After reading Jesse Chula’s article about how many Premier League matches will you watch this weekend, it made me contemplate how different the TV and Internet viewing experience is to going to a game in England. More specifically, going to an away game.
I’ve been to plenty of top-flight games in England and Wales, but I’ve never been to see my team Swansea City play in an away match. So growing up in Wales, I had to live vociferously through my cousin to get an understanding of what the typical away experience was like. He was (and is) a Leeds United supporter, so he would often make the trek from west Wales, where we lived, to Elland Road to see some of the top clashes in the late 70s and early 80s.
At that time, Elland Road was one of the top grounds in the country. It had a large capacity, by today’s standards, and was occasionally used to host FA Cup semi-finals. But for two teens living in a remote part of Wales, Elland Road seemed like a world away. My cousin Kevin would regale me with every little detail of what it was like to go on an away trip. Everything from the footballers who were some of the best in the country (Brian Flynn, brothers Eddie and Frank Gray, John Lukic and John Sheridan) to the thousands of supporters he would see from around the country who were traveling by car, train or bus to Elland Road. Leeds really were, and continue to be, a massive club around the world.
The reason I mention this is to give some of the readers of EPL Talk a glimpse into the lives of football supporters in England. The ones that support one club and who watch only one game on a Saturday. Those who spend most of the day getting up at dawn, meeting up with friends and traveling across the country to support their team at home or away. By the time they return home, it’s dark. And the only English football they get to see on television that day would be Match Of The Day that evening. The live experience of seeing their team play, though, would be the highlight of their day. A day spent away from their wife and family. A day filled with drinking beer, singing songs, rituals, superstitions and camaraderie.
In a way, every Leeds United match that my cousin went to felt like an away game, even when they played at home since it was so far away from Wales. Plus, he did often go to other grounds too and would tell me what the experience was like being a Leeds United supporter in the away section and how dangerous it was being penned in.
Years later, my cousin would experience his Leeds United team winning the top flight of English football and being the last winners of the First Division championship title before the league became the Premier League. The team was dramatically different than the one he told me about in the late 70s and early 80s, but the sentiment was the same and so too were most of the fans who had supported the team through highs and lows. The above video shows highlights of Leeds’s game from 1992 when they won the title after defeating Norwich City.