The Fans on The Terrace: Southampton's Middleclassuals
We don’t pretend to see football differently here at The Terrace. In fact, if you ever see us publish an article that starts to resemble a thesis or has as many stats as it does statements, please delete the app, unsubscribe, and unfollow us.
With that in mind, we do like the different experiences football can bring us and therefore, in what has already become a regular feature in this here blog, we will be talking to different voices in football. So far, we’ve had a copper who policed matchdays and a football fan who ballboyed for his heroes as a teen. We spoke to them about how their matchday played out, and we’ll keep seeking out different viewpoints and the varied ways in which the beautiful game is taken in by the myriad of ways in which it is lived.
For this episode, we spoke to The Middleclassuals, Southampton FC’s self-confessed d*ckheads who unapologetically ridicule grown men who wear replica shirts to games, detest Sky gentrifying the game and selling it back to the fans, and yearn for the terrace culture of yesteryear; a time when “proper Gooners,” for example, watched the game from the stands, instead of in “pubs on Cali Road,” priced out of the “sanitised corporate ground” that is The Emirates.
I chatted to two of their members, Kev and Nick, about who the Middleclassuals are, what they stand for, and where it began.
You have named yourselves the Middleclassuals; why?
Nick: My memory is that Kev starting using the name as a p*ss take - a niche in-joke about our fondness for terrace culture and how we are all now middleclass in terms jobs, mortgages.
Kev: To be honest it was just a joke. We all dress in what people think of as the casual style and these days we’re all middle aged and in middleclass jobs. I think it was originally a pun or p*sstake, but it took off.
Nick: It started out as a hashtag and just carried on. To be fair, it’s still a p*sstake on how serious some people take football these days.
Kev: In many ways it’s perfectly fitting though as it represents both an inability to take life seriously and a comment on class and football culture. Plus we’re d*cks, obviously.
If you had to give a mission statement, what would it be?
Nick: To show that not all football supporters are right-wing, racist numbskulls, and for the creation of a Revolutionary Mush Party - a vanguard with a mission to tear Saints supporters away from the spectacle and back into engaging with football terrace culture.
Kev: Exactly that: to revive the terrace culture we grew up with. In my opinion football is stale now, when we first started going as nippers the football was only part of it, you had the fanzines like ‘On The March’ and later ‘The Ugly’, you had different types of fans, and you could tell different cultures from areas of the city, or pubs they drunk in. Sky and the Premier league killed that, and the younger generation have grown up consumers; happy to watch but not to participate.
What would you say the common themes running through your members are?
Kev: A sense of humour, not taking life to seriously, a deep passion for terrace culture and the city we come from, and a good excuse to dress well and go on the p*ss. Plus, of course, sometimes a game of football breaks out in the middle of it.
Nick: Mushes who are passionate Southampton FC supporters that believe attending matches home and away is what you do. Plus, all have the Sotonian trait of being a bit of a d*ckhead.
How long have you been going to games, from the longest-attending fan, to your youngest member?
Kev: The majority of us started going in the early-to-mid-80s. My own first game was the 1984 season, and the youngest nipper (our under-five brigade) started in the League One era.
Nick: Mine was in 1985.
Your dress code seems to be an important part of your collective identity. Why do you think it matters how you dress as a group?
Nick: As adults we would never wear replica shirts or colours.
Kev: The way you dress at football has mattered as long as I’ve been going. It’s part of the broader thing – football, music, fashion; that’s the holy trinity. Plus, of course, there’s an element of one upmanship.
Nick: At the end of the day we represent our city and club so why would we dress as scruffs?
Kev: The terrace is the world’s best hidden catwalk. It’s also the place I learnt how to dress well and as a nipper going in the 80s, you’d look up to the older lads, most of them in trainers you couldn’t afford. There’s also an intended snobbery about it, not wearing colours marks you apart from the new generation of Sky fans, the modern football lot more interested in stats and computer games than a culture that’s fiercely ours.
It comes across that you are unapologetically against modern football. What would you say are the three things you most detest about it? And in contrast, what are three things you would resurrect from football in the bygone eras?
