Burton Albion 1-1 Port Vale - 23rd October 2012 - Pirelli Stadium
Being based in Burton-on-Trent for work purposes this academic year, I have kept a close eye on the local teams results. I decided to make my third trip of the season to the Pirelli with a Newcastle supporting work colleague. This was my first time supporting the 'Brewers' however after appearances in the away end for the Oxford and York fixtures.
As I have grown older, I have slowly begun to notice how all football fans are remarkably similar. When things are going their way, then the team is the best in the world and when things aren't, then the team, manager and chairman should all be sacked. It is not just the reaction to results which is similar. It's the discussions in the stands and the shouts from the terraces that can be heard at any ground in the UK.
A perfect example of this happened just 3 minutes into this particular game. Port Vale winger Jennison Myrie-Williams (who is bloody quick!) flew past Burton full back Damien McCrory and hit a half decent cross into the Albion box which was cleared. Instead of applauding the clearance, a gentleman stood behind me shouted "McCrory, you're shit". Clearly, 3 minutes was enough time for this particular supporter to have decided that their opinion of McCrory wasn't very high.
There are also some strange football fans who decide it necessary to shout stupid (although sometimes humorous) comments at opposition players. Again, an example of this was present in the Burton game. Port Vale goalkeeper Chris Neal has become a hero amongst the Vale Park faithful and he was given plenty of vocal encouragement during the first half. In the second half, he was defending the goal in front of the Burton Albion fans. As Matty Paterson sent a ball over the bar and out of the ground, a shout of "Why didn't you save that one Neal?" could be heard loud and clear. The same voice also popped up with "You didn't give the handball in the box did you ref?" after Burton had conceded a free kick for handball on the halfway line shortly after Port Vale had a penalty appeal turned down. I wasn't sure what this individual meant by this, he may have just been stating a fact but the tone of his voice suggested that he felt more strongly about the matter. Was he being honest and indicating he thought Vale should have had a penalty or was he somehow criticising the referee - who knows?
Football fans also like to turn a blind eyes to fouls by their own players whilst throwing the toys out of the pram for a similar foul by an opposition player. The Burton game presented another good example of this. Burton's Cleveland Taylor was tackled very strongly (but fairly in my opinion) by a Port Vale player, "Get him off ref", was the response of one 'Brewers' fan. Seconds later, the home sides Robbie Weir launched into an even stronger tackle - again winning the ball.
"Great tackle Robbie, straight from the textbook". This particular fan also described Port Vale as a "Bunch of pansies" after Burton striker Calvin Zola had basically assaulted Clayton McDonald as they tussled for a header.
Perhaps the best moment from this game and the one that I keep hearing in my head is as follows:
A long ball forward from the Vale defence was missed by Zander Diamond and as Ashley Vincent latched onto the free ball, one mans worried exclamation of "Oh Shit" echoed around the home terrace, if I'm honest, I was thinking a similar thing (without the expletives) and did generally fear the worst for Burton. In the end there was nothing to worry about; just as the 't' finished hitting the crisp night air, Vincent smashed the ball over the stand.
My conclusions from the game were that Port Vale looked very good on the counter attack as their equalising goal showed whilst Burton looked strong going forward especially through Zola. Both defences looked like they could be easily stretched with the right sort of pressure but the midfields of both sides looked reasonably solid. I would hazard a guess that Port Vale will finish in the top 7 whilst Burton probably won't.
The quotes in italics could be from any football ground, just replace bits to fit the team you're following. We're all as fickle as each other and will happily criticise or praise to our hearts content, often the same player within the space of 5 minutes. But at the end of the day, we'll still spend our money and travel around the country following our team regardless of how much they frustrate us!