As part of our guest contributor slots we have an article from Streetendblue. Streetendblue has looked into the pro’s and con’s of a standing area at Goodison Park and knows all about the history of the club and the songs we sing.
Everton Standing Area Review – By Streetendblue
The past couple of seasons we trialled having a singing/standing area in the Cup matches at the back of GT4 Lower Gwladys Street. By this all we meant was, for example, everyone who congregates in the concourses at the aways etc and sings all the songs you don’t hear in the ground, get your seats together at the match.
For those too young to know, the back middle of the Gwladys Street was always the place to go if you were into the singing at Everton throughout the terraced years. Even when the seats came in 1991, everyone still stood at the back and you’d still get a good variety of songs and many moments of your non stop singing, a more pro active culture of trying to outsing the other teams fans, and trying to motivate the team first rather than waiting for the team to motivate the fans.
That was what I grew up with and the Evertonian subculture I fell in love with, but when the change came to reserved seating around 1996 due to our uprise in attendances it was harder for fans to group together so our singers became more dispersed leading to lower levels of singing with the game determining the atmosphere. This is how the Sky era liked the game to be branded and the fans controlled, so it was always going to be up to the traditional fans to organise themselves via movements like standing areas to react against this.
Within a few years though the new Premier League fantasy footy type fan had took over who didn’t know anything other than sitting down and only singing after an incident and this became the norm. Rather than fans questioning why the atmosphere was poor and realising they were part of the reason, they actually embraced it, and it even became a badge of honour for some. We then had to put up with a woeful array of contradictory excuses and justifications from people, including from some who should’ve known better, as to why there’s no singing. Eg, anyone who sings is zany, wears a jester hat, a Geordie, a kopite, smalltime, wool, wacky, cringeworthy, soccer am, etc etc zzzzzz. This pretentious, self-conscious, even choreographed element of our support who come out with all those clichés had come to the fore, with those who rejected this and could see the irony having to put up with their tedious misconceptions and lazy, incorrect stereotyping. I completely reject their mentality and it is one I’m always up against. Defining an Everton way has created a parody of ourselves.
Not singing also does not make us different, the majority of fans at every club do not sing. I understand that not everyone likes singing, that has always been the case everywhere, I have no problem at all with that. I do have a problem though with fans who reckon they’re some kind of in the know Evertonian by repeating all those shite excuses making it self-perpetuating and so discourages others from singing and getting behind the team.
Anyway, sick of this deluded plassy scouser breed of fan taking over, we tried to revive GT4, and hoped there were enough of our younger fans who got it the old way. Get the fans who congregate and sing in the concourses next to each other in the ground rather than spread out, and get enough of our older fans who still pined for their bootboy and skinhead days and just get them all together in the same block.
We had to call it something as all the above doesn’t go neatly in a thread title. We called it a standing area initially as you don’t get an atmosphere generated without it. The problem though was with the word standing, but that will lead us on a tangent so I won’t go into that now. We thought enough people would be clued up enough to understand why we then called it a singing section. It is after all a section of the ground where the singing was generated. Not hard to understand that, yet many still struggle to comprehend this.
The common misconception over the name was that it would be forcing an atmosphere, no, if you like to sing just go at the back of the Street End and make the effort yourself exactly the same as under the terrace years. If you want Everton to sing something in particular just start it yourself. We’re not even telling people to sing, it would just be a bit pointless to go there if you didn’t want to. It is by having like minded fans congregated that allows the atmosphere to naturally happen, at the moment they’re not together so our fans are more stifled and therefore quiet meaning it takes far more on the pitch to get fans out of their shells at Goodison.
Interestingly though, it was this free for all approach which is where the more justified criticisms stemmed from. The earlier matches had at least half a dozen different fans starting off songs which worked very well, but some of the latter quieter games only had a couple of people starting them off which isn’t enough. In some of the quieter first halves or in the latter games I can’t deny that they wouldn’t have benefitted from more organisation via a dedicated hardcore within the section to lead more. Once the atmosphere is going this then encourages others to start songs off, it just needed that little kick early on that a dedicated hardcore (I reckon only about seven or eight clued up fans needed) would have provided.
