There is no such thing as a 'real' fan... there is no such thing as a real anybody
Yet, there are protest movements like The Real West Ham Fans Action Group
If you go, if you pay, you are real, as is your opinion. You are entitled to a real say
David de Gea is irreplaceable and Manchester United must keep hold of keeper
Published: 22:30 BST, 22 February 2018 | Updated: 00:23 BST, 23 February 2018
Not the largest group, probably, but there will still be some Newcastle fans who think Mike Ashley is doing a pretty solid job.
Keeps the club solvent; recruited and held on to Rafa Benitez as manager; as long as Newcastle stay in the Premier League, it could be worse.
Equally, you don't see as much green and gold at Old Trafford as you used to. There will always be some who love United but hate Glazer, yet plenty more will look at the fortune spent rebuilding Sir Alex Ferguson's last title-winning team, the ambitious recruitment of Louis van Gaal and now Jose Mourinho and three trophies won in less than two years and conclude there are worse custodians out there.
There is no such thing as a 'real' fan; if you pay to go and watch your team, you are real enough
Yes, they squeeze the pips financially, but who doesn't these days? Even lovely old Barcelona are in cahoots with Qatar.
And to flip this argument, there will be disgruntled Manchester City fans. Seriously, there will. Not many, but some will remain who preferred the sincerity of the old days, when City were the antithesis of Manchester United, not their elite companions in a shadowy Big Six.
So here's the point. There is no such thing as a real fan. There is no such thing as a real anybody. Your preferences, beliefs and lifestyle choices do not by default invalidate into fakery those of the person standing next to you.
If you pay your money and go, it does not make you less real to disagree with the majority.
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It does not mean you do not really care about Newcastle if you respect Ashley and his financial prudence; it does not make you less of a Manchester United supporter if you quietly admire the low-profile Glazers; you are not a traitor to Sky Blue if you quite liked City when they stood for something different in the town.
On March 10, before a home fixture against Burnley, there will be a rally against the current owners of West Ham. That's the supporters' prerogative. Fans have the right to protest and it is not as if West Ham's fortunes since moving to the London Stadium have greatly vindicated the move.
They have sold their best players, lost a popular manager, fought relegation and frequently struggled at their new home.
The fans think they were mis-sold a dream and are unhappy. There has not been the great leap forward promised. It is up to the club to demonstrate otherwise.
West Ham supporters are planning a march against the owners before their game on March 10
The problem is the name of this protest movement. The Real West Ham Fans Action Group. Why real? Whose call was that? Why are these fans any realer than those who won't go on the march?
Why is opposing the move to the London Stadium a more genuine stance than seeing its benefits?
There is something hectoring in that name, something bullying, as if to disagree, or fail to participate somehow invalidates the opinion.
You can't be a real West Ham fan unless you hate the stadium; you can't be a real West Ham fan unless you distrust the board. Only one opinion allowed. Ours. Get real.
The Action Group wants a board member to answer protestors at the rally.
'This is our open invite for you to come and tell the fans the truth,' said a spokesman. Again, that presumption.
Maybe the truth is already out there. That the opportunity to move, on the cheap, to a much bigger stadium in the locality was too great to turn down.
That there was genuine fear West Ham would shrink in relevance and potential if they remained at Upton Park. That in getting such a good deal, they actually ceded too much control, making the stadium less appealing. And that, on the field, mistakes have been made — particularly in the transfer market.
Some West Ham fans are unhappy with the current owners David Gold and David Sullivan
Nobody would argue West Ham are having a good time. The latest calamity is a breach of FA anti-doping rules, having failed to provide accurate information on the whereabouts of players three times in the last 12 months. The fine is paltry, around £35,000, but the lack of professionalism isn't impressive. This is routine stuff.
Yet there are plenty of very real fans who understand the stadium move. Plenty of very real season-ticket holders paying very real money who believe that the club had little option but to attempt growth, given the opportunity.
And while they may also be dissatisfied with how it has turned out, short term, they feel that in time the benefits will become apparent. West Ham are getting their biggest crowds now, they are attracting good players, the squad has been misfiring but it is relatively strong compared to many past seasons.
Which is not to say these views are right, either. They are just no less authentic. Real has become a pejorative term. Think of real women. As we know, these are size 14 upwards, maybe 16, maybe bigger, usually the girth of the columnist writing about them.
Yet plenty of women are thin. Some because of diet and exercise, some because it's their natural physique.
Why are size eight women less real? Who gets to decide this stuff — who gets to choose real men, real women, real fans? We're now told 52 per cent of the populace is the real Britain; but what of the 48 per cent? That's quite a lot, too. It would constitute a landslide in most general elections.
Why are those people less real, less representative, why should they be marginalised and their opinions disdained?
If you go, if you pay, you're real enough. Yours is a real opinion, you are entitled to a real say. And if everyone else is marching in a different direction that doesn't make you phoney, disloyal or even wrong, necessarily. It just makes you different. So stay real.
De Gea the great is irreplaceable
If Real Madrid are serious in their pursuit of Thibaut Courtois it can mean only one thing — they have given up trying to buy David de Gea.
Courtois is good, but De Gea is great. He regularly saves his team and achieves levels of consistency beyond any rival. Courtois seems higher maintenance, too, frequently talking up his links to Madrid.
'I do not think Florentino Perez will call me, but he will call my agent, who will listen to him,' he said helpfully, after Chelsea's draw with Barcelona. And while any transfer would be a setback for Chelsea, Courtois is replaceable.
Right now, De Gea isn't. If Manchester United are to continue moving forward, they really have to keep him at Old Trafford.
