Sport: Book of the week - Terrace hymn sheets fill up the senses
Monday 03 November 1997
By Rob Merrills (Red Card Publishing, pounds 9.99)
Maybe a penalty scored against your side in the last minute by Roy Keane is the last thing you would want in football, but a close thing, surely, would be to understand the diatribe rival supporters are hurling in your direction. Apparently not.
The fact that Dicks Out, which was published five years ago, has been followed up by a sequel suggests there are masochists everywhere who want to learn that their mother and father were not married when they were conceived and, to boot, their craniums are about to have an unfortunate connection with someone's instep.
So what is the attraction? In between the Anglo-Saxon language (and on this evidence, Hartlepool's schools only teach four-letter words) this hymn sheet of the terraces shows some wit survives.
OK, Oscar Wilde would not have rolled about in the posh seats, but a smile might have crossed his face at the sheer idiocy of Crewe's reworking of Monty Python's "Philosopher's Song". The thought of hundreds of Northern Ireland's Cliftonville fans dancing and singing to the "Time Warp" intrigues, too, while it takes a hard (or Ashton Gate) heart not to be moved by Bristol Rovers' "Goodnight Irene".
At Roots Hall, supporters - who have had little or nothing to cheer about - believe size is important if the lyrics of "Oh Southend's pier is longer than yours" (to the tune of "When The Saints Go Marching In") are anything to go by, while Rotherham apparently echoes to the sound of fans making firework noises.
Unlike the first book, the author decided not to asterisk the swear words because they are "so integral to some of the songs" which may offend some, but gives full vent to the venom which certain supporters view others. At Wigan the rugby club is the target, at Hereford it is the Welsh nation, while Shrewsbury aim down at Telford, which is a bit like the Stretford End getting worked up about Rochdale.
In fact, Manchester United fans can barely bring themselves to denigrate neighbours City these days as they hardly constitute a threat and instead their targets are Liverpool, Blackburn and Leeds. The feelings are reciprocated, which suggests one of the other impacts of the Premiership has been to broaden the horizons of fan hatred. Come a European Super League and how long will it be before the Kop rings out its scorn on Juventus and Milan rather than Everton?
To find a favourite, I would recommend Sheffield United's rendition of "Annie's Song": "You light up my senses, Like a gallon of Magnet, Like a packet of Woodbines, Like a good pinch of snuff, Like a night out in Sheffield, Like a greasy chip butty, Oh Sheffield United, Come thrill me again."
John Denver's life was not in vain.
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