Mr Routledge: Support My Team!

As you may or may not be aware, Mr Routledge is in need of a new football team. Somewhat embarrassingly, his last team, Bury United, ran out of cash and were unceremoniously booted out of the football league, much in the manner of a ball being hacked desperately out of the aforementioned team’s 18-yard-box.

While this is indicative of a tragic malaise in English football deserving of serious, deeply-researched journalism, we decided to leave that to the national press. Instead we have invited a handful of Mr Routledge’s Common Room associates to make their case for the Director of Teaching and Learning to support their club…

Mr Battman – Rochdale

For those of you lacking some knowledge of the geography of north Manchester, Bury sits between two similarly sized town. One of these towns has a club that has just nearly gone the same way as Bury; the other is Rochdale. While we may have been rivals for years, why not trade a trip to Gigg Lane to an outing to Spotland; “Three pubs located at the ground, a great range of pies on offer and not a bad atmosphere to boot,” according to the Football Ground Guide.

In terms of success I don’t have much to offer; however, (this part may need changing depending on who replies) while Mr Cohen’s Chelsea may have been to Wembley for the EFL Cup final, the mighty Rochdale (believe it or not) have paid a visit to the home of football more recently than any of the other teams on offer. Anyway, being a Bury fan, Mr Routledge won’t be too fussed about success and will be much more accustomed to the third/fourth tier fixture list Rochdale have had for the last (close to) 100 years.

There is also a chance to witness Premier League stars before they become household names. Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert used to play up front together for Rochdale and more recently Watford’s Craig Dawson came through the academy.

Finally, (we’re in pink).

Up the Dale!

Mr Cohen – Chelsea

5 Reasons to support Chelsea Football Club

1) Chelsea have never been lower than the Championship

There have been some dark days at Stamford Bridge. In the 1970s, building the East Stand crippled the club to the point they were forced to sell many of the best players just to pay the bills, and even then, they came close to oblivion. The 1980s weren’t much better, as troubles on and off the pitch—notably hooliganism—threatened the future of the club.

No matter how bad things got, however, Chelsea have always maintained their position as never competing lower than the Championship, formerly the Second Division. It’s a proud statistic, and one that reflects the profile of Chelsea in their 108-year history.

2) Frank Lampard What an ambassador to the English game Frank Lampard has been. At 35 years old, he continues to shine and brings so much to Chelsea on and off the pitch. With 203 goals, he is the club’s all-time goal scorer—a living legend.

It’s players such as the man they call “Super Frank” who add gravitas to a football club. They bring an air of class, creating an aura to be admired.

3) The first and only club in London to win the Champions League

For all the success clubs in London have enjoyed throughout the 150-year history of football in England, none can match Chelsea’s achievement in lifting the Champions League trophy in 2012, they were the first and only London club to do it.

4) Youth policy is paying off

From the so-called “Dad’s Army” to a team packed to the rafters with young talent, it’s taken Chelsea a while, but their youth policy is finally paying dividends.

Most of Chelsea’s current crop of stars have their best years ahead of them. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori are the latest homegrown products to be making it big in the Premier League.

Whether it was with financial fair play or another policy in mind, the club is rebuilding with a core of youthful talent, and they look ready to play a major role in Europe in the coming seasons.

5) Forget words, I’ll let Chelsea’s record since the turn of the century do the talking here:

First Division/Premier League: 6 FA Cup: 8 Football League Cup: 5 European Cup/Champions League: 1

Mr Mower – Ipswich Town

With Bury having ended their stay in the Football League in the third tier, it is surely only fair for Mr. Routledge to take on a team in the same division. As luck would have it, Ipswich find themselves playing at this level for the first time in 57 years. Given their impressive start to the League One campaign, the Tractor Boys don’t look like hanging around here for long!

Being an Ipswich fan in recent times has not always been easy. However, if Mr. Routledge were to join the Blue Army, I guarantee that he would enjoy the ride. Our supporters are amongst the most loyal there are, and it is nothing short of remarkable to see the numbers who travel up and down the country to follow their team.

Rumour has it that Mr. Routledge is considering switching allegiances to another East Anglian team. This is a team so obscure, and with so little history to pride itself on, that their most notable achievement is probably reaching the 3rd round (yes, 3rd round!) of the UEFA Cup in 1993, by beating Bayern Munich. Or at least it was until they fluked a win over Manchester City the other day! You may have heard of them – Norwich City.

If, however, Mr. Routledge would rather support a football team that has won the biggest honours in the English and European game, the club that has provided England’s two most successful managers in Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson, and one that remains unbeaten at home in European competition, having overcome giants of the game such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and AC Milan, then it is a no-brainer: he should get himself down to Portman Road. Even Paul Lambert, Norwich’s greatest ever manager (alright, not saying much!), eventually came to his senses and realised what any sound-minded football supporter already knew: Ipswich Town have always been – will always be – the Pride of Anglia.

Mr Hodson – Norwich City

I couldn’t agree more with Mr Mower’s final remark: assuming, that is, he’s confused the words Pride and Laughing-Stock.

While Ipswich were once a great team, their primary purpose these days is to give long-suffering fans like Messrs Coleman and Mower exercises in humility and self-deprecation. Ipswich are useless, their stadium’s ugly and they were held at home by Rotherham last week (while Norwich were casually educating Guardiola’s Galacticos in the dangers of a hard press). #NCFC3-2MC.

