As a Chelsea supporter, there were a few things that bothered me about Manchester United’s game against West Ham on Saturday a lot more than Wayne Rooney’s scatology. Four things to be precise, and Rooney was indeed responsible for three of them. Apparently those were not the most significant things about the game after all. Possibly true, since the more important injustice was the referee’s failure to send Vidić off earlier in the match. But no, this isn’t the most significant thing either. That accolade goes to Mr Rooney’s outburst of swearing when a TV camera was thrust in his face seconds after completing his hat-trick.
For his efforts he’s been charged by the Football Association with bringing the game into disrepute. Frankly you would have thought they were already doing a pretty comprehensive job on that score without the Man United forward’s assistance, but they’ve obviously decided that it would be wrong for them to take all the credit. It’s not only the FA that have taken offence. A chorus of protective parents has been offering themselves for interview by the media, during which they’ve said how the game is sinking into a mire of vulgarity, and how the innocent ears of their sons (no daughters seem to have been at risk) have had to be insulated from the barrage of four-letter expletive that now infests every football ground on match days. Reluctantly these assiduous parents have had to abandon family days out to the stadium of their choice in the interests of their children’s auditory health.
It struck me that these parents must have had their children at a ripe old age. I’d have thought that the average 10 year old had a dad of perhaps 35 or 40. Such fathers must have been going to football matches as a kid themselves within the last 30 years. Well, let me tell you, Chelsea’s ground 40 years ago when I was a regular guest at the Shed was not known for its delicacy of language. Referees’ mothers were whores even then, and were very liable to get their fucking heads kicked in according to the enthusiastic mass of humanity of which I was an equally enthusiastic part. So these dads must have been going to football matches many years before that, perhaps in the sedate 50’s before they’d never had it so good, and the permissive rot set in along Carnaby Street. Even if they were precocious supporters, slipping out of primary school to attend their football at the tender age of 8, they must be in their late 60’s by now. I doubt it. These fathers bemoaning the vulgarity of modern football have simply forgotten that it’s no worse now than it’s ever been. A football crowd has never been a place for those who blush easily. If by suitable for families they mean that no uncouthness is to be endured, then football has never been suitable for families. Not in my lifetime, anyway.
So what, if anything, has changed? Simply the intrusiveness of the media. When Grandstand delivered itself of the highlights on a Saturday evening in black and white and with only 405 lines, it was hard enough even to make out the faces of the players, never mind to be able to hear their innermost thoughts after scoring hat-tricks. If we had been able to do so, I’ll bet they were every bit as blue then as Wayne Rooney was on Saturday. I really don’t think it matters. If I want suave conversation and dulcet tones, I probably won’t be turning to the Rooneys of this world to provide it. Nor do I think that England’s youth are likely to be much traumatised by hearing Wayne Rooney display his lack of a wide vocabulary. Rooney pissed me off mightily with his feet on Saturday, but I really wasn’t troubled by his mouth. I’d advise the FA and the hyper-sensitive parents of delicate-eared offspring to take an equally laid-back approach.