Monday, 16 May 2011

Ban the Banner!

Evening all.

It's certainly been a very interesting weekend of football here in the United Isles. Before I get to the main theme of my blog entry though, let me just wander off and touch on a few things that the greatest game has given us over the past few days.

1) West Ham United have been relegated, and Avram Grant has been sacked. The only mystifying thing about that sentence is the fact that the Hammers board members - all of whom are stupendous arseholes - left it until the final nail was inserted into their coffin before deciding to replace the most clueless football manager the world has ever seen this side of Les Reed. For any non-football fans reading this, it's difficult to explain to you what an awful, awful manager Avram Grant is. Perhaps it'd be better to just tell you that he's relegated the last two teams he's managed, he had a hand in ousting the greatest manager Chelsea ever had, and he inspired no confidence whatsoever in his players. It is still unclear what UEFA coaching qualifications he actually has, but reports coming out from West Ham's dressing room about his tactical "knowledge" suggest he hasn't got many. No wonder the last rousing half-time speech in there was from captain Scott Parker, not himself.

2) Many congratulations to AFC Telford United on their promotion via the play-offs to the Blue Square Premier - otherwise known by us old farts as the Conference. When I first moved up to Shropshire, Telford United and their ground The Bucks Head became my regular source of football, and though it was a billion miles away from Old Trafford standards I didn't care a jot. The stadium was old and run-down however, so they bulldozed it and replaced it with a gleaming new one (New Bucks Head, funnily enough) which eight years on remains VERY impressive by non-league standards. What happened to Telford United is a story for another day, but after it crashed and burned in 2004 a new team was set up by the fans and they started all over again. The fact that they've got back to the level Telford United were at within seven years is a testament to the magnificent work done down there. I was sceptical, and there's still work to be done, but watching the play-off final made me proud that there's a football club which represents the local community so voraciously as AFC Telford do, and really proud that that club is within walking distance of myself. I wish them all the good luck in the world.

But now I want to get to the matter in hand, and it's concerning this:

3) Manchester United won the Premier League title on Saturday afternoon, their 19th league crown.
4) Manchester city won the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon, ending a 35 year trophy drought.

This story can get complicated but for the sake of everyone I'm going to simplify it down. For the past decade or so there has been a banner at Old Trafford which has displayed the number of years since city, one of our rivals, last won a trophy (a picture of it is below if you've not seen it). Now that city have triumphed in a (largely irrelevant) competition, a discussion has broken out - what to do with "the banner"? As I follow an awful lot of United supporters on Twatter, it's a debate I've been seeing a lot in the last few days. Opinions have generally been divided between:

a) Take it down.
b) Keep it up.
c) Modify it.

but I've not seen anyone yet who's shared my opinion of the banner - that it should never have been there in the first place.

What I love about my football club is that history just seeps out of its every corner - most of it good, some of it bad. If you asked me to name a United Dream XI, I'd struggle, and that'd be just based on players I've seen with my own eyes, never mind including Robson, Law, Charlton, Best, Edwards and more. What I love about my football club is that we're one of the most successful football teams in the world. What I love about my football club is the splendour of the stadium, the fact we have the greatest manager of all time, the Munich tunnel, the proud and loud away support, the fact everyone else hates us, and so much more.

In my opinion, the pride I, and hopefully others, feel in my football club should be reflected by the banners and flags that adorn the ground. We should boast about OUR achievements, OUR players, OUR history and OUR on field prowess rather than spend so much time thinking about others. It's the same for the chants - Patrice Evra? Javier Hernandez? Michael Carrick? No songs for them, but plenty about hating Scousers or city being a small club. Fair enough, I agree with those sentiments, but it's not productive. The only chant we have for Ji Sung Park is about the dubious culinary habits in his native country.

Okay, "the banner" was mildly amusing but it's always been an albatross around our necks. Would it have inspired the city players to try extra hard? I don't know - I doubt they care, actually - but the fact that Roberto Mancini took great delight in saying how they were going to "rip that banner down", and the fact that after their win, the city players paraded a banner saying "0 years" on the Wembley pitch means that you can bet they were aware of it. And now it becomes an embarrassment. Take it down? Cue city fans piping up with "where's your banner gone?" at the next derby. Keep it up, or modify it? Just makes us look obsessed. For what it's worth, in my opinion it has to come down. But in my opinion, it should never have existed.

Take it down, and replace it with something that celebrates Manchester United. Jesus Christ, there's plenty of stuff to choose from.