Neville Dalton is a journalist and a Portsmouth fan of 45 years.
Having been brought up to be polite, I’ve never really been keen on rudeness.
I know it happens, but in my cocooned little world, especially when I was growing up, I couldn’t really understand the need to insult other people.
Idealistic I might have been, but no-one could call me naïve.
There might have been no need for it, but it did happen.
And I knew it.
For I’ve been watching Pompey since I was seven. And guess what – football fans swear.
I’ve even heard them swearing at each other, not to mention at those at the opposite end of the ground.
Not only that, they sometimes swear at the very players they are supporting.
Yes, even super Pompey’s super fans, who rightly receive plaudits for their loyalty and level of support, particularly when the team is doing poorly or the club is behaving abysmally.
Which seems to be frequently.
Well, some of them do, anyway.
And confession time: even I have been known to do so, in the heat of the frustrating moment, when another nailed-on chance goes begging or that big oaf of a defender – “but he’s our defender” – fails to close down the other team’s goalscorer… from the relative safety of the thousands of noisy, braying fans around me.
Of course, it’s not just Pompey’s fans who are rude. Football seems to be a sport where uncouth is de rigueur. Everybody does it. Well, most fans who live, eat and drink the sport seem to.
Including, on occasion, me.
But what’s this? Even footballers do it.
Those professional athletes, hand-chosen for their intelligence, cerebral capability and ability to remain cool, calm and collected under pressure, ACTUALLY SWEAR.
I know it’s hard to believe – and please don’t read anything into the date that I am writing this article. It’s no joke.
In the heat of the moment, in a setting akin to an arena frequented by Roman gladiators, participating in a winning-is-all competitive environment, where the other team’s players are trying to beat you to the ball come what may, not to mention winding you up… footballers can have reactions not dissimilar to those experienced by us fans.
Of course, I’m referring to the fuss over Luke Varney’s apparent reaction to the comments of a few fans in the Fratton End during Pompey’s miserable capitulation against Burnley on Saturday.
Depending on which version of the I-was-there accounts you read or listen to, Varns stuck two fingers up and/or indicated to our precious supporters that perhaps they should calm down a little.
Oh, and he might have said (or at least mouthed) the F-word.
At a football match.
Where other foul-mouthed adults (and yes, children) were present.
Look, I don’t like swearing. It’s not big and it’s not bloody clever.
But regardless of whether it’s acceptable in any public environment, it’s accepted at football matches.
It happens. If you don’t want to hear it, or don’t want little Callum and Kayleigh to hear it, DON’T BLOODY GO.
And certainly don’t go to a Pompey away game, by the way.
If Varney did swear, if he even gestured, he should not escape criticism.
In fact, I suggest Michael Appleton should even go as far as having a word with him, reminding him of his public profile and professional responsibilities, especially towards a set of fans that are more than playing their part in helping the club through very troubled times.
But to read and listen to some of the comments from Pompey fans, you’d think he’d thrown a grenade in the Fratton End and stormed out of Fratton Park with Linvoy’s head on a stick.
Of course he shouldn’t have done it. But he should be thrown out? Should never play for the club again? Should have the book thrown at him? Should be replaced by Dave Kitson?
As some of my – generally polite – friends in the Twittersphere might say: FFS.
After an actually impressive first 45 minutes, Luke Varney was having a bit of a nightmare second half, in which nothing he tried came off.
A bit like the side, really.
The incident that has caused such consternation, that prompted a “businessman” to call Express FM within minutes of the final whistle to say he’d had it with Pompey after that, occurred some way from where I was sitting, and I didn’t see any of it.
Naturally, I couldn’t hear what was said by any of the parties, either.
But I reckon it’s safe to bet Varney was getting a bit of stick, possibly, even swearing (although the very thought of an outbreak of that in the Fratton End is, I acknowledge, rather fanciful).
Is it really such a heinous crime to give a little back? In the heat of the frustrating moment. When you’re as cross with yourself as your team-mates will be; as your manager will be; as your own fans clearly are?
Of course it’s abusive and potentially offensive. But let’s get it in perspective. It’s a bloody football match.
There are 16,000 braying churchgoers, I mean - football fans all giving everybody their unsolicited views in a frenzied environment, with potentially massive consequences for failure.
Cut the man a little slack, will you?
Or is it only the people who pay their wages who have the right to let off steam, to fail to control their emotions?
Is it the fact that it’s Pompey’s fans who were wronged? After all, we are the world’s best, most loyal.
We wouldn’t dream of turning on our own. Dave Kitson, say. Or Luke Varney… oh, hang on a mo.
When I learn of teacup storms such as this, my mind turns back a few years to when that Chelsea left-back scored a goal against Pompey.
Wayne Bridge was his name. You remember him, he used to play for Southampton before giving up the game to collect a salary for sitting on the bench.
He ran along the touchline to celebrate with Pompey’s supporters, cupping his ear and lapping up the acclaim from a set of fans so generous that they had cheered him remorselessly throughout the game.
There was all sorts of a brouhaha about it. How dare the little minx tease and taunt the Pompey fans so?
Teasing and taunting are our prerogative.
As I said, I don’t like rudeness, and it shouldn’t be encouraged. If a player commits such an transgression, he should be upbraided accordingly, with a penalty that fits the offence.
If he’s in danger of inciting real trouble, his actions should be regarded with commensurate seriousness.
If he over-reacts to a bit of banter – or maybe slightly more – from fans, whether his own or the opposition’s – let’s keep the remedy in perspective.
Get real, boys and girls. No more of this mock shock and outrage. If you’re big enough to give it, be big enough to take it.
If you’re going to a football match, be prepared for two-way banter that might even spill over into a bit of instantaneous abuse.
And accept that on occasion it might even be directed at you.