Thursday, 3 January 2008

The Debate: Come on You Greens?

Warning: this article contains strong language

The Green Army have a reputation as being loyal and loud. Undoubtedly the Greens are amongst the longest travelled supporters in the country, certainly the Championship, and always get fairly good crowds away from home. But the situation at Home Park is not so rosy. Home Park was (and still sometimes is) called a fortress due to the intimidating atmosphere. However, that has changed.

The atmosphere at home and sometimes away has got flatter and flatter in recent times. Why is that? Some bemoan the lack of songs. So what songs are heard at Argyle matches these days?

There once was a time when Argyle had a wide repertoire of songs, including one for every player on the pitch, bench, and in the stands watching. Nowadays you can list the number of players with their own song on one hand:

In contrast, Argyle do have a wider collection of corporate songs:
Green and White Barmy Army (though we have three versions of this!)
Argyle, Argyle
Green Army!
Molly Malone
Westcountry la-la-la
Oh when those Greens

Argyle till I die
Que Sera Sera

Come on you Greens
We love you Argyle, we do
Stand up if you love the Greens
Hello, Hello

And it's Plymouth Argyle
Pasties and Cider
Oo-Ah it's Ambrosia

You are my Argyle

Add to that the Opposition taunting songs:
Go to Pub, Drink 10 Pints
You Dirty Northern Bastards (yes, this is a separate chant!)
Grim Northern Shithole
Keeper, what's the score?
Sit Down, Shut Up
Who the fucking hell are you?

Who are ya?
X is a Wanker
You're not Singing Anymore
Are you X in disguise
Small town in X

My Garden Shed

And the miscellaneous:
We always get Shit Refs
The Referee's a Wanker
Let's all have Disco

Which is a fair number of songs to choose from. Yes, some of the older songs have been lost such as 'I was born under the Demport End', 'Drink, drink', 'I can't read...' etc but there is still a mighty back collection, even bigger if you consider too the improvised, spontaneous and club/person-specific songs that occur. The main problem is that only a small number of these songs are sung consistently: Green and White Barmy Army being main one that is done to death, whilst the others get trotted out on fewer occasions. So if it's not the number of songs available, what is wrong? Maybe it's just as simple as people cannot be bothered to join in, learn or try out new lyrics, or are just too stupid to remember the lyrics (weak argument I know).

One question raised following the Cardiff match on New Years Day was do we spend more time taunting the opposition than supporting our own team? Certainly sometimes, more songs are sung at opposition fans than at the boys in Green. And begs the question, do you come to support the team or to berate the opposition? Certainly there are some people who spend more times facing the opposition's support than watching the match on the pitch. And this is where you get into the murky ground of what is banter, what is racism, and what is hooliganism. How many people turned up at Bristol and Cardiff games at Home Park just to have a ruck with their supporters - there is now denying that there was trouble after both games (in stark contrast with New Years day), and that Bristol were held back for 30 minutes (instead of the 10 promised) because of people lurking outside.

Following the 70s and 80s British football had to change to survive the dark years of violence, hooliganism, and disasters. The "English Disease" was globally condemned and English football suffered as a result. Sport is tribal, no matter what sport it is - rugby, cricket, tennis - but football bore the brunt of the condemnation, as poor policing and club management allowed things to spiral out of control. Even though other sports such as the normally placid cricket had their own football-esque problems, they were never as widely publicised as a clash between rival fans. Maybe that the changes imposed - tighter stewarding and policing, banning orders, ejections - coupled with all-seater stadia following the Hillsborough disaster, the so called 'prawn-sandwich brigade' of corporate hospitality to help eliminate this is the problem.

Stadia up and down the country are now near -identical sanitised affairs that prevent same-minded people (or even friends in some cases) from sitting near each other without a prior military operation before each season or game. Home Park has three distinct areas of 'more active support': Zoo Corner, the Devonport blocks 3 & 4 and the Mayflower seats next to the Barn Park End. The Devonport used to be the place to be at for atmosphere, but now it has transferred to either side of the away fans. So on the face of it, there is still evidence to back up that tribality/opposition-bating is the hold-fast of support.

Therefore, what should support look like? There is no real answer. You cannot make everyone act the same in some Stepford Wives like way, and everyone will have their own view about how you should support a team. Nevertheless, the ferociousness of the Green Army's support is probably the same as every other club in the country - sometimes good, sometimes downright awful. But everyone still has a right to express what they feel on the terraces and unfortunately if you do not agree, tough.

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