Kissing the badge is fine but let’s drop the hatred

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HE must have kissed the lapel of his jacket half a dozen times.

Gary Megson, former Wednesday player, son of a legendary former Wednesday captain and now battle-hardened Wednesday manager, ran on to the pitch towards the Owls supporters at the Bramall Lane end on the final whistle on Sunday as emotional as any fan.

To some Uniteites it will have looked provocative when he reached down for his a lapel yet again to kiss the badge that said: ‘Wednesday Till I Die’ to show his love for the club.

Forget the notion that he could have been trying to convey his devotion to any Wednesdayites who don’t particularly like him, forget the fact that the cameras were there.

There is nothing wrong for a man with a lifelong association with a football club to show his love for his team or display emotional behaviour in the hysteria of a two-goals-in-three-minutes comeback in a derby.

That’s the same old-fashioned football euphoria portrayed in black and white pictures in football annuals showing rosetted and toothless blokes in flat caps with a bottle of beer in one hand and a rattle in the other.

Traditional, heartfelt and honourable.

But football loyalty today is increasingly measured in hate rather than love.

New football loyalty has old ladies and small children giving the finger to anyone who’ll pay attention, especially if they’re carrying a camera - which almost everyone is.

New football loyalty makes rivalries poisonous, turns enthusiasm into obsession and evokes dark emotions unworthy of anyone who says they love sport.

It has fans stoning ambulances arriving to treat opposition players with smashed legs, fires distress flares into a crowd, hangs around for half an hour to get to away supporters after a game.

New football loyalty is loosely related to the emotions that made ethnic cleansing conceivable.

Gary Megson’s genuine badge-kissing will have brought out that level of hate in some Unitedites, as Neil Warnock’s very presence on the touchline used to do with a Wednesdayite minority.

There are loyal fans on both sides of the divide who won’t go to derby games because the atmosphere is so poisonous, but for the vast majority on both sides of the crowd on Sunday there was an acceptable expression of deep-held rivalry.

A civilised society can tolerate such outpourings when they are contained, controlled and over at the final whistle.

It lets off steam and hurts no-one. Like medieval grotesques at a public flogging, fans bay and bait one another, insults and gestures are exchanged and normally no harm is done.

We are treading a fine line on this and have been for a long time but the intensity still grows.

New football loyalty urges too many to overstep that line.

n On a somewhat lighter note those of you who give a monkey’s might have noticed that this column predicted a 2-2 draw in Sunday’s derby.

I can’t say it was in my head during the game and was nowhere in sight at 2-0 but we have to make the most of small victories.

It also won £20 on the sweep for last goal scored. Unfortunately i didn’t have the foresight to have a tenner on either.

Lesson learned? Probably not.