Kev: It’s probably easier to talk about what I like about it, to be honest. The quality of football we watch is better - well mostly, the Pelligrino era was f*cking dire - but I think we speak for many when we say the game has been sanitised; you can’t stand with your mates easily anymore, games are moved all the time so planning aways is a nightmare, the atmosphere in the top flight is generally sh*t, and the less you say about the Soccer AM “banter” the better.
Nick: Three things I hate: being viewed as a customer instead of a supporter, the commercialisation of every aspect of football, including sponsoring f*cking corners(!), and the massive wealth divide between the Premier League and the Football League. Three things I’d bring back: The Dell, Terraces, the FA Cup Final being the only televised game, and police dog display teams at half-time. [Nick cannot count].
Chants are another thing the Middleclassuals give weight to. What defines a good one for you and what don’t you like about most of the chants we hear on the terraces?
Nick: We all grew up in a time when football chants, were funny, original and spontaneous.
Kev: Football chants should have wit, they should be off the cuff, and to a tune someone else hasn’t used. Most of what you hear now is the same tune repeated with different words - and ‘different words’ can be only a single one changed. Also, there’s a habit to have to include the Skates [Portsmouth] in ours, which is f*cking boring and unoriginal. It doesn’t help either that they’re sung at 100miles an hour, have to involve clapping like demented seals, and seem to forget the history of the club and city.
You don’t have a Twitter account or the like. Is ‘The Middleclassuals’ exclusive or just organically growing?
Nick: The Middleclassuals are just a bunch of middle-aged tw*ts taking the p*ss. Saying that, if more Saints fans are inspired to create their own stickers, flags, original chants and the like, that would be sound. Also, whoever runs the @SInsandouts Twitter account seems to be on the same wavelength……...
Kev: I’m not sure it’s even a group; it’s just a group of mates having a laugh. Some people “get” the humour so join in, but we’re not trying to be the fancy-dress ultras of Palace or some of the modern football lot that have sprung up round the country. It’s more that we want to just go back to when football, and terrace culture, was ours and not gentrified and sold back to us by Sky.
Poking fun at the commercialisation and the consumeristic behaviour of fellow football fans is a staple part of the online presence you do have. Am I right in thinking it’s borne out of a cynicism of things like the Danny Ings inspired clothing range?
Kev: All of the commercialism of football sticks in the throat; from the cynical clothing ranges, to brands (not football clubs) “bantering” on social media. It’s worth saying that I actually respect the content our club, Southampton, put out. In comparison to most it’s decent, but seeing grown adults jumping on the bandwagon and parroting it back just because the club came up with shows the lack of originality that now exists.
Nick: The Danny Ings range is brilliant - just the word SAINTS printed on a grey hoodie. Decent gig that. Like all clubs Saints just bung the badge on any old tat and flog it
Kev: Mind you, that said, I did enjoy the brilliantly unthought out use of the hashtag #wemarchoneurope when we had our brief affair with the Europa League. God knows how that got past the editing team but I’m glad it did.
Your supporters of an established Premier League club but you yearn, almost, to be out of the top-flight. What do you think the Football League offers that the Premier League doesn’t?
Kev: It’s a weird one. I want Saints to be the best they can possibly be. I’d love to see us win a cup or have a proper shot at European football again, but at the same time it feels like every season we stay in the top flight the soul of the club is decayed a bit more.
Nick: The Football League offers a competitive league, 3pm kick offs, better away days, less tourists supporters, and maybe more Saints wins.
Kev: We now have Thomas Cook selling packages for St Mary’s, tourists in most sections of the ground, and even the traditional main home ends pick up more than their share of the noddy types. League One and the Championship were different. There’s a different type of fan that goes; more local and more lads, tickets are cheaper and away games more fun. Plus, the games aren’t moved as often for TV. Maybe it’s novelty, but it feels more like football used to from the perspective of a match going fan. I mean, give me Peterborough away on the terrace (now sadly gone) any day of the week over Arsenal and their sanitised corporate ground full of Tarquins, with the proper Gooners in pubs on the Cali road because they’ve been priced out.
