On Premier League fans, cake, and the eating thereof
Theodore J Kaczynski was not a Premier League fan. I’m not sure the Unabomber’s remote Montana cabin even had electricity, let alone internet. How was he going to stream matches from the competition’s early years while meticulously crafting anthrax and explosive-filled letter bombs for unsuspecting recipients across the United States? Unless his true motivation was an antipathy towards gridiron fans.
In the end, Kaczynski was caught in part because his mother had drilled it into his twisted mind that the ‘proper’ sequence was you can’t eat your cake and have it too. In fact, auld English syntax used the reverse order. Nonetheless, the FBI was able to identify him, through his brother’s cooperation, by the odd phrasing.
Today, entitled Premier League fans who support the five sides in the top six not named Manchester City tend to explode on Twitter when their club loses a match. They too want to eat their cake and have it too. Team by team, here is a list of their conflicting grievances.
Spurs fans are the least egregious offenders. Perhaps it is because they are only mildly afflicted with Entitlement Syndrome. Your club must actually win some trophies for your superiority complex to bloat beyond the bounds of space, time, and all reason. That said, Tottenham faithful have their tender spots.
The notion that Mauricio Pochettino is the greatest manager in Premier League history without having accumulated the requisite hardware to be admitted to the conversation, for instance. He’s a consummate tactician and man-manager, but seriously, get back to me when silver polish has its own column in the club’s expense ledger.
The Tottenham hypocrisy that really makes the eyes roll back in your skull, however, is fans working class pride in the club’s ability to develop talent on the cheap, a delight entirely abandoned to panic and demands the club break the bank to replace players like Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, and Kyle Walker when such overly ambitious talents force moves to sides with more promising title prospects.
Gooners make a convincing argument that Entitlement Syndrome is an incurable disease. The current campaign marks the 14th since they last won the Premier League title. Yet Emirates denizens remain convinced their side should be favourites every season.
When confronted with that inconvenient contradiction, all fingers point in unison to Arsene Wenger. Banners are raised. Hashtags are tweeted. Wasted educations are exposed on ArsenalTV. All this to remove from office the league’s longest-serving manager.
Never mind the Frenchman commanded the last unbeaten English champion. Never mind he shepherded the disadvantaged side through the tortuous straits of building and paying for a new, significantly larger stadium to make Arsenal competitive on the revenue front while still remaining so on the pitch. Never mind he just swapped a wantaway player who had poisoned the clubhouse for an eager replacement whose prodigious artistry had been shackled at Manchester United. Compare Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s numbers since the switch, and don’t tell me it’s early doors. That’s United supporters’ excuse.
At Stamford Bridge, the supporters' main problem is they have adopted a foreign billionaire whose fortune was obtained under dubious circumstances as one of their own. Why? Because their man is as emotionally irrational as they are. They adore how he frets and worries from his balcony far above the fray, like a [pun intended] Roman emperor who has all his money on the lions when Russell Crowe is the Christian.
Aw, look, he bites his nails. He sacks managers on a whim. He hires them back and sacks them again. Then he hires an Italian Special One to replace the twice discarded Portuguese prototype. When a loyal club man finally brings him the desperately desired Champions League title, it’s exit to the concerto Roberto. When the boss is a gloomy Gus who depresses the fans despite winning, it’s make yourself scant, Grant. And when a former Liverpool legend comes in for half a season to deliver a treble trophy haul, it’s don’t make us laugh-a, Rafa.
Through all the chaos, Chelsea somehow keeps winning. Maybe Abramovich knows something about eating cake the Unabomber’s mother didn’t.
If Arsenal fans make the argument Entitlement Syndrome is incurable, the Anfield mob is proof-positive. The side has not won the Premier League title. Ever. You must go back three decades to the 80s to find the Reds' last league title. It’s been 13 years since they won the Champions League. Yet, to the Kop’s mind, Liverpool is still a big European club. If it was a lifetime membership Ajax would still be a big club.
The Reds season exemplifies one of the biggest contradictions Premier League fans perpetuate. Liverpool ended Manchester City’s Invincible run then lost to Swansea in its next match. How could they be so inconsistent cry the same voices who endlessly extol the English top flight's unparalleled depth and competitive nature? “Every single match is a test,” they will tell you. “On their day, any club can take three points from another.”
That Swansea went on to dispatch Arsenal in its next match suggests it is indeed the Welsh club’s day under Carlos Carvalhal. When their side is the victim, however, no one wants to hear about quality up and down the league.
Instead, they will complain the coach hired to push them back to the top through his unbridled Gengen press attack can’t get his squad to defend. Like the old adage says, it’s too late to complain after the horse has left the barn, and Jurgen Klopp’s horses are all about galloping out of the barn.
I saved the worst for last. If the unmatched domestic trophy haul isn’t enough to convince you United fans are the most entitled in the English game, you haven’t been listening to any. I have, mostly because I am one.
I cringe every time I hear someone talk about our “rightful place” atop the table. Football is pure Darwinian competition. No one is guaranteed a rightful place. Under Sir Alex Ferguson the side has won more Premier League titles than any other club. But the first didn’t come until his seventh season. He also kept his vow to “put Liverpool in its place.” Except virtually all United’s trophies were won by Fergie or Sir Matt Busby. In the 20 years between the two, United’s place was mired deep in mediocrity. There wasn’t even a European Cup or two to break the tedium. You can win the title one season and be sacked for flirting with relegation the next. Ask Jose; he knows.
Then there is the utter contempt for players who have served the club long and well. I’m sorry to say Sir Alex taught the fans that classless attitude by selling legends like David Beckham and Jaap Stam when their egos began to match his own. Wayne Rooney became the club’s leading scorer last season. How did fans react? With relief that he could finally be moved out of the club without it appearing unseemly. News flash, mates. It was unseemly.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are taking incredible abuse this season. It is said they are “unfit to wear the shirt.” Fans can’t wait for Eric Bailly to return. Nor can they understand why Marcos Rojo is not in the starting XI. A glance at the table will show you why. United possesses the Premier League’s stingiest defence. Smalling and Jones, as unfashionable as they appear, are the most effective pairing in English football.
Being unfashionable is a grievous sin at Old Trafford. Marouane Fellaini has apparently signed for next year with Besiktas after having the abuse piled on in heaps in Manchester. Anthony Martial is finding out that putting his head down while his game does the talking only gets you benched in favour of another club’s castoff, one whose numbers were not the match of yours. He should have listened to Ander Herrera.
United gives young players opportunities as well. Ask Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, who are being pushed further down towards the end of the bench despite inspiring performances. Don’t just blame that on Mourinho. Paul Pogba can tell you the same policy was in effect under SAF.
Pep Guardiola’s Citizens are exacting generations of revenge at the moment. To a point, they deserve an opportunity to rub everyone’s nose in their nouveau-riche success. So, I won’t pick on them. Let’s just see how they react when the rest of the league inevitably catches up. And it will happen. Ask Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, but most of all, Arsene Wenger.