On the agenda: Chinese New Year; Jonathan Groff; August: Osage County; Beatles reunion


Middle-class problems: Going to a football match

By Robert Epstein

There's been a lot of guff written about the gentrification of football in this country, but while those in their ivory-tower corporate seats might be chewing their way through a platter of Roy Keane's prawn sandwiches, down on the terraces, it's still a brave middle-classer who tries broaching a topic of conversation that might go down rather better at a dinner party. State of the economy? Only if you're talking about ticket prices. Politics? Only if you're talking about the parrot that's swallowed your watch. Schools? Shares? Souffleés? Oo are ya? Oo are ya? Oo are ya?

Becoming accepted by one's fellow supporter is a rite of passage for many middle-class men, who must prove they are suited to this rough-and-tumble environment by either a) revealing an extraordinary ability to misread the play and suggest absurd strategical changes; b) moaning about a player until he scores and then saying you'd never doubted him; or c) throwing off those middle-class shackles and ranting in an enjoyably inchoate fashion at an unintelligibly loud level in a demonstration of absolute disgust at anything the ref does.

I should know, dear reader, for I have done all three. For shame. And also, apparently, for the amusement of those around me, who find my red-faced explosions almost as ridiculous as my insistence that Player X should never grace the pitch again, before Player X scores a hat-trick.

For those who have never braved it, this is the way to fit in at football: risk being the butt of the joke. And accept it with a smile.