There is a disturbing new trend in Premier League fandom, and it has been the talk of Twitter all week.
“Celebrity fans,” like the ones that run the Arsenal Fan TV mentioned last week, or of the Full Time Devils Youtube channel, which follows Manchester United, have taken the world of English football by storm over the past year.
But with that added visibility comes added responsibility, and a Full Time Devils contributor, by the name of Stephen Howson, has taken his newfound “celebrity” status to the next level, by partnering with a soon to launch website called Partner Fan, to charge visitors to Old Trafford for the experience of hanging out with Howson.
I have been lucky enough to make over 25 trips to Old Trafford. I also have had the pleasure of having Ian Patterson, Duncan Drasdo and Ian Sterling, all of the group called Manchester United Supporters Trust, take me under their wing when I make my visits to Manchester, and they never charged me a pence to show me around the fantastic sights.
Whether it be at the Manchester Christmas Markets, the Northern Quarter, or just a quick trip to the pub, people like Simon Smithers, Richard Gill or Barry, the landlord of the Circus Tavern, make you feel like you are one of their own, without charging £20 to get the “celebrity feel.”
Too many people have lost sight of the fact that it is the game, and the players, that should be the focal point. Not the ratings of the players after the match, or the endless talk shows after the game, debating the merits, or coaching decisions, made during the game. Not the arguing over the lineup before a ball has been kicked.
The camaraderie of the fans before the game is important, and after as well, as the culture in England is as much about that as it is the game, but it should never overshadow the product on the field.
I love to see all my friends on each visit to Manchester, but let’s be honest, if it was not for the matches, I would not be there. That is what counts, and I think many people have lost their way in this regard.
As for Howson, and the other fans making money off of out of town visitors, they are a disgrace, and hopefully Manchester United will come down hard. Judging by the reaction to this on social media, Howson may want to skip the huge derby match this Sunday, although he may be like many of the other Youtube channel contributors, who do not bother to go to the actual matches, and choose to comment on the action from the comfort of their own homes.
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Arsenal’s stunning 2-0 win over Bayern Munich Tuesday, in UEFA Champion League play, has given the Gunners a pulse in Group F, but it will all be for naught if they can not get a result in Munich on Nov. 4. With just three points from the three matches, and with Olympiakos hosting Dynamo Zagreb, with a chance to get to nine points, Arsenal could be six points behind a trip to the knockout stages after the round of matches.
If Arsenal win all three of the games left, it should be enough to see the Gunners through, but that is a a lot to ask. I can not even imagine what it would be like to be a fan of a team like Arsenal, that has so much talent, but other than the last two F.A. Cup wins, has largely underachieved for more than a decade.
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Jose Mourinho has lost the Chelsea dressing room, and at this point, you have to think it is only a matter of time before the whole team implodes. After a listless 0-0 draw in Kiev, the Blues sit in third place in the Group G standings. Chelsea has a chance to advance, however, as the match-day six encounter, at Stanford Bridge, with group leaders Porto likely to decide the group winner.
Mourinho may end up staying long term, but to look at his track record, that is never the case. Things usually go south around two and a half years into a job, and we are fast approaching that point, in his second stint as the Blues gaffer.
He is currently the third choice to get the sack next, behind Tim Sherwood of Aston Villa and Garry Monk of Swansea City, but the question has to be, with who would you replace him? It has been a carousel of managers since Mourinho left the first time, in the 2007-2008 season, and the big name guys that Roman Abramovich could replace the “Special One” with is a very short list.
It is not a great time to be a Chelsea fan, although if you ask a fan of any of the other London clubs, and probably the two Manchester clubs, it never is.
Sean Miller can be reached at seanmillertrentontimes@