By Alexander Netherton
I support Manchester United and I am more likely than you to commit suicide. Big Four football has given me depression. Sympathy please!
In 1995, the Samaritans announced that the demographic most likely to kill themselves was the young man aged 16-24. This happened only years after Sky had bought broadcast rights to the Premier League, and just as the Champions League group stages entrenched riches at the top of the game, turning success into a cartel. It’s not overstating the case that these events are indelibly linked. The unavoidable obsession with the Big Four has come at the expense of anybody but the moronic follower enjoying their successes.
Symptom one of depression: the inability to feel joy. A supporter of Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United watches his team trounce opponents on an almost weekly basis. Four-nil up at half time, coasting for the remainder, their one task to avoid injury. In a decent world, a fan should enjoy their team running away with a game, but it’s just not possible if rank bullying is all your team hands out.
Worse still is how this complacency relates to the three or four upsets a season. Losing to Bolton away, overcome by a strange impotent lethargy, where expensive talent cannot compensate for a short loss of form, is a severe blow to morale. By nature, a fan raised on success is pathologically vulnerable to a loss. There is no good reason for a Champions League team to lose to mid-table side. Now, depression is often described as rage turned inwards. After an upset like this, there’s no logic to raging at your team of untouchables, removed from the real world, and so here comes depression symptom number two: self-disgust – there’s only one place left for that hate to go, after all.
Tears in rain: Supporting Chelsea is rarely fun
As Biggie Smalls says, Mo Money Mo Problem. The more you pay your players, the bigger the scumbags they become. Carlos Tevez declared his relationship with Manchester City executives over and irreparable. Carlos Tevez is about to get a healthy image rights raise. Wayne Rooney wanted out of Manchester United in August, a desperate, sincere victim of broken promises. Wayne Rooney more or less doubled his money a week later. John Terry, a die-hard Chelsea man in his head, only remembered he wanted a similar public image when he was offered new contract. Nicky Barmby, on the other hand, took a pay cut to move to Hull. If depression means you don’t think that anybody could ever love you, then how about having it proved by paying for narky clowns just to turn up at training?
Number three on the depression chart is low self-esteem. How on Earth does supporting a successful football team give you low self-esteem? Easily. A Rotherham supporter friend can watch his side whenever he wants, without the prawn-sandwich brigade and the extortionate prices. He genuinely enjoys match days. The smaller crowd logically means there are fewer idiots. A smaller club needs every one of their fans, whereas Liverpool and Manchester United can sell their soul and it makes no noticeable difference to their income. Liverpool fans can walk from one pub to another in protest all they want. A few thousands Mancunians can watch FC United. Too late. The average Big Four fan matters less than one at a smaller club. If you support a Big Four team, deep down, you know you’ve been had. The best thing we can with the silverware in the trophy cabinet is melt it down, fashion a few thousands silver bullets, and use them to blow our brains out.