Tim Lovejoy, DJ Spoony, Jamie Redknapp, Ian Wright, James Corden. The age of the idiot is upon us. These outstanding guff merchants have finally completed their insidious rise to supremacy; their generic brand of laddish tedium now saturating any and all football coverage. This staple backdrop of boorish bluster has inexplicably become an accepted part of fan culture, with its appalling mix of sycophantic cheerleading and preening self regard. It’s time to reclaim football from the fakes.
A fundamental misunderstanding of the average football fan is the only explanation for the inexorable rise of these bandwagon-jumping non-entities with their slavish devotion to the Premiership and its Big four. The worst of all is surely Tim Lovejoy. Despite being a flimsily inauthentic indictment on the nature of the new age supporter, a Chelsea fan who also admits to following Watford, he is mistakenly regarded as a representative ‘man of the people’. During spells hosting both Soccer Am and the BBC’s 606 phone in show, Lovejoy has been routinely exposed as a fake fan of epic levels whose braying arrogance and crushing lack of humility know no bounds. But he’s mates with ‘JT’ and ‘Lamps’, so at least he keeps suitable company.
Under this new regime the World Cup has become a prime platform for such empty, gurning stupidity of the kind that routinely replaces entertainment or insight in football broadcasting. The number of times Diego Forlan, a double golden boot winner and eventual player of the tournament, was referred to as a ‘Manchester United flop’ hinted at the obscene levels of ignorance and Premiership bias that influenced much of the coverage. But the nadir was surely reached when ITV, the ultimate idiot’s lantern, decided to screen James Corden’s World Cup Live, an astounding spectacle of guffawing witlessness, everyday for the duration of the tournament.
Worse than the ubiquitous presence of Corden himself was that of the crass adverts with which his programme was punctuated. Intended to amuse the simpleton supporter, they instead made you despair at the media’s interpretation of the average football fan. These adverts largely consisted of massed ‘lads’ engaging in tasteless banter and drinking garish alcopops, a helpful indicator of just how far we’ve collapsed into our own stereotype. The blokey young men featured in these commercials, with their identikit haircuts and uniformly gormless expressions, looked the sort to talk about ‘the footy’, proudly regurgitating TalkSport-fuelled nonsense, each propelling the others’ idiocy.
In the aftermath of England’s second round exit to Germany, the nation was awash with such unenlightened opinion emanating from these populist media outlets. Rather than acknowledge the England players’ technical inferiority to their opponents, sanctimonious complaints about their wages, their lack of ‘heart’ and ‘pride’ became dominant themes in all too familiar lament. Fabio Capello was routinely attacked for his impudent foreignness, with such eloquent masters of the English language as Ian Wright condemning his supposedly limited linguistic skills. A proposed solution to this imagined problem was to appoint media darling ‘Appy ‘Arry Redknapp as the new manager. The tabloids, whilst conveniently forgetting about ‘Arry’s patchy management record and dubious financial dealings, trumpeted his Englishness and united in unspoken adoration for his roguish cockney persona and Paulo Di Canio based anecdotes. The backslapping cosiness of it all must be why his son, Jamie ‘tight trousers’ Redknapp, is never stuck for work at Sky.
And with this grand network of bluff, guff, idiocy and pretence aligned against the football supporting public, distorting perceptions of the game and what it means to be a fan, it’s little wonder that many succumb to the Sky endorsed stereotype. As the voice of the reasoned supporter is increasingly excluded from representations of football and its followers, the gaping void of vacuous stupidity widens at our expense.