On the other hand though, a free for all see what happens approach always had the door wide open for a group to fans to come in and do just that, but they didn’t? Maybe any larger groups of fans out there didn’t realise this, or they don’t realise their own collective strength, or thought they’d be stepping on my toes so to speak, I don’t know?
This couldn’t have been done without eticketing seeing where was available. So with limited unobstructed view space in GT4 and without a platform to get the word out we know we knew we’d have to aim for a small number to lead the way. Subsequently we’ve proved that you only need 20 fans up for it to get an atmosphere anyway.
When we advertised on the message boards what we were doing we could only ever the word out to a few hundred Evertonians rather than to thousands, and obviously we know that this is a subculture of Everton so we were only getting the word out to low double figures who would be interested. So we advertised a section within the area for only 15-20 knowing that a few would get tickets right by it, rather than in it, so it could still work. With them there, you could then get 50-100 involved second half. In addition I knew there were a couple of clued up groups of fans along row KK who I knew got Everton the pre Sky way like I did, so we only advertised it from row LL and back so not to take their seat.
There is a huge lack of a platform for Evertonians to get the word out on all fan matters. Fanzines are supposed to be there to allow fan movements to happen, to be on scene on the latest developing subcultures, and to challenge pre-conceived ideas. Now our fanzine, wsag, had a reputation for being very middle class trying too hard to fit in with the obvious and now corporatized casual culture. They were often skitted for anally trying to go by the ‘penguin guide casual behaviour’ handbook in a desperate bid for respect and acceptance while every other movement completely passed them by. In their quest to be to be like the End fanzine today, they were seen as the equivalent to trying to be Charlie Buchan’s annual while the casual movement was in full swing. ie out of touch. So we thought this would be a good challenge for them disprove their critics, and to be a fanzine once again. They didn’t.
GT4 Area Problems
A couple of GT4 area problems we had is that seats 092-097 contains some badly obstructed views with two posts blocking your view in some seats. This area is available every league match too so it would have been an opportunity to transfer it to league matches but that area is just a bit too poor of a view to do so. For any future attempts anywhere we will have to accept they’ll never be the best views though because you can only go in available space.
In addition seats in row QQ have views blocked of the Park End goal when stood. I have asked for them to be re classified as obstructed and to the clubs credit they’ve showed signs that they may be starting to reclassify them?
Each match was a struggle to get the initial numbers for, so we’d rely on people coming from nearby. The first successful one was Villarael. First half small was quiet in the main with small numbers but we all just done enough to get loads over for the second half where it was excellent with non-stop singing with 3 or 4 new songs sung. Others followed Sheff U, West Brom, Chelsea, all had strong spells, Tamworth we didn’t advertise it but done it anyway, then the biggie was Fulham which set the standard and was probably the ceiling of what can be achieved, and at the time thought it would be the breakthrough.
Hoping for that match to be the springboard to continue on from there was Blackpool which we just could not attend for family reasons and it still rankles with me a bit now. We always tried to keep things ticking over in there, getting a variety of songs going, keeping the momentum going things like that. We didn’t know whether to advertise it or not so we kind of half advertised it, so what we hoped to be the breakthrough didn’t quite materialise. Sunderland followed but tickets went in a day all over so understandably there was no influence, people just had to buy wherever, we may have got half a dozen in there who knows but we certainly couldn’t congregate. Athens second half was good, non-stop singing the entire second half in there showing that you only need 20 fans to get an atmosphere. Orient was not enough numbers, then the Oldham and Wigan double header. The first highlighted a lack of leadership which I‘ll mention later and the latter started really well but 3 goals in 5 mins obviously ended it.
The Everton standard I expect is the back of GT4 (or alternative) from a minimum of row KK and further back to be always standing. Most of Everton’s newer songs don’t make it from the pubs, trains, and coaches into the ground, so I was pleased that we gave a platform to those songs around at the time to get an airing in the ground, I’d like that to continue. What’s the point of getting new songs started outside the stadium but then hoping someone will follow it up inside the ground?
