Who is the Quiet Fan?
It’s you, me and almost everyone who follows football. But for years we’ve been marginalised by the hooligans, the fanatics, the obsessives and the angry. Only the ‘passionate’, it seems, can say that they love their clubs and love the game. This quiet fan is finally speaking up and saying: it’s time to reclaim the middle ground.
In a memoir recounting the combined folly and delights of supporting Lincoln City, Scotland and Rangers (it’s complicated), Ian Plenderleith speaks up for the fans you never notice - the quiet ones sitting (or standing) among the howlers, the shouters and the fist-shakers. From a grim and foul-mouthed fourth division encounter in early 1970s Lincolnshire through to a star-studded orgy of fireworks and excess in 21st century New York, he examines the role of football as a reassuring, ever-present background to life's thrills, pains and fluctuations.
In a pacy, wit-driven mixture of observation, anecdotes and analysis, this book looks anew at the way we watch and relate to football. How it can be a fundamental part of our lives, but without completely blanketing some other important issues like love, death, divorce and the Birmingham post-punk indie scene. How football is, of course, so much more than a game, but perhaps just slightly less than the universe.
Ever since Fever Pitch and the wave of hard man football literature 20 years ago, we’ve been told that the only way to express our love for football is through extreme, absurd, violent or negative emotions. The Quiet Fan sees things differently. Magnificent, frustrating, invigorating football is our game too.
Chapter Two – Tears
Lincoln City v Plymouth Argyle, League Division Three, Saturday November 18, 1978.
Death On The Glorious Twelfth
The 1978-79 season began on the ‘glorious’ twelfth of August, Lincoln going 2-0 down at Bradford City in the first round, first leg of the League Cup, and my Uncle John falling to his death at the age of 40 from the roof of his house in nearby Leeds. During the following winter, strikes and heavy snow brought the country repeatedly to a halt, and the media-appointed Winter of Discontent signalled the end of Labour Government and the imminent rise to power of Margaret Thatcher. My grandfather set his flat on fire when drunk and died from smoke inhalation, my Dad left my Mum for a younger woman, and Lincoln finished at the bottom of division three after a miserable season. If I’d only been able to sing and play guitar I could have written a country, western and blues album and made a fortune.
My uncle and I understood each other perfectly because he was a football fan. Now, my Dad is a fan too, but not in quite the same way. My Dad is a cynical, pessimistic fan who always expects the worse, and who also manages to affect an air of detachment if his side is losing. He’ll generously acknowledge talent on the opposition team and accept defeat if it was fairly handed out (except when Scotland lose, which is always somehow unfair and always will be). But my uncle was a fan who saw each fresh game as an empty palette of sporting possibilities. Whereas my Dad would set out for Lincoln City with a stoical sigh, as if about to embark upon the hundredth battle of a grim and futile war, my uncle went to Leeds United and came back full of it – Eddie Gray’s dribbling, Peter Lorimer’s shooting, Billy Bremner’s fighting or Norman Hunter’s fouling. He loved every moment, good or bad, because it was all part of the spectacle, and once he got going on the subjects of Leeds and Scotland he would talk twice as quickly and twice as fervently as at any other time.
“When Leeds are away from home,” he once told me, “there’s no greater pleasure in life than running a hot bath on a Saturday afternoon and then listening to the second-half radio commentary and the final results.” This is possibly the wisest thing that anyone in our family has ever said, although once my cousins were born I doubt that he ever managed this on more than one or two occasions. I can still remember the way he said it, though, in a tone which implied that although he didn’t regret for a second getting married and having three kids, he would be willing to pay several hundred pounds for the chance to sit in the tub on a Saturday afternoon, undisturbed but for the bubble bath and the bubbling voices of Peter Jones and Alan Parry and forty-odd thousand screaming people in the background.
It's summer. It's quiet. Many people switch off their computers, and that's a good thing. It also means stagnation for crowd-funders. When the sun's shining, who wants to read emails asking you to pledge money? I freely admit that I usually press 'delete'.
Still, I'm going to appeal to you, my loyal supporters, to try and persuade just one or two football fans in your wider circles to buy The…
Thank you for tolerating another update. Just wanted to alert you to another excerpt from The Quiet Fan, posted today by When Saturday Comes magazine, pertaining to the 1984 Scottish Cup Final. That was the day when, as a soft and very quiet Rangers fan, I was trapped in the Celtic section and forced to show the appropriate emotions in the midst of a crushing hangover.
Dear backers and potential readers,
The boxed set for Chapter One, 'Lincoln City v Exeter City: Cursing' is now on my pledge page. There will be future boxed sets for each specific chapter, though not necessarily in any coherent order (depends which cupboards and boxes I open first).
After an Introduction severely doubting the worth of Albert Camus' quote connecting football to morals and…
These people are helping to fund The Quiet Fan.