Friday 1 March 2013

Terrace Tongue-Twisting

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be invited to Craven Cottage to watch the Premier League clash between Fulham and Stoke. Many (probably all) of you will read that and think 'lucky?!', but it did contain one of the goals of the season - a sumptuous Berbatov volley - and it was great to go to a  gorgeous ground I hadn't been to before and spend a fantastic day in the company of some die-hard Fulham fans.

One thing that did strike me during one of the chants that was ringing out around the Cottage was how unintentionally funny one of football's staple songs can be. Listen in around football grounds around the country and you will hear it sung loud and proud by partisan fans who love their team and their manager.

'Martin Jol's Black and White Army!' You all know the one. All your team needs is 1. a manager, and 2. team colours. I have heard the chant in a variety of guises over the years at Coventry City (currently trying to find our tenth manager in 10 years) with a particular favourite being 'Micky Adams' Sky Blue Army!' No silly extra syllables, no frills; just our manager and our colours. Easy

Not so funny so far. Where this chant gets ridiculous is when the syllable count starts to weigh a bit heavy. I was at the Stadium of Light with some Villa supporting friends in 2009 when they started singing 'Martin O'Neill's Claret and Blue Army!' I wanted to join in, but my tongue didn't feel up to the challenge. I said earlier that if you listen hard enough, you'll be able to hear this chant at most grounds around the country; all I could hear on that night in the North-East was 'MarneeClabooo Army', with a slight Brummie twinge to it.

I feel sorry for the fans who have had to abandon this chant because they bring in a manager whose name is just too long and impractical; I haven't heard West Ham sing 'Sam Allardyce's Claret and Blue Army' since they appointed him, and it is easy to see why. There might be fears the Upton Park faithful had all developed a speech-impediment over the course of an incredibly long (read: long-ball) season.

Sometimes it's not even a question of how long the manager's name is. Tony Pulis must be a nightmare for Stoke fans, with 'Tony Pulis's Red and White Army!' That combination of 'l's and 's's is enough to rival 'She Sells Sea Shells' for a spot on the world's most spit-flecked tongue-twister.

So for now, I'm happy that Coventry have been kind in appointing managers whose names are simple and easy to fit in to this chant. God forbid they should be too forward thinking and appoint a foreign manager with radical new tactical ideas, who can take us back to the glory days of the Premiership and deliver us from this windswept, barren wasteland that is League One. His name might just be too long. And the thought of matches without a '[Insert manager's name here] Sky Blue Army' is just too much to bear.

Having said this, I'm expecting Paul Peschisolido to be named as our new boss shortly.

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