Every fan needs a sense of humour

30th August 2014

Frank Skinner, Lenny Henry, Julie Walters and Josie Lawrence are all comedians who are reported to support West Bromwich Albion.
I suppose you could also add Adrian Chiles to that list. Although not technically a comedian, and depending on your taste, he can be quite funny - especially in his book "We Don't Know What We're Doing".
I particularly liked the story of the day he took over from the chap who normally donned the mascot costume at West Brom's home games.
Chiles, took his place next to visiting Portsmouth skipper Dejan Stefanovic for the traditional pre-match photograph in the centre circle. 
Resplendent in full Baggie Bird outfit, Chiles, whose mother is Croatian, proceeded to wish the Serb good luck for the game in fluent Serbo-Croat, much to the startled centre-half's surprise.
Anyway, all this begs the slightly mischievous question: "Why do so many comedians support West Brom?"
Well, the equally mischievous answer could be: "You've got to have a sense of humour to support West Brom!"
Now before all you guys and girls in the North Stand start rounding up a lynch mob for me, let me qualify that statement:  "You need a sense of humour to support any club."
An ability to laugh in the face of adversity is an essential quality in the vast majority of football fans, especially if you follow clubs like the Swans and Baggies, who have faced more than their share of challenges in the past. How do you think many Swans fans got through the Tony Petty and Kevin Cullis episodes?
Fair enough, the level of sense of humour required is usually in direct proportion to the size of your club's trophy cabinet and bank balance. But even fans of the biggest and most successful clubs have to laugh in the face of adversity sometimes. Just ask Manchester United fans after the 12 months they've had . . . poor lambs!
After almost three decades of unprecedented success and resultant jealousy from other fans, United supporters are finally finding out again what it's like for their club to be the subject of other fans' derision.
One of my favourite football jokes from last season was the story doing the rounds that David Moyes had promised his players that they would be competing in Europe this season, before adding: "Even if I have to write the song myself!"
Even the most begrudging of Old Trafford faithful must have afforded a wry smile two weeks ago. Just moments after Ki's measured finish nestled in the home net, the visiting Jack Army broke into a chorus of "Sacked in the morning" directed at Louis Van Gaal, United's recently installed and much celebrated replacement for Moyes.
Football fans up and down the country have earned a reputation for their quick witted sense of humour.
Earlier this year West Ham's fans were voted the wittiest in the country, but the truth is, every club in the league has a wealth of spontaneous comic material.
One of my favourite illustrations of the Jack Army's quick-wittedness came a couple of seasons ago in a match against Liverpool when the visitors keeper Pepe Reina went down injured.
Swans fans helpfully suggested to former manager Brendan Rodgers which player they thought would make an ideal replacement. The medical team had only just reached Reina when the East Stand burst into: "Put Suarez in goal, put Suarez in go-al. He's a diver, put Suarez in goal", sung to the tune of The Beachboys' Sloop John B.
And it's not just West Brom's celebrity supporters who can see the funny side. The massed ranks of Baggies fans have come up with some crackers over the years  . . . especially when things aren't going so well.
They've always had a nice line in gallows humour, none more so than during the 2004/05 season when they weren't just facing the prospect of being bottom of the Premier League at Christmas, but being on the wrong end of hammering by arch-rivals Birmingham City.
When Emile Heskey put the Blues 3-0 up, the Baggies fans decided they needed to lighten the mood, and to the tune of "When the Saints go Marching In", they reportedly burst into:

The Premier League, is upside down,
The Premier League is upside down, 
West Brom are top and Chelsea are bottom, 
The Premier League is upside down!
Then, just to round things off nicely, they broke into a chorus of: "Champione, Champione, Ole, Ole, Ole!

I can remember an occasion when I was particularly grateful that football fans can often see the funny side. Like the Adrian Chiles incident I mentioned earlier, this story also involves a mascot - our own Cyril the Swan.
The Swans were entertaining Millwall, who had arrived complete with a particularly large and vociferous travelling contingent.
At half-time, Cyril and Millwall's Zampa the Lion were enjoying some typical mascot high jinks when Cyril decided to rip off Zampa's head and kicked it into the North Bank.
A split-second of eerie silence fell over the Vetch, only punctuated by a sharp intake of breath as many in the stadium held their breath in anticipation of the Millwall support's reaction. Thankfully they saw the funny side as whole stadium erupted into laughter. 
Humour in football isn't just confined to the stands and terraces either, players and managers can be equally quick witted.
One of the best known managerial quips - and my personal favourite - came from Partick Thistle's John Lambie after he was told his player Colin McGlashen didn't know who he was after taking a blow to the head. 
Lambie's unsympathetic response was: "Tell him he's Pele and get him back on!"
The quote has also been attributed to Liverpool legend Bill Shankly, who had his fair share of witty retorts, including the following, when it was reported he had treated his wife to a rather unusual anniversary gift: "Of course I didn't take my wife to see Rochdale as an anniversary present. It was her birthday. Would I have got married in the football season? Anyway, it was Rochdale reserves."
And players can be just as adept at grabbing giggles as well as goals.
Former England striker Garry Birtles once said: "When I was having my long goalless run at Manchester United, people told me that if I'd shot John Lennon, he'd still be alive today!"
And just to prove I have a sense of humour, guess who Birtles ended that barren run against? Yup, it was the Swans, the only goal of the game up at Old Trafford - 11 months and 30 games after he had moved from Forest to Manchester during our first visit to the top flight in the 1981-82 season. Typical!
But whether you have a sense of humour or not, there's one thing guaranteed to put a smile on the face of players, managers and fans alike - three points in the bag.
So, all joking aside, let's hope the Swans have the last laugh this afternoon and carry on their 100 per cent start to the season.