Sport and politics make uneasy bedfellows, as the recently deceased chap who caught William Hague sniffing Seb Coe's judo pants once said. For a hardline lefty wanker like myself, my love of the beautiful game (football) has in recent years come at the cost of doubting my socialist credentials. How can anyone in love with the idea of a world where Thatcherism and all the other neo-con schools are finally defeated bring himself to cheer a bunch of millionaire arseholes playing another bunch of millionaire arseholes?
Truth is, he can't, not really.
I console myself with the knowledge that the team I support are going to be underdogs in a large number of their matches and try to ignore the fact their star striker is earning north of £50,000 a week. But this is the Premiership, a league that has long contrived to reward mediocrity with wages even a Barclays chief exec might blush at.
So, with a week until the new Premiership begins, and a sudden desire to join the other countless fools who think they can write a pre-season guide, here's my left-wingers ideological guide as to who they should be supporting. Although, after a while, I forget the politics and make jokes about Martin Jol's face.
Teams owned by the singularly unappealing.
Seeing as the Premiership is basically a race for cash, it's impossible to discount the owners from our thinking. And Premiership owners are, like F1 fans and members of historical re-enactment societies, pretty awful human beings. Manchester City are owned by the Mansour family, a happy go lucky despotic version of the Manson family, who like nothing more than putting their feet up to watch Sergio Aguero after a hard day's turning a blind eye to torture, human trafficking and other wacky shit. Chelsea are, of course, owned by Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch. I've never looked up "oligarch" but it's one of those words that get linked with "disappeared business rivals", "bribery", "corruption" and "despotic autocrat" quite a lot. Close personal chum of that perennial charmer Vladimir Putin, Abramovich has transformed Chelsea from occasional Cup winners into the obscenely funded employers of the likes of Brave John Terry - a player who does his best to embody much of what is wrong with our national game, and by extension, our nation as a whole. Newcastle United are the only sitcom that runs on Sky Sports. A regional obsession owned by a Londoner who is to footballing business decisions what Ant and Dec are to heart surgery techniques. Mike Ashley, owner of zero-hour contract shitfists Sports Direct, gave charmless, trophy free Alan Pardew an eight hour contract on the grounds of knowing the words to The Lambeth Walk. And then appointed an even bigger Cockernee geezer, Joe Kinnear, above him. The club wear shirts sponsored by financial misery peddlers Wonga, a phrase so utterly London that one can only presume business meetings at St James Park resemble auditions for Oliver.
Teams managed by racist bastards.
He's so passionate! He's so chic! He ruins his suits! When Sunderland appointed self-proclaimed fascist sympathiser Paolo Di Canio, the last tiny cell of whatever passed for top flight English football's soul died. At a club whose connections to the local community, an area long blighted by poverty, were best embodied by their commitment to affordable ticket prices - such an appointment was even sadder. And when it made even non-executive board member David Miliband, a fucking New Labour cabinet member for Christ's sake, walk off into the sunset claiming a duty of conscience, well you had to smile.
Teams supported by that smug sachet of shit sauce Piers Morgan.
For all Arsene Wenger's devotion to an aesthetically pleasing Anglo-French take on the tiki-taka style of Barcelona, Arsenal are supported by Piers Morgan. Every time Theo Walcott scores, the self-satisfied wank-rictus of Piers Morgan contorts in delight. Perhaps he even masturbates. Add to that the fact that sniffing cocaine on one of Richard Branson's soon come space planes is probably marginally cheaper than an Arsenal ticket and there you go, fuck Arsenal. Fuck them.
A BRIEF DETOUR INTO ANOTHER SUBJECT ALTOGETHER.
Is it just me or is anyone else looking forward to the inevitable moment when a Virgin space plane, packed with Piers Sugars and Roman Mumfords, blows up in the stratosphere, the only recognisable piece of debris being a falling slice of Virgin-emblazoned fuselage crashing faster than the Virgin share price.
Teams owned by chairmen who dare to pay for their new club's success and then reward the fans by adding an animal to the name.
Cardiff City and Hull City, having both been promoted in May, are both owned by Asian businessman very keen on rebranding their teams to capture part of the emerging "people who like their things named after animals or mythical creatures market". For many Cardiff fans, Vincent Tan's dream of naming their club Cardiff City Dragons is the last straw. Having made their Bluebirds wear red shirts was bad enough. Now he wants to add Dragons to their name. You might think a slice of gratitude might be owned Mr Tan, after all his time in charge has been their most successful since before the war. For now Tan has held off the Dragon rebranding but a sizeable contingent of their supporters are worried that they'll become the laughing stock of football should their club's identity and traditions be compromised any further. Hull City, however, have gone and added Tigers to their name, making themselves the most famous three word five syllable unit since the Bay City Rollers. Some fans are so up in arms about it they've written strongly worded letters to the local press. As far as I know, no one has ever taunted another club's fans about whatever creature is on the club's badge. It's not as if Hull have changed their name to Godforsaken East Coast Shithole Tigers or that Cardiff City have decided to rename their stadium Cavernous Monument To Out of Town Shopping Nausea. Still, tradition and all that. These huge pocketed millionaire bastards, eh?
