Why I'll Be Cheering For Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool This Week

Watching European football has always had an exotic element for us in Britain. In the 60s and 70s, abroad was a long way away. The world seemed much bigger and the visit of a team from Italy, Germany or Albania was like a visit from another football planet. We hadn’t heard of most of the players, we didn’t know much about the teams. How could we? They were not on TV and rarely covered in the press. Our only exposure to non-British players was at World Cups and on European nights. Hardly any played in the UK.

And on such nights, the vast majority of football fans, regardless of their day-to-day allegiances, wanted the British side to win. It was us v the foreigners. It should be said that for my dad’s generation this was largely because he didn’t like foreigners. He had never really got over blowing seven shades out of the Germans in the war, and every game between a British club and a European club was another battle in that war. If an Italian side played dirty – which they often did – he’d say ‘they never showed that kind of grit in the war.’ Similarly, a French side that let in five goals would be held in his disdain. ‘Typical bloody French – letting everyone run all over them.’ You can imagine what he said if Bayern Munich were playing.

But to me, born 16 years after the war, this was the ramblings of a silly old man. To me European nights were a kind of vicarious international. Victory brought glory on the country as well as on the club. So you couldn’t imagine supporting, say, AC Milan to beat Manchester United. It would have been thought of as unpatriotic. We even had a gym teacher who would tell us to root for the British clubs before the big games. He told us! You’d probably get strung up by the diversity police if you did that today.

But all this has changed now.

Perhaps we’re less nationally tribal than we used to be. Perhaps we’re more suspicious of anything that has the whiff of patriotism or jingoism about it, but it’s very rare now to find neutrals supporting a British side in Europe simply because they are from these isles. Indeed, many consider neutrals like me to be glory hunters because we get behind all the clubs and want to see them win. There’s a younger generation of fans who find this genuinely unpalatable.

This seemed to happen in the 1990s, possibly because sides began to be less British in their make-up, and thus seemed less an extension of Britain and more a cosmopolitan assembly. As we all traveled more and acquired friends from all over the world it broke down the national barriers. The expansion of the football media also seemed to harden people pro- or anti specific clubs. More football on TV gave people more reasons to dislike one side or another it seemed. Indeed, it often seems obligatory to hate at least a couple of clubs. I think this is weird. I can be indifferent to a club. I can dislike a specific player. But hatred? No.

While writing for football365, we get a lot of mail and comments to the effect that I ‘obviously’ hate and am biased against one side or another. I could spend every hour of the day saying this isn’t true, but it would make no difference. People are convinced.

The absolute truth is I don’t hate any club. Hate is far too strong and dangerous an emotion to assign to sport, for me. Rivalries in football should be based not in hatred but in piss-taking and banter. Elevating such a thing to hatred is surely madness. How can you actually hate a football club? What’s it ever done to you? It’s just a club.

I might feel like this after an extensive hippie education in my youth courtesy of the Grateful Dead and a lot of home-grown, but this is why, come European nights, I’m completely happy to root for the British clubs. It’s why I was punching the air when Rooney scored that fantastic first header on Tuesday night and why I’ll do the same if Arshavin volleys one in for Arsenal at Porto and Gerrard does the same on Thursday against Unirea and I could never imagine feeling any other way.

But I suspect I am sadly now in a small and dwindling minority.

27 thoughts on “Why I'll Be Cheering For Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool This Week”

  1. you are mate. While Im not a Manu fan.
    I was thrilled to see Rooney’s display yesterday, however very difficult for me to cheer on The Arse(not an englishman in sight) might as well be cheering for the foreigners.

  2. Good post John, I remember very well the post war days, I was thirteen when Man U’s plane went down. Like you I always cheer for our English teams no matter who they are when playing against the Euro squads.

  3. I don’t agree with the British flag being up there, I cheer for the English sides but not for the Scots. I like all the England teams to do well because that is my country, Britain is not my country. I say get rid of union jack completely, We only need the Cross of St George.

      1. My passport and driving license might say UK but what does that mean? That I was born in England which is part of the United Kingdom. It doesn’t mean I feel part of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
        I have probably been to Spain more times than Scotland or Wales an I have never visited Northen Ireland.
        I feel no attachment to these countries, I am English and England’s flag is the Cross of St George, not the Union Jack.

        1. Three Lions, when you watch the Olympics, which country do you hope will win the different events?

          I’m pulling your leg a bit, but hopefully you get my point. I’m Welsh. I’m proud to be Welsh, but I’m also proud to be British. I like the Union Jack just as much as I do the Welsh flag.

          The Gaffer

          1. Well the Olympics is something I don’t really have a choice over, the powers that be decided that we would probably do better being in there under the combined British flag. I did for a long time wish that was split though as I didn’t like the fact that England was not allowed a football team or Britain was not allowed a football team in the Olympics.
            I do not have a problem with people being proud to be Welsh, Scottish, English or American. I suppose I just don’t see the point in being British or being proud to be British. To me it’s the same as someone saying they are proud to be European

  4. As an American lost in the “who to support?” game, I always like hearing other people’s opinions or perspectives about this issue.

