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Question of the Week

Should Russell Slade be sacked?

Yes immediately
Give him one more game



By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 26/08/2009

THE West Ham v Millwall clash this week once again showed that football hooliganism is still bubbling beneath the surface of our game. But so too is the press's obssession with hoolinganism - was the trouble at Upton Park really sufficient to make national news headlines?!

In reality most of what went on at Upton Park was posturing between two groups of supporters - little more than "handbags". Any town centre on a Friday night probably has more trouble than there was at the game, but because it was football it makes all the headlines. Why?

Hooliganism has always been a huge interest story. There's something about watching grown men fighting which fascinates people, and which sells papers. We've all heard the stories about British tabloid journos paying England followers to cause some trouble, because at the end of the day it sells papers.

I remember when there was a fight at school and everyone would yell "scrap!" and rush towards wherever it was taking place. We all loved to observe a free-for-all fight, but the vast majority of pupils never participated in one I'm sure (I think I did once).

Most of us routinely condemn violence at games, but something about it attracts the tribal instincts which football triggers in the first place. There's a final line between chanting and making gestures at opposing groups of fans, and actual physical contact with "the opposition".

The vast majority of supporters are able to make the transition from chanting and gesturing one minute at a rival fan, and then the next walking alongside him on the way back to the train station. We the supporters are part of the great spectacle of football and many of us choose to enact this role via the marvellous medium of competitive chanting. It's not very hard to pick up the choreography, the gestures and almost all of the songs. Chanting, whether you join in or not, is one of the great things about football. Other sports I go to without enforced crowd segregation always seem to me to have something missing.

Some people though get all mixed up, usually after too much to drink. Their match day persona becomes confused with their pre- and post-match self and the rivalry and posturing move outside the acceptable window of the game itself and begin to invade real life. They forget it's not real. That's what happened the other night at West Ham for most of the scrappers. I doubt whether much of it was pre-planned (largely another invention of the tabloid press I suspect), and it was probably more down to alcohol than any other cause.

But please don't make a mountain out of a mole hill!

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