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OPINION: The joy of supporting a rubbish team

It may not be shaping up to be the greatest season but there is still fun to be found, according to George Young.

The natives are getting pretty restless in the wake of five defeats in a row. Some are already questioning McCall’s position. Some point the finger at the club’s transfer activity: there seems to be plenty of blame to around. All this and the beer for drowning your sorrows is more expensive this season!

At times this season we have even seen some fans demanding refunds for their travel and ticket costs, as if somehow buying a ticket to a Scunthorpe game comes with a guarantee of three points. I don’t agree with this sort of an attitude but when you see the prices people are required to pay now, it is the logical conclusion of how the relationship between clubs and fans has changed over the last two decades. Essentially, fans have become consumers and, if they are not happy with the ‘product’ that they have purchased, why wouldn’t they look for a refund.

However, it would be a shame if this attitude were to become the new normal because it misses one of the great truths about being a football fan: there can be a lot of joy in supporting a rubbish team. You just need to know where to look for it.

Obviously, a winning team is fun. Everyone knows that. It is great to watch Scunny stroll to a comfortable 4-0 win over the latest hapless opposition to turn up at Glanford Park, especially if the team is at the top of the division and in the mood for promotion.

It was magnificent seeing the Iron play team after team off the park on the way to the 2006/07 League One title season, that glorious blend of silk and steel provided by Andy Keogh, Cleveland Taylor, Billy Sharp, Ian Baraclough, Andy Crosby and so on. Yet, even at the time, this was a really stressful season. It was so unexpected to see us at the top of the league for so long that every week, I was fully expecting us to fall apart. We went something like 23 games unbeaten yet that long run just seemed to make the next defeat even more likely. The promise of a league title being dangled in front of us would make it even worse when a seemingly inevitable run of poor form around Easter would put an end to the dream.

The relatively successful recent seasons, with a promotion and a couple of near-misses in the play-offs, have only served to raise expectations among Scunthorpe fans, which cannot be healthy. I feel sorry for any children who started supporting the club in those seasons. Imagine growing up with the idea that such success and style was normal! Those young fans must be coming down to earth with an audible bump at the moment.

So, why is it going to be any better supporting a rubbish team? Well, for starters, any point picked up is going to be a bonus. With a truly bad team, particularly away from home (I’m looking at you, Alan Knill), expectations are so low that even taking the lead can be the cause for celebration. Scratch that, even winning a corner is worth getting excited about.

It’s not just the occasional victories that are worth clinging onto: there are also some truly terrible players. How’s that a good thing, you might ask? Well, what could be funnier than remembering Tomi Ameobi’s attempts to control the ball or, for older supporters, Ian Ormondroyd trying to win a header? What about all those players who Brian Laws gave a whole 45 minutes to show their skills only to never be seen again? Legendary names like Blaise Mamoum.

Plus, it gives you plenty of ammunition for pub conversations about who has seen the worst football. You will feel yourself getting all Four Yorkshiremen when you turn to your mate and say, “you think you’ve had it tough with Scott Wiseman, you should have seen Mark Gavin”.

Of course, supporting a rubbish team is only fun if the team is still entertaining. Some rubbish teams are simply dull, incapable of losing more than 2-0, never doing anything too crazy, nothing memorable. This is unacceptable. Far better is a team like the 2003/04 vintage which nearly slipped into the Conference yet that side was a fantastic one to watch. From losing 5-0 at Mansfield to smashing Huddersfield 6-2, nobody knew what to expect from that side.

It seems that the 2018/19 incarnation of the Iron is along similar lines: decent going forward, non-existent at the back. Which makes it the ideal time to bring your kid along to his or her first ever game, with goals virtually guaranteed at least at one end. My first game was at home to Carlisle, goals from Steve Thornber and Ian Juryeff putting us 2-0 up with 10 minutes to go. We lost 3-2. It could not have been a more perfect introduction.


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