Never has an atmosphere been deflated so quickly without a goal being scored.

W-A-T-F-O-R-D, we’re the Watford Rookery. Shame on us.


1. Matthew - 27/12/2006

Abso-fecking-lutely. Scumbags. I’m a Watford fan, and that’s everything I detest about being a football fan.

2. Alan Reynolds - 28/12/2006

Totally agree, support your team by singing, don’t shame it.

3. David Wheatley - 28/12/2006

For me it ruined an otherwise fantastic evening. Like many people who support Watford I’m on nodding terms with those who sit immediately around me, followed by a quick hello and “whose in the team today”. Now I know that some of those who I’ve shared some fantastic moments with since August ’99 (allocated seating) think it’s acceptable to chant moronic songs about Englishmen shooting Germans. My other regret is that I didn’t say anything at the time, always a tricky call but I should have said something.

4. Ralph - 28/12/2006

I was in the (silent) East Stand and could’nt believe that the idiots in the Rookery could do that either, especially at that point in the game. The rest of the Rookery could, perhaps have tried to drown them out. Our esteemed chairman or manager needs to have a word with these collective morons and tell them they are not welcome at our club. As you rightly point out, there is no “Yellow Army,” just a bunch of childish tossers.

5. nickb - 28/12/2006

Sorry ig, agree with huge swathes of your output, but not this. I know it’s stereotyping, but Lehmann is such a complete, pathetic arse that we need some totem to hang our loathing onto. The bit I find hard to stomach is the Man U song about Wenger’s predilections; now THAT is what I call revolting.

6. Mike P - 29/12/2006

But Nick, why not just called Lehmann a twat, a wanker, a c**t even. Just because he’s an idiot doesn’t mean racism is justifiable.

7. Jon - 29/12/2006

No need for the xenophobia, I agree, but Looney Lehman (as I refer to him) is fair game. A seriously unhinged individual. A great keeper but unstable and the men in white coats need to be on constant alert. What was all that nonsense when he threw himself in the back of the net, for example?

8. Tom - 29/12/2006

An embarrassingly pompous and self-righteous article straight from the school of Nick Hornby intellectual wannabe sports writing. Some of the responses are amusing – did it really “ruin your evening”?! Are these fans really “not welcome at ‘our’ club”? What exactly is our ‘club’ anyway? A safe, family-orientated, bobble hat wearing, sit down and be quiet sort of club with no room for any sort of inappropriateness?
I personally dislike many of the chants that emanate from the back of the Rookery (“you’re just a small town in…”), but i liked the German bombers chant because it was so inappropriate, and because i knew it would get the backs up of the safe, ‘clap your hands’ tea flask masses.
I also think the article misses the point. The chant was not an attempt to be overtly nationalistic and bigoted, but rather an attempt to further antagonise an already wobbly Lehman.

9. Mike S - 29/12/2006

I didn’t hear the alleged racism, but while I agree that racism is unnecessary, I think Mike P has demonstrated perfectly the multiple standards the “racism debate” evokes. Why is it OK to shout “C**t”? Why (to use an example close to my heart!) is it OK to sing “Who ate all the pies?”? Why can you get away with calling people “Jocks”, “Frogs” and “Argies”? But make a WW2 reference and suddenly we’re all meant to be ashamed to be Watford fans.

To sum up, I most certainly wouldn’t have joined in had I been there. But I wouldn’t have got my knickers in a knot about it either.

10. bob - 29/12/2006

so the xenophobia’s ok, because the target is, in your view, ‘unhinged’?

11. Robin - 29/12/2006

Apart from being cringeworthy and rather pathetic, what really annoyed me about the chant was that it blocked out anything else for 5 minutes, just at the time when we were getting a grip on the game. Who knows what might have happened if, instead of inane taunts aimed at a single opposition player, we had had sustained chants of “Yellow Army”, “Aidy Boothroyd, da da-da da-da-da” or whatever. Instead, the game went just a bit flat, and we let Arsenal off the hook.

12. Mike P - 29/12/2006

Mike S, I certainly wouldn’t call anyone a jock, a frog or an argie. I might possibly sing “Who ate all the pies” (although I doubt it) or call someone a c**t (if I weren’t such a polite chap). The difference is that if I call them a c**t, uncivil as it is, I’m personally targeting them. If I use the phrase “Argie” I’m using a person’s nationality as a slur against them. I don’t think that distingusing what’s acceptable and what isn’t is particularly hard.

I certainly wasn’t as angry about this incident as others were, but there’s no way I’m going to dismiss it as a harmless incident as “Tom” does.

No doubt the term “politically correct” is soon going to drift into the argument, a term so vague and meaningless that it’s perfect for any small-minded idiot to use when they try to justify the fact that “Cor, you can’t say anything offensive these days can you mate!”

13. Al - 30/12/2006

How does it go? “Pompous x Pompous = A lot of Pompous” I think it was…

14. Mike S - 30/12/2006

Well fair enough, old boy. But what’s acceptable to some is not acceptable to others. National newspapers will merrily taunt “Krauts” and “Argies”, but wouldn’t dare do the same to “Pakies” for example.

Why is racism a Bad Thing? The long and the short of it is that, whether said in jest or in hatred, it causes widespread offence. Trust me, it’s water off a duck’s back now, but to many people, fat jokes cause a great deal of offence.

Why is it better to target a person with a personal slur than use their nationality as a slur? Isn’t that bullying? (Probably not in the context of shouting abuse at Loony Lehmann, but still…)

And to me, there is nothing more offensive than the word “C**t” – I just hate it. How many people do I have to find who share my view before use of the word becomes similarly taboo at football matches?

