Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Fantasy Football

Today I became the proud part-owner and manager of a football club. A real football club. - Ebbsfleet United of the Blue Square Premier division. Naturally I'm over the moon with my new purchase. I'm gonna give 110% and hope that the boys can show the same levels of energy and commitment out on the pitch. Obviously, all they can do is take it one game at a time but as long as they can concentrate for 90 minutes, week-in week-out, then I won't be feeling as sick as a parrot. Etc etc etc etc........................

It's all true though, and it all happened through this website. 20000 of us have paid £35 each to have not just a share of the club but also a say in playing personnel and transfers. Quite how this will work, or even if it will work at all, I have no idea. It will be fun though. There are plenty of sceptics in the media and particularly among those who spend their days posting on football message boards. They think I'm being conned or that it will end in disaster and I understand this but I think they're missing the point which is that we don't know how these things will unravel until someone takes the plunge and finds out. It's only going to cost me £35 a year anyway which is comfortably less than it costs to buy a football shirt that's been produced for a fraction of the price. Who's the mug?

My motives for doing this stem from a dissatisfaction with the club I support, Fulham. I wasn't born a Fulham fan (but dad tried to get me to support Spurs or Brentford. It just didn't take. I don't know why), instead I chose them. I realised that supporting Liverpool whilst residing in London was wrong and, besides, Kenny Dalglish, the entire reason I started supporting Liverpool, retired in about 1985. So I needed a new team and my mate Steve's enthusiasm led me to Fulham. Who knows, if my dad had shown the same enthusiasm I could be a miserable Spurs fan like him.

I first realised I was a Fulham fan at some point in the mid 90s when I found myself showing enthusiasm for attending a home match against Cardiff City in the middle of winter when we hadn't won in about 14 matches and were second from bottom of the entire football league. We were shit. I mean really shit. But, for some reason, I found myself drawn to this hopeless band of cloggers. It rained hard that night on me and about 2000 other fans but Fulham won handsomely and that was it, I was hooked. There was something about the team's crapness that I found alluring. I think it may have been to do with the (wildly mistaken) belief that I could probably do as well as those on the pitch. They were like you and me. They made mistakes. Frequently. I liked the crapness and I liked the picturesque stadium by the Thames and I liked the fact that I could stand where I wanted and knew all the faces on my terrace.

Things have changed since then. We have a sugar-daddy who has paid for our route to the Premiership and one result of this is that I longer go to matches. It doesn't feel like the same club I started supporting. I love the fact that we're on TV all the time but that is also why I'm less interested. It used to feel like my little team and now I have to share it with millions of armchair fans, and newspaper and TV pundits. There are other factors, such as the vastly increased prices and having to sit where I would once stand but it all boils down to one thing: I no longer feel any great connection with the club. It's not as much fun any more.

I was thrilled, then, when this morning when I received an email saying that mine and everyone else's £35 had been invested in Ebbsfleet United. I'd never even heard of the club but spent a while on its website learning about the players and history and I'm now looking forward to attending matches. I haven't really looked forward to attending a match in years. There'll be loads of other people like me there, new supporters excited about doing something new and interesting which I hope will engender a real community spirit and that's what it comes down to for me. It will be fun again.

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