Manchester United are lucky Real Madrid are lining up Thibaut Courtois and not David de Gea
Lickspittle Bach still happy to let Russian drug cheats fly the flag
One would think the lickspittle Olympic president Thomas Bach would be keeping a low profile on Russia, after what happened in Pyeongchang.
Bach allowed hundreds of Russian athletes to compete in these Winter Games under a supposedly neutral banner, and has been rewarded with a positive drugs test in curling.
Alexander Krushelnitskiy won bronze in a pairs competition with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova, tested positive for meldonium, and has been disqualified. Initially, the Russian authorities resorted to their default position: they lied. Dmitri Svishchev of the Russian Curling Federation said Krushelnitskiy's food or drink could have been spiked by a rival or one of his country's enemies 'as a political means to achieve some goal'.
Russian athlete Alexander Krushelnytsky has dropped his appeal after his positive drugs test
That Russian doping is so widespread that even their curlers are at it was given less credence. Anyway, Krushelnitskiy has dropped his appeal now and accepted his fate. As a result, Bach seems ready to give Russia exactly what they want. Again. A meeting of the IOC on Friday will consider whether Russia can depart under their own name and flag at this weekend's closing ceremony, with the indication being they will. This follows an £11million fine paid to the IOC for Russia's 'systemic manipulation' of the doping system at the last winter Games in Sochi.
It is nothing less than a disgrace that Bach has surrendered to a corrupt state throughout, particularly when Krushelnitskiy's positive test casts serious doubts on Russia's ability to reform. Even more sinister is Angela Ruggiero, chair of the IOC athletes' commission, bringing up Rule 50 when asked about potential boycotts of the ceremony by those angry at Russia's participation.
Rule 50 outlaws the Games being used as a 'platform for protests, demonstrations or the promotion of political, religious or racial propaganda' — meaning clean athletes taking a principled stance could face greater sanction than a rogue state, whose corruption of a series of Olympic Games is the biggest scandal sport has known. All on Bach's watch — making him as big a cheat as any of them.
Olympic president Thomas Bach may still allow Russia fly the flag at the closing ceremony
At least VAR will stop all the whispers
Jon Moss let the cat out the bag that day at Anfield when he panicked and asked for help making a late penalty call.
Yet ever since Zinedine Zidane's dismissal in the 2006 World Cup final it has been suspected that officials sometimes hear voices from the sidelines, giving them a helpful steer.
The authorities deny it and there is no proof, but now that the wheels of VAR (video assistant referee) are in motion, the procedures are too similar for comfort. The referee makes a judgment call, then stops, as if suddenly aware he has left the gas on. He presses a finger to his ear, pauses momentarily as if listening, then makes another, different, decision.
Again, it may all be coincidence. Yet why did Anthony Taylor upgrade Fabian Delph's yellow card to red at Wigan on Monday, having taken out the lesser card when writing the name? A change of heart, said Graham Poll. But what instigated it? What could have happened in that short interval to make Taylor upgrade?
Seeing a replay could persuade an official the offence was worse than first thought, but Taylor had no access to a review process, other than an assistant telling him to change his mind. An assistant who is not meant to have watched a replay.
But if assistants never cheat the system, why did Moss ask the fourth official for help when Tottenham's Harry Kane went down? He was misguided, is the official explanation. So a man whose professional existence is motivated by rule enforcement blithely breaks ranks and requests his assistant breaks them?
That makes no sense. Moss wouldn't do this, it wouldn't be in his nature, unless it was craftily accepted as part of the game. At least VAR brings the process into the open. Better that than operating like a secret society.
One can only wonder what instigated Anthony Taylor to upgrade Fabian Delph's yellow card
Christie has only herself to blame
In the circumstances, a degree of irritation was understandable, but when Elise Christie addressed one of her social media messages to 'all the short-track experts out there' she rather missed the point.
Crashed, disqualified; crashed, disqualified; disqualified; crashed; crashed, disqualified; disqualified. That is Christie's record in Olympic races.
She may be world champion but, as she admitted, if this week's 1,000m had been a world championship event, she wouldn't have raced. The Olympics is where it's at for speed skaters, the Olympics are remembered.
No one claims to be an expert in her field. Nobody is discussing the nuances of technique or tactics, as happens in football. British Olympians are given the gentlest of rides. After her first mishap in Pyeongchang, the official BBC Olympic Twitter feed described Christie as 'one of the bravest people we've seen' — which must have come as a surprise to those who had just defused an unexploded bomb near London's City Airport.
The fact is, Christie is not failing at the parts of her sport a layman could not comprehend; she is failing at entry level. Staying upright. What befell her was a terrible pity, but it was not bad luck and it does not require 20 years of skating know-how to understand.
In Holland, where there are many speed skating specialists, they compare her style to a windmill that has come loose from its central shaft. And while we may not be experts here, we all get what they mean.
Elise Christie's riposte to 'all the short track experts out there' on social media missed the point
The idea that Leicester's title win is in any way tainted by a £3.1million fine for contravening the Football League's financial fair play rules on the way up is, frankly, ludicrous. If anything, it reflects well on the owners that they didn't allow small, safe, provincial thinking to limit their ambition.
City are aware of Sterling's value
Raheem Sterling is mystified at the inactivity over his new Manchester City contract, yet is already signed up until summer 2020.
Maybe the club feel two and a half years is enough time to resolve the matter happily; maybe they also feel he'd be hard pushed to do better anywhere else. And they'd be right.
Raheem Sterling is in the dark over his new Manchester City deal but is signed up until 2020
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