I’m being flippant, I know. But as I said before, the whole racism debate in this country (and probably many others) is a farce, and full of multiple standards.

Now let’s talk about footy!

15. Esp - 31/12/2006

Mike, you wrote: Now let’s talk about footy! and that is the whole point isn’t it?

It is very difficult to even think about the football, let alone watch it when you have assorted miscreants and boneheads around you shouting abuse in your ears incessantly

The ineffective stewarding is not to blame of course but picking out the ringleaders (and /or their sheep) would make a start .. and what are the police there for? I thought it was a public order offence or have I got that wrong?

A confused and irritated Esp

16. Tops - 31/12/2006

‘If you heap pomposity upon pomposity, you end up with a great big pile of pomposity. Well done, you.’

I think that’s a better quote, Al, to sum up this article in Mr Grant’s own words. This is exactly the kind of overprotective nonsense that is troubling football at the moment. I didn’t join in the chant – it was unnecessary – but how you can be so scathing about those who did join in is completely beyond me.

17. Esp - 01/01/2007

ig doesn’t need me to answer for him Tops but xenophobia and outright racism is not “beyond” most reasonable and intelligent adults imho

…. and if standing up for your right (at approx. £20 a ticket) to have those around you support your team and not indulge in inflammatory insulting and downright racist chanting means I am also “overprotective” then I will have to accept your insult too mate


18. Nick B - 03/01/2007

I know this is all getting a bit boring, but the word racism is becoming devalued when used in this context; the correct term is xenophobia

19. Matt Rowson - 04/01/2007

So objecting to vacuous xenophobic (!) nonsense is “overprotective” Tops? In the same way that those who fought to abolish slavery however many years ago were “lily livered liberals”, presumably?

20. Alan Reynolds - 04/01/2007

So Tom liked the chant because it was so inappropiate, and would upset the safe, clap your hands masses. Thought I was at a football game not a class war.
What next? Ring a few door bells and run away on your way home – now that would upset them. Wonderful.

21. Al - 04/01/2007

Blimey – and I thought there was too much pompousity (?) going on in this thread already…

22. Tops - 05/01/2007


I would suggest the nonsense is to compare slavery with xenophobia! I see your point – you think I’m a Daily Mail reading Tory with a pechant for saying ‘that’s political correctness gone mad’. What you have to understand is that I don’t condone ‘Ten German Bombers’ at all, precisely the opposite, but people have a right to sing it, and you must accept that narrow-mindedness is a feature of a football crowd. Where do you draw the line? Are people who sing ‘you dirty northern bastards’ parochial bigots too? I belt out songs in defence of ‘Waffud’ and highly offnesive songs about Luton fans. Why should that be any less offensive than songs about Germans?

Each individual draw his, or her, own line. Just because you have a different opinion to someone, that does not make them people you’d cross the M1 to avoid.

23. Craigers - 08/01/2007

“people have a right to sing it, and you must accept that narrow-mindedness is a feature of a football crowd”

Why must we accept this? Why shouldn’t we try to stamp the nonsense out? Football crowds are no less narrow-minded than the general public.

As to having the right to sing it, I wish the club wouldn’t give them the right to sing it. Trash is trash, and it degrades Watford Football Club.

I just wish that the predominant response wasn’t sadness, but *anger*, which is more in line with what is needed.

24. Alfie Noakes - 08/01/2007

I note my previous message was deleted by The Thought Police.

It seems that nowadays, everything is tolerated except what is perceived to be intolerance (ie someone who disagrees with you). At this point most of you jump to the moral high ground and patronise these opposing views.


25. Alfie Noakes - 08/01/2007

Craiggers, what else in this Wide World of ours do you see as nonsense that needs stamping out? After all, it seems you feel you have the monopoly on what should and should not be allowed.

Kylie Minogue records? Volvo cars? Coffee percolators?


Jews, perhaps? Certain Rwandan tribesfolk? Old people in general? The mentally ill???

26. Ian Grant - 08/01/2007

Far be it from me, Alfie, to stand between you and your persecution complex. But your message was deleted for a perfectly simple reason: it was obviously designed to be inflammatory. You didn’t actually need to swear, did you? It would’ve been quite easy to make the same point without doing so, but you didn’t bother. Your problem, I’m afraid.

This isn’t a mailing list and it isn’t a discussion forum. It’s a blog. You’re welcome to leave comments, but we have absolutely no obligation to publish them and absolutely no desire to end up overseeing a great big row. For that reason, we deleted some comments that we agreed with. And we published others that we didn’t agree with. It’s called “editing”.

27. alfie noakes - 09/01/2007

Yes Ian – and you were at a footie match. I suspect many/ most WFC fans chanting at Lehman know little about the War itself and outside of the ground would be unlikely to ever discuss what happened between 1939-45. Keep things in context.
Have you never chanted or shouted something to goad an opposition player?
Your patronising comments (“persecution complex”, “my problem” etc) merely underline my earlier point.
Edit away, dear boy, edit away….

28. Mike S - 10/01/2007

I think if we can take something positive out of all this, it’s the return to our computer screens of the Fish-on-a-Stick (assuming that is what I can see next to ig’s last comment). It’s like welcoming home an old friend. Like seeing Dirk Benedict following a bunch of has-beens and never-gonna-bes into the Big Brother house.

Welcome back, old buddy!

29. Ian Grant - 10/01/2007

The Fish-on-a-Stick sends his best regards, Mike. He’s very happy to see you too.

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