Don’t Be A Wannabeeeeeee

I’m going to write about something that I have put off for most of the 2017-18 football season. It’s not about the club’s hierarchy, or the largely disappointing results. Others have blogged about this throughout the campaign and have analysed it much better than I could. The season is over. The club is in a confused state (or at least, the supporters are) but we won a trophy and it’s something that eluded Tottenham. Again. So it wasn’t all bad!

Last season, some of my favourite football moments came outside of watching the games. I’m by no means the only supporter to have met their favourite footballer, to get to know him and his family a little, and to enjoy socialising with them. (All, I might add, by invitation, not by being pushy.) Maybe not everyone gets invited to their favourite footballer’s birthday party though, and I admit that it was a delightful surprise to me when I was invited to David’s birthday bash in April.

I had already been on the receiving end of sarcastic, bitter, and sometimes downright nasty comments after socialising with David’s family. Some comments were posted directly to me on social media underneath the photos I’d shared. Other remarks got back to me via friends. After I’d attended the birthday party, the meltdown started big time. Some of it is to be expected. David has many fans world wide, not least because of his charming and infectious personality, and the way that he engages with everyone he meets. Plenty of these worldwide fans can only ever dream of meeting him. Therefore, I fully anticipated the flood of messages asking me ‘can you please tell David I love him’ and ‘how can I get to meet him’ etc etc. Some of these fans are very young. I wanted to marry Peter Bonetti. But I was only twelve and you know, you grow up.

What I hadn’t bargained for was the bitterness and jealousy of some adults old enough to know better. A few of them have also had photographs taken with players, David included. But a section of them were put out that I should be invited to a private party when surely, they believed, they were more entitled. I was sent a childish rant by one fan who was incensed that I was at the party. He had been to PSG to see David during his time there, he said. And because I hadn’t done so, he declared himself more worthy of an invite. And, I was told, he had been a fan of the player for longer than me. Really? Why is that important anyway? Besides which, I was a massive fan of David in his first spell at Chelsea, but I had a great deal going on in my personal life during that time. Such as working, studying for a full time Master’s Degree, and undergoing a major abdominal operation. All of this necessitated me missing some matches. I was also in a great deal of pain prior to the operation, so I couldn’t hang around to ‘catch a glimpse of David’ after the games I did manage to attend.

In addition to the negative comments, I’ve experienced copy-cat behaviour. The copy cats have wrongly assumed that if they try to write, dress and behave identically to me, they’ll get noticed. Another person who attended David’s party has also been on the receiving end of it. It’s called trying too hard. It’s called attention-seeking. It’s called being needy. It’s called not having a personality of your own. We are all inspired by other people, other things, but simply emulating someone else’s life and posting photos of it on Instagram, that’s a little desperate, no? Exaggerating your experiences, and even lying about things to make others jealous, surely points towards undiagnosed mental health issues. I’m no expert, but I think it’s fair to say some people use social media as an emotional crutch. Maybe they are unable to seek appropriate help, or simply don’t recognise that they have a problem. I am sorry for people in such positions, but I’m not going to let them bully me. Just because they have had bad experiences – and they’re not alone – does not give them the right to use and abuse others.

I am an open person. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I just don’t follow the crowd, and I never have. Because of this, I tend to stick out a bit, especially for the way I dress. But I have always believed everyone should be as creative as they like, and not conform to socially constructed narratives. In other words, if it isn’t hurting anyone else, then it’s largely okay. And I would hope that my presence on social media is a true and fair representation of my actual life. I do silly things, I have hair-brained moments, and I share them. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, just different.

Many of the Instagram accounts belonging to wannabes only display perfect photos and status updates. Look at me, look at me, they scream, I want attention. If they have no perfect things happening, they sometimes exaggerate or invent them in order to get that attention. Often with a cryptic post. If they’re ignored, they’ll try again. And so-on. A friend remarked the other day on how, if she doesn’t immediately respond to a follower’s 1-1 message, they will send another message with a row of question marks. How dare she have a life outside social media!

None of these negative experiences, however, have put me off doing what I enjoy, nor will they stop me from being myself. That’s not to say that it doesn’t hurt, but I’ve been through much worse. I have nothing to feel bad or guilty about. I am happy for other supporters if they meet their favourite players, and if they go to organised events where they get a chance to socialise with them, that’s great. But I am not up for competition, jealousy, spitefulness or lies. That’s for the wannabes to fight about amongst themselves. Include me out.