More old songs should be brought back in to add to our repertoire too. I’m not necessarily aiming for 90 minutes of non stop singing but a few times we had the second half non stop singing with quieter first halves and I’d more than settle for that. We also proved that fans can make the atmosphere themselves, you don’t have to wait for the team to do it as this may never come.
Learning from the Ultras
Over Britain there’s been a rise in Ultra groups leading the way in the stands. The difference between what they do and what we done was that ours was a turn up do what you want, sing what and when you like you like attitude. We’re not even telling you to sing. We were saying if you want to start off songs then you’re by people like minded people, you do the rest. I’d have as much chance and influence as you have of getting the songs going.
While I’m not after an Ultra group there are aspects of their style of support that would have definitely helped. The positive side of what Ultra group would bring would be to take the lead over the songs a bit more and give it a bit more direction early on in matches, get songs established quicker.
Fans want to sing more but can feel a bit inhibited if no one is really leading it. There are significantly less fans prepared to take responsibility to start off songs than when I was younger. As mentioned before, if there was a hardcore group for us of even only eight dedicated fans then that may have been enough perhaps, then it would have gave the standing area a good presence and direction. As it stood out of who we go the match with there’s two of us who are current singers then at any one time we had a couple more people who were a great help in promoting it but ultimately it wasn’t enough numbers to have that presence and give the leadership needed within the standing area.
The other side would be that is that you don’t want a hardcore group to dominate, or be over controlling on what’s sung. You want them lead when necessary but encourage others to start off different stuff. So they need a balance. So any group of fans that have the balls and knowledge for this, please come forward. There’s no point getting loads of songs sung between yourselves in the pubs, get them done in the ground.
As well as hardcore within the standing area to drive it forward, another thing that would have helped would have been for me to have more presence outside the ground amongst the current crop of lads who went, but that’s just not my personality. Being a bit older I do tend to mix with lads who are now taking their kids or who are older again who went the match in the 1960s and 70s. I originally hoped I could get away with doing it anonymously and keep a low profile but it’s a bit hard to do that when you start the match with half a dozen, so I didn’t help the cause by doing that.
Also highlighted was the lack of older songs people know, around 50-60 were started altogether but only about 3 or 4 had more than a few singing them. Maybe it would have been better to just get half a dozen old songs sung over and over to get them back, but then how do you know what half a dozen ones are best to revive? We put a website a while ago with all the old songs on so hoped that would have helped. The evertonarentwe site transferred an old version of our song site onto his site so there’s no excuse for not knowing a good number of them.
Transfer to league games
By only doing it the Cup games it proved hard to gain any momentum from one match to the next. The main area of empty space in the league in GT4 contains many obstructed views, so that put us off from trying it there. We also relied on STH’s sitting elsewhere in the Cup to give us that extra bit of space to do this.
Another obstacle is the transferring of Season Ticket seats, there is no clear and easy procedure for people to transfer their seats and they would have had to pay additional charges to the club to move. I have asked the club to improve this as it’s an issue wider than this agenda.
We had to hope then that what we done would have had a gradual knock on effect for the league games.
Criticisms over songs
I listened to all criticisms and most came from people who did not have a clue what a singing section was, the rest all centred around the songs sung. It was too contradictory though: too many old songs, not enough old songs, too many hooligan songs, too many new songs from the aways, we don’t like the current ones, we don’t like the old ones. Everton have a back catalogue of over 500 songs so we’ll all have a different top and bottom 50. We have past songs mentioning about escalators, fountain pens, mice, Sugar Puff bears, Piss flaps like Turtles, Jackanory, Chickens, so it’s fair to say I’m very open minded about what people sing.
The point they’re missing is that you can sing whatever you like, just start it off yourself. If you don’t like what’s sung, don’t join in. Either way, stop crying because someone sung a song you don’t like. Plus what did people want me to do if someone started off a song that they or I didn’t like? Before I start a song did they want me to request a show of hands? Did people think I wrote any of the songs myself even? There’s songs I’m not fussed on but I’m happy to let others sing them. Once you try and tell people what they can and can’t sing that’s when fans are discouraged from trying new songs.
