I am The Underdog and I’m okay

I love a good old underdog story.

I’m guessing we all do; there’s something rather British about championing the underling and cheering for the one at the back. We are, after all, a tiny island that has constantly shouted far louder than expected at whoever will listen. Do you think news bulletins around the world end with an “And Finally…” story about a 3-legged dog befriending a pigeon (or something equally as cute and heartwarming), or is it just us?

Who knows, but there is a definite place in my heart for all those 3-legged dogs. And all those ‘against all odds’ stories that come out of various walks of life, not least the wonderful world of football.

I mean, just look at his face… 

Football these days is definitely less romantic and heartwarming than it was years ago. Or maybe I’m just getting more cynical in my old age (watch it…!). Football news seems to be full of struggling clubs, racist dickheads and over-inflated egos. And that was before we’d even heard of Covid19. But so what, right? Football is a business, people need to stop being such snowflakes and just get over themselves, right? Erm, no. Not even a little bit. But I digress…

Are we the…overdog now?

The reason I’m back and wittering on about the underdog is the sudden realisation I had the other day while staring out the window. I do that a lot at the moment. As I’m still on furlough (almost 11 months now…what day is it?!) life has taken on a rather slower, more reflective pace. And the realisation that interrupted my daydreaming was this; with Macclesfield FC rising from the ashes of everything that went before, we’re not going to be the underdog anymore.

Let me explain. For as long as I can remember, the word ‘Macclesfield’ (when associated with football at least), has always been preceded by adjectives such as ‘little’, ‘cash-strapped’ and ‘poor’. I’ll bet Sir John Askey has uttered the phrase “lowest budget in the league” more times than he’s uttered his own name. Whenever we achieved anything it was always, ALWAYS, against the odds. Plucky little Macc, they’d say, how well they’ve done. Awe, bless them. 

“See, no bloody money. Told ya…!”

When I worked at the Moss on the programmes my favourite spot was always the away end. I used to love watching the bemused faces creak through the rusty old turnstyles and gaze up at the back of the Silkmen terrace, wondering whether they’d stepped back in time. Each week someone asked “where’s the roof gone”. It’s not gone anywhere, mate, we never had one. “Well, what if it rains?”. Well, you’ll get wet, won’t you?!

I’ve always felt comfortable supporting an underdog. When everyone expects you to be a bit crap, there’s usually no mockery when you live up to expectations (I say usually, there’s always one knobhead!). And when you do well, it’s a nice surprise. Me and my dad used to joke that you get more for your money watching clubs like Macc. In the lower leagues, when a player shows some skill you feel truly lucky to witness it, like you’ve seen something rather special. With the overpaid lot at the top of the tower, it’s easy to be much more critical and spend all your time moaning about that one pass that went astray, rather than revelling in everything that went right. It’s hard to explain to a diehard EPL-er why you’re over the moon at scoring a goal when you’ve been beaten 6-1. (All hail John Murphy!)

Enter the green monster

All that said, what happens now? When we eventually re-enter the fold it’s going to be much further down the leagues than we’re used to. And whichever way you look at it, we’ll be the big fish. That’s going to be an adjustment for sure. The Moss Rose will have had her full face lift by the time we’re ready to kick a ball again, and no doubt the good folk of Macc will turn out to see her maiden voyage. I can’t imagine there’ll be many bemused faces when she’s revealed, but there may well be a few jealous ones. 

Because that’s a big part of being the underdog; the jealousy. Looking up and begrudgingly admitting that such-and-suchs ground is really nice. Or watching those around you gain investment while you’re struggling along on your meagre budget. I’m not saying it’s good to be jealous, but it can feel oddly comforting. No-one wants to be the one who has it all, not really. Because when you’re right at the top there is only one way you can go.

So the jealousy remains. The grass is always greener, right? Not any more. It’s our grass that has been brought back to life this time and is looking more luscious and green than it has done in a long, long time (albeit a bit plastic!). We’d best get practising our humble faces, lads and lasses, because the underdog has left town for the time being. 

Don’t worry though; in the grand scheme of things, we’re still pretty tiny on the football stage. For now, at least…!

Jen Kelly, aka The Word Nerd

“The Word Nerd: For everything you wanted to know about MTFC, and some things you didn’t…”


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