© Carol Ann Wood
June 2018


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Ray’s Chelsea Story

When the skies of West London were stormy and grey,
And our hearts sank a little with each passing day,
When we feared that our club would no longer be there,
And fans left the Bridge in a glut of despair,
Our man, Eddie Mac put his faith in the young,
And soon a new superstar’s name would be sung.

As kid became captain, and boy became man,
Then fast turned to hero for many a fan,
He led our Blue Army with passion and pride,
He played with great skill as he skippered our side.
And all the girls swooned as they chanted his name,
We were Butch Wilkins’ Babes when we watched every game.

A gentleman, good guy, the nicest you’d find,
Polite and articulate, one of a kind.
He made many friends in his great long career,
And three times returned to the club he loved dear,
To coach and to nurture, to give us more joy.
To encourage the skills that he’d learnt as a boy.

It’s hard to imagine we won’t see his face
Around, on a match day, in his favourite place.
And yet he’ll be with us in every fan’s eyes,
In the grass, in the stands, in the Chelsea-blue skies.
For Butch was a legend we’ll never forget,
And we’ll pass on his story to fans not born yet.

Today as I honour this heart throb of mine,
At the club I’ve supported since I was just nine,
I’ll be fifteen again and his image I’ll spy
With some memories fond and a tear in my eye.
You brought us some good times and, Butch, we’re so proud.
Lots of love, rest in peace,
From your very own crowd.

© Carol Ann Wood
April 2018


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Plastic Clearout

Come listen up, you plastic fan,
We need to have a chat.
With your two-crest scarf around your neck,
And your fancy day-trip hat.

Welcome to the real world
Where you have no right to win.
Where things can go against the team,
And frustration settles in.

We older fans spent many years
In dark and dismal places.
But still we went, and kept our faith
With other loyal faces.

Welcome to the real world
Where defeat can be the norm.
But you don’t deserve the glory
If you cannot stick the storm.

Some fans of other clubs can only dream
Of all we’ve won.
They’ll never see those trophies
That the likes of us have done.

Support is not just temporary
But form can come and go.
It’s not a brand you pick and chose.
Your heart should tell you so.

You don’t deserve the sunshine
If you cannot stand the rain.
Success is not a guarantee
And sometimes, there’ll be pain.

You don’t deserve the next parade
If you cannot climb the hill.
Would you be there if we went down?
I know the ones who will.

Of course the loyal will have their moan,
We’ll mutter, curse and grumble.
As no-one likes their team to lose
And see the fortress crumble.

But if you cannot ride the waves,
Please go and watch Man City,
Or whoever wins the league in May,
If you only like it pretty.

Go take your selfies some place else,
And leave us loyal to sing.
Because we’ve walked this road before,
Through every single thing.

We want our ground to fill with fans
Who’re constant, loyal and true.
So, gather up your halve-and-halves,
As this won’t apply to you.

We will come good, just like before,
But we cannot name the day.
So please pick up your your plastic hearts
And stay the hell away.

And when we’re on our way back up,
Once more on winning track,
We’ll wave at you from your some place else,
Cos you won’t be welcome back.

© Carol Ann Wood
Sunday 1 November 2015


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Lazy Players Don’t Work Hard

In response to Paul Merson, who called David Luiz ‘lazy’

Lazy players don’t work hard, they languish on the bench,
Or gamble all their wealth away amid a media stench.
Lazy players don’t play through a barrier of pain.
Instead they drown their sorrows or perhaps they take cocaine.
Everyone deserves a second chance, I will agree,
But your attack on Geezer does not resonate with me.
Lazy words from a bitter man is how you come across.
So please cut out your nasty jibes, we’re sick of all your dross.
Dear God, Merse, you are laughable, so what, you won a lot?
But it doesn’t mean you’re justified to venom-spew. You’re not!
Geezer is a real man and a better one than you.
From in your cosy studio, you probably know that’s true.
You’ve clearly never watched our games, you cannot see his fight.
For every ball, for every pass, our warrior, in flight.
And yes, mistakes are sometimes made, he’s human, after all.
But at least his life is clean and good when he’s not playing football.
So think on, Merse, before you judge, and pick upon his flaws.
Our man Luiz defends the line, but you just snorted yours.

