Offside’s Premier League A-Z: O is for old timers

O is for old timers…

Age isn’t a barrier for football fanaticism. Though the sport itself may be a young man’s game, even the most venerable supporters are able to find a place in the stands where they can unleash their undimmed passion for their team and colours.

Steve Bardens: Getting down early to grab a seat.
Steve Bardens: Getting down early to grab a seat.

It’s not just Barclaycard adverts that feature elderly Evertonians. Goodison Park, along with every other Premier League ground across the country, can boast plenty of pensioners, old age or otherwise.

Mark Leech: There's a good chance that his name is Ernie, and he's a 90 years of age.
Mark Leech: There’s a good chance that this gentleman’s name is Ernie, and he’s 90 years of age.

To the more deferential fans around them, these veterans can be true living treasures; elders offering a mental library of knowledge, stories and invaluable memories of the good times and the bad. As the match day experience is increasingly captured and uploaded onto the internet, these aged reference points have become mini cult icons for some.

YouTube is increasingly full of older supporters pouring their heart, soul and experience into the camera lens. At almost every game, hungry new media types can be found lingering at the stadium exit ready to capture the thoughts and perspective of the more distinguished passers-by to inform their waiting audiences online.

Simon Stacpoole: Never too old to get involved in a good rivalry.
Simon Stacpoole: Never too old to get involved in a good rivalry.

Outside Old Trafford, the Emirates, Anfield and beyond, old timers are coining phrases and summing up emotions for the next generation to take on and digest, regardless of whether they’re aware of their new function as august e-pundits.

Mark Leech: Having a giggle at Stamford Bridge.
Mark Leech: Having a giggle at Stamford Bridge.

“Absolutely bobbins!”—the exasperated utterance of a more mature fan following a defeat to Liverpool in March—became a meme unto itself last season for Manchester United fans suffering under the reign of David Moyes.

Marc Atkins: Sunderland fans digest the action.
Marc Atkins: Sunderland fans digest the action.

Even offline however these well-travelled supporters usually put their younger pretenders to shame. They arrive at games decorated in a uniform of badges, memorabilia and wooly merchandise almost like retired soldiers displaying their medals at a war memorial. Be it through their age or appearance, they can usually demand a certain degree of respect or reverence on the way to or from their seats.

 

The cry of “down in front” carries far more weight for those standing when it’s croaked out by an elderly fan from behind. It’s hard to say no to someone who has seen it all, and wouldn’t mind seeing some more if only the big lumps in front would allow it. After all, they are the old boys and old girls: the mob’s spiritual leaders and surrogate grandparents to even the most boisterous and brawling elements of the crowds.

Mark Leech: A heavily tattooed West Ham fan leaves the ground with his elderly female companion, possibly his mother.
Mark Leech: A heavily tattooed West Ham fan leaves the ground with his elderly female companion, possibly his mother.

Football’s crowds are only getting older, and while that’s obviously a major worry considering how younger fans are being priced out of building an intimate, match-going relationship with their team, it shouldn’t lead to older fans being undervalued. They are as vital to the well-being of a healthy ecosystem of supporters as the need for new blood to replenish those who become too old or infirm to make it to the stadium in body, even if their spirit is willing.

Charlie Crowhurst: Badges galore at Crawley Town versus Stoke City.
Charlie Crowhurst: Badges galore at Crawley Town versus Stoke City.

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.

Follow Offside on Twitter at @welloffside.

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Author: gregianjohnson

Football writer for The Blizzard, FourFourTwo, The Mirror, Squawka and VICE amongst others. Follow me on Twitter at @gregianjohnson.

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