There’s far too many unwritten rules that people seem to have over what songs they think Everton fans can and can’t sing. Someone even said they’re not going anymore due to the songs naming just one song he didn’t like out of around 20 sung (the Managers Blue White Army chant that Everton sung for a quarter of a century from 1977 before some thick bulb laughably told everyone it was a soccer am song!). Why they didn’t say there was 19 out if 20 they did like I don’t know, but this type of comment came up a couple of times. It’s the type of comment you get from our contrived fans who have a checklist on how to act like a Scouse Evertonian as written from those just outside of Liverpool who attempted to define our behaviour in order to help them fit in, and then they wonder why we started that chant off in the first place! I guess they enjoyed sitting down singing ‘We only sing when we’re winning’ in the South Stand (it’s time to re earn the Park End name) in the match instead of Onwards Evertonians stood in the Street End.
I would like for someone to try this again but in GT8. It’s a smaller area in the corner of the Lower Gwladys St, Bullens side, where the old Boys Pen was. Just taking up the last 4 or 5 rows initially. We should have really tried it last season but there was only a couple of us setting it up so got cold feet, it would need a larger hardcore though with a focus on doing it for the league games.
Outside influences could also be any introduction of safe standing areas which will immediately end the need for this. Authorities have realised we (as in football fans across the country) are not as bad as they thought we were. However if our fans of this historically rich club, with its extensive and broad subcultural history of singing at the match, cannot recognise its own heritage in this subject and organise its own unofficial standing area then you have to question what has happened to our supporters. Our club were the first to offer standing and seating on all sides of the stadium, and our oldest chant dates back to 1890, before Liverpool even existed (our fans were chanting “We want 6, we want 6” whilst 5-3 up v Bolton at home, we went on to win 7-3!). The club have even offered it’s assistance but I am not convinced that enough of our supporters are there yet.
Thanks to all those that helped over the duration and for putting up with my moans, my stress leading up to a match we were doing, and boring analysis. I tried to do this anonymously, so maybe the helpers want their anonymity too, some I only knew by a username, but they have all gave tremendous support and effort in advertising it on the various medias, and have even had to put up with misguided abuse from clueless fans, so thank you for your help.
I do tend to go on a bit so to summarise:
Singing Sections work as long as you get enough numbers to make an effort themselves.
Many of our fans really do not have a clue what a singing section is.
Numbers needed for a good atmosphere from within it are surprisingly only a minimum of 20-30 fans all singing. It would be an embarrassment to our history if we cannot sum up that minimum number regularly.
They’d benefit greatly from a hardcore of fans in the heart of it leading the way. Maybe even as low as 7 or 8 dedicated fans standing in a block (as opposed to all standing on the same row) would be enough? Ours only had 2 or 3 and it shown at times.
With the numbers needed for an atmosphere being far smaller than expected then if everyone who wanted a better atmosphere took it upon themselves to make of an effort then there wouldn’t be an issue. It is therefore irrelevant about those who don’t want to sing, what matters is the efforts of those that do.
A lower opposition does not prevent an atmosphere. Only the more extremes in performance and score made a difference to it. Kick off times, the day and which end we attacked first did make a slight difference. Evertonians need to get away from the mid table mentality of only getting themselves up for matches against the top teams. Our team is not mid table anymore so all our matches matter equally.
You can, as expected, watch the match and sing at the same time.
Too many of our fans really do not know our song past. Both songs, and in the history of individual songs. Everton have in excess of 500 songs from our past so to only sing half a dozen or so is poor.
Creativity has never ever been Everton’s problem. Songs are always thought up and first sung outside the ground, it’s getting them established inside the ground that Everton struggle with. The standing/singing section was a solution to this.
There’s a stigma against fans who make an effort to better Everton. This applies to all aspects not just with singing. Every great atmosphere we have ever had has always had individual fans taking the responsibility themselves to make it good. From starting off a song, joining it with it before it’s loud, to carrying it over from one block and stand to the next.
Too many fans are obsessed about trying to decide on what, if, and when, Evertonians can and can’t sing. Sing what you like, when you like, and as often as you like.
“Hearing the Gwladys Street sing my name made me feel 10 feet tall” Dave Hickson.