I saw the social media announcement re our new signing.
I greeted the rumours and subsequent signing with joy and hope. It does inspire me that we could do well this season. It shows that we do have the ambition to better ourselves and bring in players that are capable of producing yet more magic as we continue on our Premier League voyage.
For me, the tone of it was all a bit petty and juvenile. Why do we need to respond to what Adrian Durham says? Why do we need to challenge his belief that we lack ambition? It’s all so small-time to do so.
Whilst I listen a lot to TalkSport, I don’t really listen when it comes to Stoke! Plaudits do though go to Durham for generating debate – he has a simple job on a radio station and that’s to get listeners – so the more insulting and/or controversial he is, the more ears he has taking in his show. Why do we continually rile at the comments? Both Durham and Savage are essentially the modern-day reincarnation of shock jocks and 21st Century ‘click-bait’ all wrapped into one easily digested parcel!
Now, don’t get me wrong – I feel that at times that the club’s communication with fans seems to mostly consist of a giant vacuum that the odd stray message emerges from like a waif of randomness. It is human nature to fill this void, hence the popularity of various social media groups dedicated to filling in these blanks – and of course the ever-growing delight of seeing a blurry photo from the ‘man in the bush’. We can also criticize the clubs seeming inability to get transfers over the line or their protracted negotiation tactics. We can carp on about a questionable transfer policy that has seen lots of players depart. It’s all hearsay and opinion to fill the void.
We do though need to have the right mentality.
We are the oldest club in the Premier League. 1863, us! We are in our tenth season at the ‘top table’, despite being hammered at and condemned to face relegation for the majority of that time. We have a proud footballing heritage – yes, it doesn’t have a glittering trophy cabinet but it is still there nevertheless. Our chairman is thought of with fond regards both by us as fans and within the football community. Yes, we’ve been let down by players and the media still hold to the perception of us as an unglamorous team. We, though, have always strived to prove them wrong in the one area that matters – on the terraces and on the field, playing the game in a way that will bring us a degree of success that every professional club outside of the top flight would kill for. We do not though need to petty, juvenile or bitter.
We are better than that!
I’ve been following FC St. Pauli for a good while now…. I don’t recall if the original article that sparked my interest was in When Saturday Comes, or FourFourTwo. It doesn’t matter, it was in the late 2000s, anyway. I grew up watching Stoke City, and when I started going regularly there would be a bloke selling The Socialist Worker paper outside the Boothen End season ticket holders entrance.
So roll forward to 2017, my home town team, my team, forms a partnership with my other team. I’ll level with you, I don’t think you can have 2 teams if they’re from the same country, but it’s ok if they’re from other countries. For me, FC St Pauli are a model for fan involvement at all levels of the club, the club reaches into many areas of the local community, has teams in lots of sports at all levels.
That’s before we even look at the Hamburg club and fans’ stance on hate, they are anti-facist, anti-homophobic, pro-equality. At all levels. They had issues with right wingers amongst the ranks, and they dealt with it at a fan level, they made them persona non grata on the terraces.
Being London based I jumped on the early Tuesday Ryanair flight from Stanstead, took the S-Bahn underground and got off at the infamous Reeperbahn- it was around 11am. I’ve lived in London 19 years, seen a lot of Soho through work, but Soho has nothing on the Reeperbahn: it was eye opening to walk out of the underground and see so many homeless drunks, the stench of stale urine reminding me of the old Boothen bogs. I opted to head towards the ground, find a nice cafe/bar get some food and maybe a beer. I found a great place in a side street just opposite the Millerntor and sat for an hour or so just soaking it up, reading the stickers that were everywhere in the bar. Then I wandered to the ticket office, got my ticket and went in the club shop, where I bought the t shirt of the poster – No Gods, No Masters!
I the took a bit of a wander around St. Pauli taking pictures of the graffiti for a while, went back to the Reeperbahn and just tried to take it all in, McDonald’s next to a very public 5 story legal brothel emblazoned with the price, then 2 doors down, a club shop. Every other shop seemed to be a kebab shop or strip club.
I did a good bit of walking and even ventured into the infamous street they have like in Amsterdam, with the women sat on stools in the window. I politely declined their offers. Carried on and ended up at Beatles Plazer. I’m sure the Reeperbahn is great for a stag do, but I’m more of a nice quiet bar with a pint kinda person these days, so headed back to the place I’d been at in the morning, before meeting up with some other Stokies at The Jolly Roger a famous pre match bar. After that we went to the supporters club bar and experienced true German hospitality, as St Pauli gave all Stoke fans free beer in one of their bars.
In the match, we had St Pauli fans sitting with us, no segregation, and beer being drunk. Of course, there was no trouble, fans mingled, chatted, drank together, exactly as it should be. Obviously our country’s have a shared history, and part of that history dominated the skyline behind the stand to our left. But more of that later.
After the game we returned to the Jolly Roger, drank with St Pauli fans and with European based Stoke fans who were taking pics of their German friends in old borrowed Stoke tops. My evening ended in a kebab shop next to my hotel having an Iskender kebab and another beer.
Although my hotel did breakfast they didn’t do coffee as I like it, so I returned to the same Cafe/Bar I’d been at twice before yesterday. I sat at one of the long outside table benches near a lady in an anti-facist t shirt, who immediately asked if I’d been at the game. She was a St. Pauli fan, and we spent the next two hours talking football, politics, war, history, how WW2 bombs keeping being found……….
Hamburg was bombed extensively in WW2, and those towers were anti aircraft gun platforms; so thick is the concrete, they couldn’t knock them down easily, so this one was left. It also stands as a reminder, and St Pauli fans will be the first to man the barricades if the right rears its ugly head again.
I finished my stay by walking down the Reeperbahn again, and finding a small Hamburger place for lunch. It would be rude not to surely! Germans are great people, incredibly hospitable, when St. Pauli come to Stoke, we need to show them the same hospitality they showed us!