Team supported by David Cameron, Mervyn King and Prince William.
It hurts, it really does. I've seen a Villa forward line of John Fashanu and Guy Whittingam. I've watched them lose to fourth-tier teams over two legged semi-finals. I remember Eric Djemba-Djemba, Simon Stainrod and Gabor Kiraly. But what hurts this Tory hating, banker loathing avid republican most is our association with the biggest shitbag in Britain. Not to mention Mervyn "oops" King and the Man Who Will One Day Be Heir To The Throne For Fucking Years. As if watching a team that still pays Stephen Ireland money isn't bad enough. And Randy Lerner was the single largest contributor to Bush's 2000 election fund. So, in a way, a very fucked up way admittedly, Martin O'Neill caused 9/11.
Liverpool and Manchester United are both way too large and unscrupulous to truly love. Both are owned by bespectacled American tycoon types who probably go to Bible groups and listen to the Gin Blossoms or some other shit. Liverpool's star player is the ever-charming Freddie Mercury lookalike Luis Suarez, a prodigious talent with a penchant for racist outbursts and biting opponents. Their manager is a fucking colossal David Brent-speak twat. Much of the traditional hatred for Man Utd will have dissipated following the retirement of Ribena-faced watchtapper Sir Alex of the Shipyards. But seeing as they were the first to really chase the title of COLOSSAL WORLDWIDE FRANCHISE WITH SHIRTS MADE IN ASIAN SWEATSHOPS, we can't cheer them on either. And they pay Rio "Whoops, Drug Test" Ferdinand and Wayne "Spellcheck" Rooney too.
Everton have lost their manager to the Dr Who job. When you lose your biggest asset to a fictional journey through time and space you are no longer a football club. Fulham are supported by both Hugh Grant and Keith Allen. And their manager Martin Jol resembles a blind toddler's attempts to recreate God with cheap plasticine. Tottenham recently turned down £83 million pounds for their best player. That's enough money to buy Cardiff Airport and both the planes that landed there last year.
Which leaves Stoke City, West Ham, West Bromwich Albion, Norwich, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Swansea.
Stoke City are owned by Peter Coates, the man who also owns betting site Bet365. To compound the misery caused by the rigged illusion of gambling with the less than aesthetically pleasing sight of hoofing the ball through the sky to the head of Peter Crouch is vile and inhumane. West Ham are owned by the nation's fifteenth-favourite pornographer David Sullivan. The Olympic legacy is letting a man who makes his crust selling Widow's Friend dildos and Topless Nuns Monthly half fill the stadium of Ennis and Farah with the footballing vision of Sam Allardyce.
Imagine being single and hearing these two girls whom a friend knows are apparently both keen on seeing you. That'd cheer you up, wouldnt it? You might get some action. So you go to the club and both girls look like the Moog from Willo the Wisp. And while beauty is only skin deep and all that, it still doesnt count as much of a result. But you end up sleeping with them anyway. That's what signing for West Brom is like. A club supported by both flag-waving convert Frank Skinner and the only man to resemble the back of Martin Jol's spoon, Adrian Chiles.
Norwich are managed by former trade union shop steward Chris Hughton, a man whom it seems to me is pretty difficult to dislike. But Delia Smith. Delia fucking Smith. Not to mention Stephen Fry. I love the bloke as much as the next chap. He's our Renaissance man. But he's too pally with the Royals. So that's Norwich out of the equation.
Swansea? I love their football, it's pleasing to the eye. But I live in Cardiff. People will see this and find my family and kill them. And Michael Laudrup reminds me of Laugesen in Borgen. So they're out.
Which leaves a choice between Southampton and Crystal Palace. Southampton are owned by an Italian banker. An Italian banker. Hardly two words that combine to think "Yep, I'd love to go on the piss with them." You got to love an underdog and so I'll plump for the Sarf Lahndn newboys Palace. They've sold their best player to Man Utd and bought in Maurane Chamakh from Arsenal reserves. Like trading in your Mercedes for a lift with Peter Sutcliffe.
And on that less than enamouring simile, I'll fuck off.