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In Stadia

Historians always tell us that people living in ancient societies were a lot more like us than we commonly think. I am sure they are right and our forebears certainly liked their sport. Still, I find the idea of chin-scratching Greeks bursting into song while watching naked youths throwing javelins or sprinting by a little hard to imagine. Name chanting is something different. I could picture that beside the track and even more from the seats of some arena watching chariots race

Roll forward to the chaotic world of medieval football and it would be hard to imagine it without chanting, songs and screamed insults. The only reason why streakers wouldn’t also be present is probably because they would get their heads kicked in. The famously dangerous early game often led to fatalities and the official cause of demise, ‘death by football,’ was common for hundreds of years. I remember having a rattle as a boy but I never spun it in anger. The songs and chants, however, were there from my earliest live football experiences and they continue. In this internet assisted age they can be spread through Youtube and social media, making stars of creative fans like Sean Kennedy who came up with the sublime ‘Will Grigg's on fire’ song and earned a free season ticket from his club.

Clubs, of course, also do what they can to encourage the mood. Music has been a fixture before games and for the home team to run out to for fifty years. More recently cheerleading squads with terrible names (Gully's Girls, Hammerettes, The Crystals) were set-up and flourished for a spell. They have mostly passed into history but mascots live on and every now and again catch the mood of the stadium perfectly. Who can forget Harry the Hornet’s tumble in front of an outraged Wilfried Zaha. The Crystal Palace player had to be dragged away after being mocked for his inability to stay on his feet. That incident occurred on Harry’s patch at Vicarage Road. At Selhurst Park, Zaha’s, home ground, an elephant was once paraded around the pitch before a game. Why? Because Wimbledon F.C., that’s why.

But the best piece of club provided entertainment in this list does not come from from the hired help; it comes from the owner herself. When Delia Smith took to the pitch at half time she needed no dancing girls, no men dressed as insects or circus animals, all she needed was a microphone (and perhaps a couple of large ones beforehand).

Midfield General (ret.)

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