© Carol Ann Wood
October 2017


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The Transfer Troll Is King

It is the silly season and the meltdown’s in full swing.
It’s all going off in Twitter-land where the transfer troll is king.
The fanboys in their bedrooms are a-weeping and a-wailing.
They say our club is going bad, and at transfers we are failing.

The sky will soon fall in, they tweet, if we don’t hear some news.
They cannot stand this untold stress of following ‘da blues’.
The toys are falling out of prams, when a player joins a rival.
‘WE’LL FAIL!’  they write in capitals, ‘WE’LL BE FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL!’

They tell the world what they would do, to them it’s such a breeze.
They play their Fifa 17 with skill and expertise.
It is the silly season and the fanboys feel the sting.
They’re hurt, affronted, wounded, and the transfer troll is king.

The clickbait-fodder swallow every story they devour.
The tales get taller, all the time, with every Twitter hour.
As ‘sources close’ have inside news about a ‘breaking deal’
And the fanboys wet their beds again and tell us how they feel.

‘Announce! Announce! Announce!’ they say, as they tweet their chosen star.
‘Come join us, bro,’ they tell a man who knows not who they are.
The rest of us just roll our eyes – we’ve heard it all before.
The silly season’s full of shit and likely there’ll be more.

Supporters have no power, no say, in who we sell or buy.
The board won’t listen to a word, so cry you fanboys, cry.
In ninety minutes of each game, we can chant, and shout, and sing.
But, in the silly season, it’s the transfer troll who’s king.

© Carol Ann Wood
July 2017


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About the author
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NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
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Half a chance?

Why Chelsea’s branding of their name might not mean an end to the much-scorned half-and-half ‘friendship’ scarf

Ask most regular football match attendees about the half-and-half scarf and you’ll likely be met with a grimaced expression and a few choice words in response. Us ‘football purists’ – you know, the sort who grumble about increasingly bizarre kick off times, unreasonable Luddites that we are – have made no secret of the fact that we’ve long-hated the sight of people wearing the name of our club and that of the opponent, together with fixture date, around their necks. ‘It’s really for the kids,’ some of the traders who sell these scarves have argued. In my young days – and yes, I am aware that this renders me an old biddy – we were content with a match programme which we took proudly to school on Monday mornings, perhaps with a player signature or two on it. (Unless we’d lost, of course, and then we might just file it away and hope that the next one could be waved around the playground in triumph.) Yes, times have moved on, but with camera phones having been the norm for over a decade, you don’t need a replica scarf which, let’s face it, you aren’t going to wear ever again, as a reminder, or proof, that you attended a particular match. The game is still essentially tribal. Other clubs are our competitors and our rivals, some more than others. Most of us have good friends who support other clubs, but they would no more want to be adorned with our club’s name than we would theirs.

It has just been announced, to the delight of many, that Chelsea FC are to ban the half-and-half scarf being sold by independent stallholders around the ground. The club have won a court decision to trademark the word ‘Chelsea’ on clothing items.

The word ‘Chelsea’ is now trademarked in Class 25 – which covers clothing, replica football kits and headgear – but in a letter to traders Hammersmith and Fulham council specified scarves being sold outside Stamford Bridge would fall under the ruling. [getwestlondon, 11 Aug 2016, by Ryan O’Donovan]

(Caution: this link to the getwestlondon article will display two photographs of half-and-half scarves, which some readers may find offensive.)

The club’s official crest has, of course, been a licensed product for a long time, but the half-and-half scarves use the word ‘Chelsea’ on a blue-background half with (e g) ‘United’ on a red-background half, each bordered with a generic shirt.

On first hearing this news, it’s understandable to think, ‘Hurrah, no more half-and-half scarves, brilliant!’ That was my first reaction. Maybe the club have actually taken the opinions of the die-hard supporters into account. Maybe they’ve listened. Unfortunately though, the likelihood of this is on a par with the chances of Arsène Wenger admitting he’s seen an incident. I dislike the concept of brand altogether, but sadly, it’s a component of the modern club’s marketing strategy. They are a brand, we are customers. (Another of my pet hates!)