Norwich City is a club for intellectuals, so Mr Routledge will fit right in. Don’t let the foul-mouthed farmer-talk or excessive fingerage in the stands fool you, the Norfolk faithful like football with sound philosophical foundation and linguistic irony: hence we play an adapatable possession game and have Finnish striker who knows how to…. If you’ve seen the Premier League top-scoring charts, you’ll get the pun.

I’ll admit that the trophy cabinet is a little sparsely populated, but clubs are builts on memories more than silverware, and who can forget the humbling of Man U in 2005, the FA Cup penalty shoot-out at Stamford Bridge two years ago, or indeed that magical night in Munich, 1993 (Norwich are the only English side ever to beat Bayern in the Olympiastadion).

What a night

As a final inducement, our club chant ‘On the Ball, City’ is officially (Wikipedia) the oldest song in football; even if no one knows the words to the middle bit. Come on, join us up at Carrow Road and let’s ‘have a little scrimmage’.

Mr Gould – Leeds United

I have no idea when I started following Leeds United; my dad detests football and my mum only briefly cared when Beckham played. Geographically, Hartlepool – my hometown – is closer to the behemoth-club Newcastle than it is Leeds. How then, has this west-Yorkshire city that I have no real links to sustain my interest? Easy.

Mr Routledge – a long-suffering Bury fan – has lost his club to financial irregularities and debt. Leeds are the perfect solution. I grew up in the glory days for United – Kewell, Radebe and Ferdinand. The minnow battling against the odds against European giants in the Champions League. I remember keenly Bowyer scoring from distance against AC Milan. I remember Matteo’s header as if it was yesterday as the rain poured in the San Siro. I remember Alan ‘Smudger’ Smith’s goals against Anderlecht. To put it in Mr Routledge’s parlance, in 2001 Leeds were Icarus. Despite defeating several top teams, we flew too close to the sun (Sun Siro…) and spent more cash than Collingwood do on BBQs each year. When Leeds failed to qualify for the Champions League in the following season, we were Deadalus in the water. Like Icarus plunging to the water, Leeds fell to the depths of the football league. Instead of battling it out with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal Leeds faced the might of Swindon, Millwall and Southend. In just a few seasons Leeds had gone from finishing in the top three of the Premier League to administration and a penalty of -15 points. Though Bury have succumbed to a terrible fate, Leeds were very close to the same path.

Leeds is a one-club city. Though I enjoy the Premier League, there is something romantic about following a club that hasn’t lost its soul the money of the ‘EPL’. Whether it’s the Etihad, Emirates or indeed The King Power Stadium, there’s something so nauseatingly corporate about the top tier of football. Elland Road under the lights is something special. It is still somewhere where a parent can take their child and see what football can be like without a billionaire owner. The EPL, and the clubs therein, is a product – you’re not supporting a passion, you’re supporting a franchise. Leeds are, and will remain, a throwback to when football was a game for the working class. If Mr Routledge wants to be a genuine fan of football, there’s only one place to go: Elland Road – the home of ‘dirty Leeds’.

A phoenix is, however, rising from the ashes. In Greek mythology (I gather), the phoenix is a long-lived bird that cyclically regenerates or is otherwise born again. I can’t discuss Leeds without mentioning the one man that is bringing back the glory days: Marcelo Bielsa – AKA El Loco. Bielsa is a coach who is responsible for having curates the talents of Pep Guardiola and Pochettino. He is known as El Loco for a variety of reasons. But those who have worked with him swear by his methods. He is a man that has single-handedly turned a drab mid-table club into genuine challengers. Last season Mr Routledge will have heard of the Spygate scandal. Mr Bielsa sent spies to watch Derby train on the eve of a big fixture. This was deemed complete irresponsible and ‘against the spirit of the game’. Bielsa, being a man of principle, paid the 200K fine himself. Somehow this weird combination of West Yorkshire grit and South American passion has worked wonders. There is famous story of a hand grenade: After a losing 6-0 to San Lorenzo in the Copa Libertadores in February 1992, a dozen of Newell’s Old Boys fans protested outside his house. Bielsa threatened them with a hand grenade. “If you don’t leave, I will blow you up,” he said. They left. With Bielsa at the helm, Leeds are a club worth watching. Perhaps the most edifying aspect of it all is that Bielsa has united a club that has been divided for years.

Great manager, terrible linguist: Bielsa

Mr Brightwell – Southampton

The reason why Mr Routledge should become a Saint (Southampton FC supporter) is because we love to welcome news fans, even those from above the Watford gap. As most Saints fans come from the local area, we have a truly loyal fan base unlike some of the glory teams.  

Even though the Saints were in League 1 (The same division that Bury were just removed from) as recently as 2011, they have tasted success. Beating Man Utd to win the FA Cup in 1976. As one of the founding members of the premier league, they were lucky enough to have Matt Le Tissier, the greatest midfielder of all time, play for them. He was the first midfielder to score 100 premier league goals.

As Mr Routledge has a keen sense of fashion he will love wearing the Saints kit, which was voted the ugliest premier league kit of the season. It would also allow him to serenade the chapel with ‘Oh when the Saints’ as this is the teams official anthem.  

The team now plays its own brand of quick attacking football, identical to that seen at Monday night staff football. They are managed by the charismatic Ralph Hasenhuttl.

The final reason is that he will also be able to celebrate should Liverpool ever mange to win the league as most Southampton players end up at Liverpool. Including players such as Van Dijk and Mane.  

And there you have it: the pitches are complete. Whose will Mr R find most persuasive? You can find out next week, when Mr Routledge will reveal his new club.

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