I watched Huddersfield Town beat Newcastle Utd yesterday, on TV. It wasn’t the best match I’ve ever seen, but for a number of reasons – most pertinently the winning goal from Aaron Mooy – it will live long in the memory.
I’ve watched Huddersfield play before, I’ve sat through dreary third tier encounters with the famous blue and white shirts adorning the frames of men who neither care for, nor want to nourish the town, and cheered them every bit as loudly when they score.
But Huddersfield isn’t like that any more. The town and the Town are in sync. It’s a good thing; while Huddersfield isn’t in the dire straits it once was, it is a northern industrial town, and any way it can gain impetus and vibrancy is good. It can be hard.
Since the internet allowed people the right to comment on it, it has become a wasteland of points scoring about football teams. Liverpool and Manchester Utd fans occupy certain trenches, firing broadsides at one another to aggrandise themselves, and most other rivalries have an equally poisonous online presence. Around these, certain go-to buzzwords have sprung up, including the one I want to talk about – “tinpot”.
Yet there is another way. Both of those clubs have a positive fan culture, and inclusive, creative, witty and pleasant group of people who use the Internet for good.
I want to stress that because it is possible to fill your days with that and feel genuinely happy that such talented people share your interest, even if not your team. I’d love cricket to have such a wide range of creative supporters.
Anyway, back to ‘tinpot’. Ostensibly, the word comes from the idea of clubs that compete for lower level trophies, smaller attendances, fewer televised games and a longer distance from the glitz and glamour.
We saw Hartlepool’s third game of the season on BT Sport, at Maidenhead. There was a brass band playing the Grandstand theme in the background. It made me happy but to those keyboard warriors, that is undoubtedly ‘tinpot’.
Huddersfield are now in the Premier League. Things are different there to the Championship, we’re told, and ‘little old Huddersfield’ are too tinpot to participate.
I’ve seen so many aspects of yesterday described as ‘tinpot’ that I couldn’t list them all. Here’s a few.
- A road sign.
- Selling all available tickets for the game.
- Giving the fans clappers.
- Having an area that leads chanting.
- Having been in the Championship.
- Signing a player for £10m.
- Having a German manager.
- Celebrating with the fans after the game.
The list is incomplete, of course, but there’s a distinct split in the ideas. One side is simply a jealousy, fans of clubs who are still in the Championship or lower see a side they view as comparable or smaller than their own playing the games they want to play.
Suck it up, kiddos, for whatever reasons, your team is not there and you’ll have to wait your turn.
The other side is more damaging, I think, and comes from the more established sides (or Newcastle yesterday). There’s an idea that having fun, and doing things from a place of positivity is ‘tinpot’.
In this iteration, it is as if the only reason you should be able to enjoy football is if your team are winning heavily.
Newcastle’s fans had a field day describing parts of their matchday experience as ‘tinpot’ yesterday, but I’m sure they had a pretty miserable day all told. These arbiters of fun could not enjoy themselves without the ultimate goal of success; the game (play up play up and play the game) itself is a means to a win, not something that should be enjoyed en route regardless.
I think back to why I started watching football in the first place; the wide-eyed joy in seeing players do things that seemed familiar to football I played, but alien. These were third division players, but they were still wonderful.
It was a joy. To watch football, to support this team, this bunch of men who represented my town, and wore its name on their chests in their trips up and down the land. When I went to away games, and still, I find it an opportunity to learn about the town I’m in, the club I’m visiting – to see the magic that their children are falling in love with.
‘Tinpot’ for me, is for people who have fallen out of love with football. The only joy they can experience is either with their own team winning or by belittling people who are enjoying themselves. It’s a petty small-mindedness that I’m happy is being gradually erased from football.
Its not just Huddersfield either. Crystal Palace have had active supporters groups, Nottingham Forest do, Norwich do, I’m finding and enjoying more and more.
The ‘tinpot’ mentality is inherently negative; a sense that ‘we’ve got 30,000 more fans than you, so we’re better, even if they’re miserable all the time and yours enjoy it’. That’s hardly going to get the next generation involved, is it?
Cricket has learned and is learning. T20 has many elements of fun, and is searingly popular. Aspects are creeping in across all formats. I’m a traditionalist in that, but I would never condemn T20 cricket. It’s not (particularly) for me, but if people are enjoying cricket, then go for it.
Times have changed, football is not the only game in town and pissing on its chips when it tries to make things more pleasant isn’t going to help anything. Change with it.
There will be easier days for Newcastle fans, and harder ones for Huddersfield and yet I still get the feeling that even when there is, the Town fans will be happier about it.
I’m a Huddersfield Town fan enjoying myself, and if you think I’m tinpot, I laugh at you and continue to enjoy it.
I feel like I’ve been taking potshots at Newcastle today. They just happened to be there, that’s all. I’m sure many other Premier League clubs fans would say the same.