But being unable to use the word ‘Chelsea’ could cause problems for the indies on the Fulham Road. I still believe there is room for both the official products and the stall-holders’ unofficial merchandise. You aren’t ever going to see a tee-shirt on sale in the megastore with our song about Willian emblazoned on it. Well, not that bit of it. But a lot of supporters want to wear it. I have friends who produce some imaginative, good quality unofficial products, but they’re what the real fans ask for. And no, they’re not always vulgar, nor displaying derogatory slogans aimed at rival clubs. And here’s the other advantage: they are affordable. In the last few years, the Chelsea megastore has become bland and drab, even in decor. The recent ‘makeover’ has rendered it not dissimilar to a Sports Direct warehouse. All black and metal. You walk around and what do you see? Row upon row of replica shirts. I’m not anti replica shirt. I wear one with a personalised nickname on the back, but it’s obvious that the club’s merchandising department are mainly interested in shirt sales, because they provide the most lucrative return. Most of the other products are aimed at the tourists and what we refer to as day-trippers, the once-a-season match goers. There is insufficient imagination going into the official merchandise, and the few items which do appeal are overpriced.

If you go back to the early noughties, immediately prior to Roman Abramovich’s takeover, you could walk around the megastore to find a reasonable range of clothing and accessories. It wasn’t quite the good old days of the infamous satin scarves, but it was palatable. People who know me will remember how euphoric I was at all the pink tee-shirts, toiletry bags, scarves and jackets in the ladies’ range. Not everyone’s taste, granted, but it gave rise to my nickname. One day, I was cornered by Ken Bates outside the store, and virtually put on display so he could show me off to some cronies he was entertaining. ‘This ladies’ range is very popular for our growing female fan base,’ he told them, squeezing my shoulder energetically, as was his way, almost flooring me. Well, I was hardly a newbie, but I understood what he was saying. And roguish as he may have been, he did wander around, watching and listening, talking. He asked me what I liked about these new goods. He was a far-from-perfect owner, and he didn’t always endear himself to the supporters, but still, credit where credit’s due.

Whilst I do abhor the half-and-half scarf, I wouldn’t want to see the demise of the independent traders either. They have long been part of the match-day experience, from the bygone days of the rosettes to the current comic tee-shirts and bibs with ‘I’m a Chelsea baby’ on. These traders are entitled to make their money, and, half-and-half scarves aside, they largely do that by being imaginative and providing supporters with what they really want at affordable prices. Chelsea FC have quite simply ‘cottoned on’ to the fact that the day-trippers have been spending more of their money outside of the megastore than in and, unfortunately, a sizeable proportion of it has been on the half-and-half scarves. Call me cynical (you cannot be a Chelsea die-hard for 46 years without an element of cynicism) but don’t rule out the appearance in the megastore of official club ‘friendship’ scarves sometime soon. And, in this instance, nothing would give me more pleasure than being wrong.

© Carol Ann Wood
August 2016


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Rhyme and Treason

Chelsea 2015-2016 A Season in Verse


FrontI came up with the idea of writing a poem per game for one Chelsea season, just before the 2015/16 campaign. Why not, I thought; we’d just won the premier league, and everything seemed pretty rosy. A few games into the new season and I wondered what I’d been thinking of. Everything was unravelling. Fast. There was drama off the field, and alarmingly bad results on it. But I’m a die-hard supporter, and there was nothing for it but to plough on, my raw emotions spilling out as I, like most other supporters, became increasingly frustrated and bewildered.

BackMark Worrall, a Chelsea friend, author, and proprietor of Gate 17 publications, approached me after I tweeted one of my poems which had attracted considerable attention. I elaborated on my planned project, and so this season-long collection was born. It reflects my feelings as I was navigating through what was an unpredicted drop from glory to despair. But football supporters are made of tough stuff, and regardless of what team you support, you will identify with the sentiments expressed. Not always rational. Not always unbiased. But always passionate.

If you appreciate the writing on this blog, take a look at Rhyme and Treason: Chelsea 2015-2016 a season in verse.

Click to view


Love Letters From The Stand


If you’ve enjoyed this season’s book, take a preview of Love Letters From The Stand, a forthcoming book written from the point-of-view of one supporter – at times elated, at times frustrated.

The preface will be available throughout the season here.

You can preview selected chapters here, here, here and here, each for a limited time.

The collected letters will be available in print and ebook formats at a future date.


Index of Posts:


Links:
My bespoke poetry service, Diverse Verse
About the author
Contact the author
Follow Carol Ann Wood on Twitter
NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
Only in Erinsborough Carol Ann’s fun look at the lives and loves of the characters from the Australian soapNeighbours


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