Tell us your pre-match routine. Drinking is at the forefront of plans. Does what you drink define your eligibility for the Middleclassuals?
Kev: What you drink doesn’t define eligibility, but we do make an effort to avoid the bingo bus in the Wetherspoons singing songs at confused (and probably p*ssed off) minimum wage staff that just want to do their job.
Nick: Well I normally sing the Woolston Ferry in the shower, have some breakfast and a cup of tea, then get the Number 3 bus over the Itchen Bridge and head to the pub. Quite a few love their poncey beers and beards, but I think the only eligibility is to never watch Saints sober.
Kev: Frankly, when I see a group of people in a place like that in their ill-fitting replica kits, I just feel embarrassed to be associated with it and would much rather a decent pint in a pub away from there and to sing in the stands, not the concourse for your phone, or the Wetherspoons to staff.
By and large, your membership is left-wing, is it not? Would you say politics is important among your members or is coincidentally left-leaning?
Kev: Football and politics shouldn’t mix, but football and politics are inescapably linked. You can’t hate the modern game, the money and rampant commercialism, without really being honest and saying what you hate is the politics behind it.
Nick: I think politics is important to all members although for some it is very important - one is a fully paid member of the cult. May 68 and situationism plays a massive part in our thinking about football and its relationship to society. Most of the stickers we have created use either a play on or direct quotes from May 68 graffiti.
Kev: Also, it’s worth remembering Southampton is a traditionally old left, trade unionist city, it’s a team of dockers and car plant workers, there’s a history too it that means most will have grown up with left wing politics in their life.
If we agree you are left-leaning and also middle class, are you champagne socialists?
Kev: Mush, we’re not champagne socialists, that stuff’s cheaper than what we drink!
Nick: The worse kind mush, we make Noel Gallagher look like Arthur Scargill
I am of the opinion football is inherently political. Would you agree and what do you thinking the political and community obligations of fan groups are, even if you don’t describe the Middleclassuals as a fan group?
Nick: I think football is inherently class based, and if you’re are a Marxist or subscribe to his view of society, then yes politics will be involved. Saints support used to be made up of dockers now its estate agents and accountants and people like us.
Kev: Football reflects society, so it’s political because society is. I’m not sure what obligations we have, but there’s definitely a nod to groups like the situationists, and I like to think terrace culture is counterculture and subversive by the nature of it existing.
Nick: We are not a fan group just a few p*ssed up lads, but I think we like to show that not all football supporters fit the accepted cliché. Saints used to have decent fan groups in the days of Branfoot and SISA, but as the original Ted Bates statue proved our fanbase nowadays should never be involved in anything.
Moving away from the movement, what are your hopes for the upcoming season, on and off the pitch?
Kev: A good cup run and hopefully getting the Skates at Fratton (without a bubble). Other than that, some decent away games and ticking off the handful of new grounds that I haven’t done.
Nick: On the pitch - Ings stays injury free, Boufal does not lose his head, and we win a cup. Off the pitch - We sing more than one song, Hasenhüttl stops dressing like Klopp, and Højbjerg continues to outsmart the Stasi.
And lastly, we’ll end on a YES/NO vibe:
- A) Adults in replica shirts – is it ever acceptable?
Kev: Simple straight forward no there.
- B) Strongbow Dark Fruits?
Kev: Never drunk it to be honest so couldn’t say either way.
- C) Boris Johnson?
Kev: F*ck no.
Nick: No, but he is a smart politician
- D) Brexit?
Kev: No. The greatest trick they ever pulled was dividing us for their profit.
Nick: Not clear cut on that one.
- E) Elon Musk?
Kev: The anti-trade union pr*ck? He’s a big f*cking nope.
- F) The Champions League?
Kev: Make it a knock out competition again with just the league winners and call it the European Cup; then it’s a yes.
Nick: No. It should return to being the European Cup
- G) People clapping when planes land?
Kev: F*ck it I’ll go with a yes. I hate flying so understand the joy of being back on solid land!
Nick: It depends if Mark Wahlberg has knocked out all the terrorists.