Dom Allin and Rhys Thomas
Some Nottingham Forest fans could be heard repeatedly singing chants of “Sign on” and “Always the victims” during their match on Saturday. The victory was a momentous occasion for the Nottingham club, but such chants are unacceptable for anyone to sing. Forest fan Dom Allin and Liverpool fan Rhys Thomas reflect on the grim aspect of the game.
Nottingham Forest fans are often joked about for living in the past, the behaviour of many on Saturday proved that correct in a multitude of embarrassing ways. Chants of “Sign on” and “Always the victims” (references to unemployment in Liverpool and the Hillsborough disaster respectively) were loud and sung by a vast proportion. In no way am I saying let’s all sit on our hands and watch a big football game in platitude and silence. I like a rivalry! I wanted to beat Liverpool desperately. But to blur rivalry into an abusive affair between cities regarding tragic incidents is no way to enjoy a game of football.
Nottingham Forest cannot hide behind the thinly veiled excuse that it was a minority of fans. In the financial crisis we are all living through for fans to mock those struggling does not come across as banter, it’s simply a malicious joke from Thatcher’s Britain. I must emphasise this was in no way antagonised by Liverpool fans.
Yorkshire and Welsh clubs have a certain rivalry with Nottingham dating back to the Miners’ Strike of the mid-eighties, usually revolving around the notion Nottinghamshire miners did not strike and were called scabs. I have been called a ‘scab’ and much worse anchored by the word ‘scab’ at games, many times, due to a political disagreement well before I was born. In those situations, I can understand the context behind the chant as a rebuttal to the ‘scab’ chants. However, the difference towards Saturday’s chanting was that it was unprovoked and about modern-day and historic poverty within Liverpool. In the current economic climate, it was just needless bullying.
The vile and inappropriate song “Always the victims” was a moment that, as a Forest fan, I want to simply apologise for.
'Always the victims' for the third time from the Forest fans.— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) October 22, 2022
No matter your thoughts on the Hillsborough disaster, even if you disagree with the court findings, to laugh and mock another community was horrible, mean-spirited and had no place in any sporting landscape.
I have heard various opinions on the Hillsborough disaster from fans on both sides. One recent occurrence happened on the University of Nottingham’s campus that offered no sincerity or thought towards the situation. This was not a unique emotion of the day this is engrained in some people across England. This is not a Nottingham Forest problem. This is a football problem. A problem fuelled by bigotry. It is hard to educate those with prejudice on the matter despite the excellent television, film and documentary work made on the subject for some their stubborn views formed by tabloids are impossible to breakdown.
A man behind me who had tried to start “Sign on” over twenty times during the game, then resorted to homophobic language openly and loudly
For the first time in my sporting experience, I reported fan abuse. A man behind me who had tried to start “Sign on” over twenty times during the game, then resorted to homophobic language openly and loudly. It is nothing special to report something like that, it is what should be expected of all fans in my opinion. That small example was a symbol of the pumped-up aggression that had permeated the whole game.
The overall feeling of “Scouser bashing” overtook the idea of backing the team, creating a hostile environment. The emotions of the day got to a lot of Forest fans leading a vast proportion to misbehave and act thoughtlessly. Forest has a reputation of a ‘proper’ fanbase, that gets behind its team best proven by out-singing home clubs whilst being several goals down. Saturday’s behaviour by thousands, not a small minority, was a detriment to the club and tainted one of the best days of my footballing life.
As a Liverpool fan it was extremely disheartening to hear such chants once again – it appears to be a weekly occurrence now. The subsequent denial from some Forest fans on social media was also quite something, given how clearly the chants could be heard on TV. I can only imagine how painful hearing “Always the victims” every game must be for those personally affected by the tragedy.
As Dom has mentioned, Forest fans do have a great reputation for their support, and for good reason. When I was amongst the Forest fans for last year’s FA Cup win over Huddersfield, the supporters got behind the players and loudly cheered for their own team. Whilst banter and light-hearted chanting are essential parts of supporting a team and demeaning another, for Forest fans to resort to such vile chants is hugely disappointing.
The lazy “Sign on” shout born out of the Thatcher’s era is as dated as it is deplorable
What was most damning, though, is the seeming lack of self-awareness of those Forest fans who spewed their grim songs. Nottingham and Liverpool’s unemployment rates are not dissimilar, and the lazy “Sign on” shout born out of the Thatcher’s era is as dated as it is deplorable. This is not a case of point scoring – it is to highlight the common struggle and irrelevance of the clichéd chant.
Worse still, however, is the “Always the victims” rhetoric. The chant has its origins in the years of vicious victim-blaming Liverpool fans suffered for the Hillsborough disaster, after The S*n published a disgraceful front page apportioning blame to Liverpool fans rather than the true story that 96 fans (rising to 97 in 2021) were unlawfully killed, as the Hillsborough Inquest would later prove.
Nottingham Forest fans, who fortunately for them had the opposite end at Hillsborough in 1989, showing all their self-awareness there. Grim https://t.co/8CN1wte1ny— Jay McKenna (@JayMcKenna87) October 22, 2022
The fact that this disaster occurred during a match against Nottingham Forest is what makes the chants heard at the City Ground even more shocking. There will have been Forest fans in the stadium who were also at Hillsborough in 1989. To be so insensitive to mass death, not least when it occurred across the football pitch from your own fans, is astounding.
Those who did not join in with the vile chanting backed their team admirably in the face of struggles on the pitch and were rewarded with a deserved and famous win
To end on a more positive note, though, it must be said that Forest fans must not all be tarnished by these actions of some. Also present in the ground at the fixture was a banner of support and remembrance for those who lost their lives at Hillsborough. Those who did not join in with the vile chanting backed their team admirably in the face of struggles on the pitch and were rewarded with a deserved and famous win.
Dom Allin & Rhys Thomas
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