Editorial: What’s the point?

‘What’s the point?’ Never a good sign when those three words leave your mouth is it? Usually means you’ve run out of patience, of self-belief, of desire, of fight, and chosen instead to accept the warm embrace of futility. It’s not all bad, futility, for a start it’s much less labour intensive than trying. But it’s not fun. It’s a place of defeat. The mountain of emails, the rising cost of living, the sodding thing that won’t just clip into this bastard other bit has beaten you. Why fight it?

This considered, that I can’t remember uttering those three words in relation to Doncaster Rovers before, is frankly astounding. A fact I can only attribute to there always being a clear fight to be fought beyond my withering sense of self; an us against them. In the bleakness of 1997-98, the point was very evident, it was to save our club from extinction; in the non-league years the point was to get back what Ken Richardson had stripped us of. During ‘the experiment’ the drive came from a want to stop people being hooked in by a magic beans salesman who’d just scribbled the word ‘magic’ on a tin of Heinz with a crayon. And when the Football Association decided the Belles didn’t fit their new world order the point was to not go down as quietly as the authorities had expected.

But then that run finally ended this season. However this was not, you understand, due to Rovers losing matches. Nor due to the utterly abject football served up in those defeats, a form of the game as joyless as a housing landlord’s paint swatch collection. Not even due to the empty statements conflicting the emptiness of previous statements. No, all that I can just about force down my gullet with the aid of a sizeable spoonful of sweet red and white hooped nostalgia. My ‘what’s the point?’ breaking point came on 10 March, when I held back the tide of pop-ups on the Free Press website long enough to read the following words.

It is understood Manchester United paid Doncaster Rovers compensation worth six figures to sign 14-year-old trio Zac Watson, Jariyah Shah and Neithan Barbosa from their academy last year… Leeds United are also understood to have paid six figures for winger Logan White, also 14, who joined them in October’.

Seriously, when this is what it’s come to, what’s the point? Like most of you reading this I don’t support Doncaster Rovers through choice, because how on earth would we land on this of all the options? It’d be like going into the greatest ice-cream parlour on earth and somehow, from their thousands of flavour options, choosing to get a hefty kick in the bollocks from the person behind the counter. No, I support Rovers because they’re my hometown club. They are us. And it’s us against the world, one town at a time. For now that’s Barrow and Colchester and Swindon, but we’ll get to the rest eventually. And the biggest of all thrills when supporting your hometown team, is seeing eager young things from that same town pull on your shirt and take on that challenge themselves, as if Grimsby Town having the temerity to force a corner in OUR ground, by OUR lake is a personal affront.

Now, from John Parr to Skinny Pelembe I’ll proudly champion people of Doncaster going on to greater things. But crucially when it comes to football, I want to see them do it here first. With us and for us. So if I can’t hope to see that any more; if the biggest and the richest can just take that away from me and stockpile the ambition of children, and the hopes of adults, like it’s a pile of soup tins in a nuclear bunker, then really, what’s the point? The club gets ‘compensated’ we’re told, but so f***ing what? A six figure sum means frankly f*** all to me, I want to be thrilled by footballers not balance sheets.

This game is broken and beyond repair; it’s skewed towards the biggest of the big boys and it stinks. The FA bends over backwards to suit their whims and wants, and their hypochondriacal sense of injustice from a system already set up to give them everything. We’ve got VAR, and B teams in the League Trophy, we’ve lost League Cup second-legs and FA Cup replays; our biggest possible day out has been shunted to midweek, all to end the bleating of the most entitled, and still they want more. They want a smaller top flight, they want a winter break because they’re too tired to play each other here, but alert enough to go and do it in the desert heat of Dubai.

I was vehemently against the European Super League, but the more it’s mooted, the more I find myself thinking ‘you know what, just f***ing go!’ F*** off and swim about Scrooge McDuck-like in your pools of TV money and play Real Madrid every other week like it’s a computer game and just presume your fans will find a way to fund endless trips to the continent. Because what’s the point of any of it anymore?

The top clubs can do what they want and then just flash a chequebook and presume that assuages any sense of guilt or morality and makes everything alright. They’ve swanned in, butchered our academy, stripped out the potential for so much joy and fulfilment for us fans and then thrown money at the problem, like a footballing Bullingdon Club; trashing a restaurant and then chucking a wad of cash back through the door. 

I can live with Rovers being bad, terrible even, to watch, because I know it won’t always be like this; football support is peaks and troughs, and it’s the hope of better times ahead gets you through. But when every single hit and change and evolution is designed to chip away at that hope, to make you suffer at the behest of those at the top who already have it all. Then truly, what’s the point? 

by Glen Wilson

This article first appeared as the editorial to issue 112 of popular STAND fanzine which was published in May 2023.

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