    From my personal standpoint, if I tend to support Liverpool, I would rather see them beat Arsenal or Chelsea in the CL instead of teams I never see like Porto or Bordeaux. And if I am a Liverpool supporter this year, I would prefer to see as many matchups with other EPL teams during the quarterfinals and semifinals because it gives me something to follow…as opposed to potential games between Lyon-Fiorentina or Wolfsburg-Porto.

    Then again, if I’m watching a Man U game and they are losing, I’m not sure I would have the ability to get excited if they have a chance to score.

    1. To clear things up for the Americans who may not be sure. Britain is made up of England, Scotland and Wales. The Uk is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

      To say you are a fan of British teams is to say you are a fan of the teams from England, Scotland and Wales.
      I am not, I only cheer the english teams on. I suppose it doesn’t matter too much anyway at this stage as no team from Scotland or Wales ever make it this far, but if they did, i would not support them.

  5. Maybe, then, not anymore. For the first 10 years after the post Heysel ban on English Clubs, yes. As English Sides gingerly made their way back into Europe I saw their success as vindication of the English style of play. The unfair advantage continental sides had due to the 4 year English void, with their pick of the best talent money can buy, whilst the likes of Man u and Arsenal still had a rigid wage structure.

    Manchester United winning the Cup Winners Cup, then going on their near 10 year journey to glory which included being humiliated in Spain by Romario and Stoichkov and stunned by Dortmund on the way, then that glorious night in Barcelona when virtually every PL supporter jumped in Euphoria when Solskjaer did the improbable against Bayern. The circle was complete, England, playing football her way, regained the crown of the continent that some would say was unfairly snatched away with the Heysel ban.

    That was 1999, this is 2010, I am a Liverpool supporter and I’m not thrilled seeing Manchester getting closer to our total of 5 Cups. You can barely pull 11 English Players from the top four sides, 3 of which has a foreign manager, and all four are owned by, well, you know. England proved her point in 99, now it’s everyman for himself. Unlike 10 years ago, I’ll be watching the Man U/ AC Milan return leg with the cold detachment of a neutral.

  6. Since I only follow the EPL, for me it comes down to the EPL vs the world. So, yeah, Man Utd, Arsenal & Liverpool over everybody else. I really don’t care how many foreign players/coaches there are on a team,….if they are from the EPL I’m for them. Simplistic, but it works for me.

  7. To Barry.. no one likes Chelsea regardless of the competition….
    I agree with BRN442 and i was cheering for AC to beat United yesterday and ill be hoping AC turn them over at old Trafford and knock them out(not likely..).

    1. “…no one likes Chelsea regardless of the competition….”

      lol, but I will pull for Chelsea when the time comes. Same old thing…EPL uber alles!

    1. The things you learn by reading EPLTalk!! I had never noticed.

      Thanks……now I need to find a trivia contest somewhere here in the States.

  8. Is there anyone with the perspective that it’s better to see all of the EPL or English teams get far in the tournament (as long as they don’t win it in the end) so that the league looks better for it? If all of the other league teams were eliminated in the group stages wouldn’t it make the league look poor and thus, winning it not as remarkable? Just wondering.

    Also, for supporters or teams that don’t often finish in the Top 7, do you root against the teams that play in the Champions League, not care, or not even pay attention?

  9. Good column John, and I’ll go you one better. As an American of British descent (yes, that means English, Welsh, and Scottish blood) I pull for every British team against opposition from the continent , South America, etc. Hell, I pull for English-speaking teams like Australia in the WC, for the simple reason that they speak English. I’m a Liverpool supporter but I still watch the Champions League when they go out, and like John I was pleased to see Manchester United top Milan. I hope Arsenal and Chelsea advance too. Good on the EPL if they do.

  10. As an American, I don’t feel the pull towards the UK at all. As an Arsenal fan, I like nothign more than seeing my rivals lose, therefore I rooted for AC Milan yesterday (though I think Man U’s performance was outstanding) and I’ll root for Inter next week….

    I also can’t wait for June 12th!

  11. Here you go Gaffer, you could argue the Cross St George belongs to Wales as much as England.

    ‘From about 1277, due to already widespread use, St George’s cross officially became the national flag of England and Wales. The three lions remained the coat of arms and flag of the king’.

    According to wiki, Wales only adopted their own flag in 1959 (I’ve learned something today too)

  12. It’s a Win-Win for me

    Seeing English rivals lose always makes me happy
    Seeing English rivals win makes me a little happy as it soldifies us having the best League in the world

  13. Three Lions,totally agree with you mate.they hate us but love our money.they haven’t got the balls to vote for independence,i know we would vote fot it,if offered the chance,though the anti english scots cabal in parliament wont allow it.we pay for aircraft carriers they get the jobs.cameron is the biggest two faced traitor i’ve seen since blair.every uk country should be indpendent,with its own parliament,raise its own taxes to spend as it sees fit.legislation could be brought in by an English parliament telling the FA to remove welsh clubs from english football,i could go on and on.the people of england should be able to have input into legislation via internet,and put ideas forward for ENGLANDS benefit.ENGLISH FOREVER BRITISH FOREVER.

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