Mock, mock and Phil Brown's two smoking barrels
Schadenfreude may not be edifying, but it certainly seems to be a particular preoccupation of the football fan. Time was when goading your local rivals was confined to a selection of uncomplimentary chants and maybe the odd rude gesture. Not any more – the bar appears to have been raised considerably.
Take Man City, for example. The now-infamous billboard poster unveiled after they’d pinched Carlos Tevez from city rivals United, featuring a picture of the Argentinian with the slogan “Welcome to Manchester“, was a club-sanctioned bit of triumphalism calculated to rile those in red. And riled they were, Sir Alex Ferguson fuming about the “arrogance” of “a small club with a small mentality“. This from the manager of a club whose stadium has been adorned with a banner celebrating the number of years since City last won a trophy – now consigned to the dustbin following City’s victory in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
Then there’s my own Newcastle, who celebrated crushing Sunderland 5-1 in October with a blast of ‘Daydream Believer’ to which fans could gleefully bellow the alternative Mackem-baiting chorus. The veins popping out of his cauliflower-shaped face, Steve Bruce came over like an aggrieved mistress at a finishing school, complaining about our “lack of etiquette“.
The latest tactic, it seems, is to take to the air. As West Ham were busy squandering a two-goal lead to Wigan and sliding towards relegation, their fans’ misery was compounded by a plane flying over the DW Stadium trailing a banner which read: “Avram Grant – Millwall legend“. Expect the two clubs’ Championship head-to-heads next season to be spicy affairs.
The Lions fans behind the stunt had clearly taken inspiration from their Blackpool counterparts, who a week earlier seized the opportunity to revel in relegated Preston’s misfortune with two different airborne banners, one proclaiming the Tangerines’ superiority and the other stating “Poor little Preston enjoy League One“. An incensed Phil Brown, strangely not in the mood for an end-of-season karaoke session this year, declared “If I had a gun, I would have shot them down“, while the pilot could yet be in hot water with the Civil Aviation Authority.
One resourceful Blackpool fan went even better in midweek, though, engineering it so that the jumbled letters of the Countdown Conundrum spelled out “PNECRISIS“. You suspect that presenter Jeff Stelling will have spotted the jibe, given his other job, and that Clarke Carlisle might have worked out the answer as “PRICINESS” – but perhaps, as a Burnley player, after a chuckle at Preston’s expense…