I is for invasions…
Invasions of the Premier League have come in various forms, from the armada of foreign talent that has swarmed the highest echelon of English football over the past 25 years or so, to the sight of hundreds of fans springing onto the pitch in celebration or rage.
Somewhere between the two however lies Southampton legend Ali Dia: fake cousin of George Weah, arch-nemesis of Graham Souness’ already bruised reputation as a football manager, and the original false nine, although not in the way you’d think.
You’d think that such shenanigans would no longer be possible in the modern game, but Manchester United fans waving goodbye to Bebe this summer may disagree.
But never mind comedy transfers, dodgy deals and the influx of foreign stars of late, even today in Premier League football, the most common invaders—outside of questionable jokes about Shakhtar Donetsk and the Ukraine crisis—remain the fans.
Invasions staged to savour victory. Invasions sparked off by a momentum event in a club’s history. Invasions born of anger and despair as relegations are confirmed and sure thing triumphs slip into meltdown defeats.
Winning the league can be a sure-fire way to inspire an overspill onto the field of play. Manchester City fans took to the turf in both 1968 and 2014 to show off their glee at claiming the highest league title in the land.
And the City fans aren’t alone. When winning their first Premier League title in 1993, Manchester United fans sprinted onto the grass to celebrate with their heroes, while Bob Paisley’s Liverpool were met with a number of young fans following their league triumph in 1975.
Pitch invasions can also be a chance for some light relief too of course, be it through streakers or costumed interlopers. Yet fans on the field aren’t always a welcome sight. When anger takes hold and justice is demanded—for a horrendous loss, a poor performance or a bad decision—things can turn nasty, either against the players or the opposition’s supporters.
Yet for all the negative reaction to fans letting their emotions get the better of them on match day—”It’s not something we like to see, Geoff” and the rest of it—pitch invasions can’t be written off as some home-spun evil of the game.
In a sport where the emotional intensity and passion of the players, pundits and fans alike are all weaved into the sales pitch of the Premier League, is it really so surprising that such grand expressions of excitement and joy can take hold of the spectacle at times?
Considering how many great pictures have been taken by photographers streaming onto the field at full-time, it would be wrong to vilify or criticise those who do for the love rather than to take a picture-perfect image.
Offside is the UK’s leading independent sports photography agency, home to an extensive collection of classic First Division and Premier League pictures as well as other images from across the world of sport. Explore Offside’s unique library at www.welloffside.com.
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