“Are you disappointed you didn’t see any goals?” my wife asked our six-year-old daughter when we got home from the QPR game the other week.
“No, I’ve had a brilliant time,” she replied, her voice hoarse from all her shouting. (That’s my girl…)
It’s true that further questioning revealed the highlights of her afternoon to be the bag of sweets she scoffed at the match, plus a sighting of the Prank Patrol van parked in front of BBC Television Centre, but it was clear that taking her to watch Norwich was not the act of child cruelty some mischievous friends who support other teams had suggested it would be.
I wouldn’t have been disappointed if she had been disappointed, though.
Getting used to the feeling is one of life’s lessons, after all – and football arguably offers a less cruel demonstration of hopes being dashed than the TV singing contest that my wife lets our daughter watch on a Saturday evening.
If anything, disappointment is the most prevalent feeling in football. Not at Carrow Road at the moment, obviously (the last year has been a welcome respite from the ones before it), but you can see it everywhere you look.
Here are just a few comments following last Saturday’s games, gleaned from a cursory scan of a couple of papers: Sam Allardyce: “…the disappointing thing is that we are not getting any points for [a performance like that].”
Tony Pulis: “I’m really disappointed with the disallowed goal.”
Tony Mowbray: “Of course it was disappointing.”
And Dave Jones on Norwich: “They will be disappointed with the result, but not so much with the performance.”
Admittedly, the general level of unhappiness within football is exaggerated by the way the word ‘disappointed’ is used by people within the game to soften their opinions and escape censure from the authorities – a bit like the use of ‘allegedly’ on Have I Got News For You to cover legally contentious statements.
For example, a striker missing a sitter will be said to be ‘very disappointed with that’ rather than ‘a useless donkey’.
A manager may say of a referee that ‘he’ll be disappointed when he watches that again on TV tonight’ rather than ‘he’s an incompetent tw*t’. (Note to Ed: do I need to put an asterisk in ‘twit’?)
In fact, the word is used so much that during the 2006 World Cup Finals, former Ipswich keeper Craig Forrest (allegedly) said of the Mexican goalkeeper when commenting for Canadian TV: “His father passed away on Thursday. He’ll be disappointed with that.”
One player even carried the sentiment around with him in his nickname.
Older readers will remember the Everton left-back Neil Pointon, widely referred to as ‘Disser’. (My second favourite football nickname ever, behind 1970s Chicago Sting midfielder Rikki ‘Zippity’ Duda.)
But it’s undeniable that low-level dissatisfaction and disgruntlement are an intrinsic part of the game, even though adverts and TV programmes rarely show this when they portray fans; they always seem to show either utter euphoria or head-clutching agony rather than a resigned ‘Tch’.
Perhaps this is why football is so popular in this country.
There’s a great Bill Bailey routine about how the English crave disappointment, which he also alludes to in a joke suggesting that car names should be made less aspirational for the UK market: “I’ve just got myself a new Vauxhall Disappointment.”
“Did it come in the colour you want?”
Maybe we do keep going along because we secretly enjoy that deflated feeling. After all, those fans who fail to understand it or even acknowledge its likelihood don’t seem like proper, fully-fledged supporters to the rest of us.
They may be young and naïve, like kids in the crowd asked for their score predictions by the man with a mike before kick-off; they inevitably respond with a bright, squeaky ‘3-0 to us!”, to which we grizzled older supporters react with a roll of the eyes and a shake of the head, just as we do whenever Let Me Entertain You is played before the teams run out.
(Actually you don’t hear that so much these days, do you? Maybe because some clubs fell foul of trades description legislation.) Or they may be gloryhunters trying to boost their self-image by associating themselves with success.
In any case, disappointment isn’t such a bad thing if the alternative is outright rage.
When Italian fans have been let down by the players, they’re likely to resort to eggs or tomatoes to show their displeasure; England players returning home after yet another failure are generally ignored, bar some low muttering about them being bloody useless.
(You can draw parallels between this, and the way different nations are reacting to the measures taken by their governments in the face of the economic crisis; the French took to the streets straight away, while we’re still at the grumbling stage.)
But that’s enough downbeat talk for now. Time to look forward to the Burnley game on Saturday in an upbeat, positive manner. Oh, hang on.
There’s a bus replacement service on the London – Norwich rail line again this weekend. Tch. _____________________
And finally… ‘Disser’ Pointon’s former captain at Everton, Kevin Ratcliffe, was the summariser on Five Live Extra for the Cardiff game last Saturday.
More than once, he described the Norwich attack as ‘very poignant’.
Do Messrs Holt and Jackson look (*gets thesaurus out*) pitiable, sorrowful, tearful or heart-rending to you? I think he meant ‘potent’.
He’s got to be disappointed with that.