When asked about my hobbies I never really know what to say. I guess I’m a pretty dull person in that respect. Something I do have a keen interest in though, is autograph collecting.
I’m proud to say I have personally obtained almost 100 different signatures in my collection so far, from footballers who have won everything in the game, who have been to World Cups, Olympic Games etc.
I reckon I could have obtained many more autographs by now though, if it wasn’t for those footballers who ignore us fans, and that’s what this rant blog entry is about.
I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why certain players haven’t got it in them to spend a few minutes, or even seconds of their time signing a few autographs for supporters. In the few years I’ve been collecting, unfortunately, more players have chosen to ignore me than sign for me.
I’ll talk briefly about my last attempt in collecting autographs, last weekend at St. Andrew’s; Birmingham City’s first league game of the season. I get to the ground stupidly early, to ensure I wouldn’t miss any of the players arriving. Having met most the players last season, I was only really there to see the new faces.
To cut a long story short(er), most of the players I was hoping to meet drove straight past me, when they eventually arrived. Frustrating having stood waiting for a good three and a half hours, for seconds of their time.
There was one player in particular whose autograph I was after, and it was just my luck he was one of those who went past. He arrived in a taxi, and I heard him request the driver to drive straight past the four people waiting, when other players have got out to greet fans in the past, including earlier that day.
Not satisfied, I intended to wait after the match too, but thought I wouldn’t have to when he told fans, most of these just young kids, he’d sign stuff after his warm up. He buggered off inside without signing one.
So I waited afterwards too. He must have escaped via another exit because a good hour and a half had past and he was nowhere to be seen. Managed to get a couple of others who had driven past pre-match though, silver lining I suppose.
But in total I had spent eight hours at the ground that day, and all I really wanted was just one player’s squiggle on some photo (that I’d rushed to Boots to get printed off especially) and a shirt, perhaps a photo with him too. Was that too much to ask?
If you follow me on twitter (@blake2108) you’ll know who it was I was after. You could probably guess anyway. One Birmingham player stands out in terms of media and fan interest at the moment. If you have followed me for a while you’ll also know that this is an issue that annoys me considerably, and you might know another story that sticks out in my mind.
This time at Villa Park, where I’ve obtained most of my autographs; they were playing Manchester United. I’d attended the game on an incredibly cold December evening.
The Man United players came out afterwards, I was one of many fans there waiting freezing their balls off hoping to get some autographs, but one by one they boarded the team bus, and stayed there.
Only one of the eighteen or twenty players they brought with them signed for everyone. Nani – he signed my matchday programme. Patrice Evra signed for just a couple of people. Disgraceful really as the majority waiting were United fans.
I won’t forget Phil Jones getting on that bus. We could still see him through the window; he was looking at us too. No doubt he could hear us calling his name, to sign a few things. No chance. He looked down at us as if we were lesser than him, not important.
Yet it’s us, the fans, who are the reason players like Jones are even in a job, why footballers earn the stupid wages they do. We buy the tickets, and the replica shirts every season and all we ever ask for in return is three points on a Saturday. It’s surely the least a player can do, signing autographs for fans after a match we’ve worked all week to be able to afford.
I would love to know why they don’t bother though. They chose a career which throws them into the public eye. It might not be enjoyable for them, signing numerous autographs, but surely that’s one of the small negatives a player earning thousands of pounds a week would encounter?
I know sometimes players are discouraged, because some fans profit from players signing photos and stuff, but then that’s unfair on us fans who collect for ourselves, to treasure for years to come, especially the young kids who idolise these people.
And anyway, many players earn millions a year doing what they do, the fans don’t. What’s wrong with some fans trying to make a little extra money, considering times are so hard at the moment? Someone somewhere will treasure the autograph, whether or not it the person who originally obtains it.
I myself wouldn’t do that. I’ve kept all my autographs that I’ve collected over the years and I wouldn’t think of selling them, and times are hard for me and my family. Some of my autographs I treasure so much I’ve even had them framed and have them proudly displayed in my room.
On a positive note, not all footballers are like that. Some away players have signed in the past for me, including managers too. Tom Cleverley signed autographs for everyone when he was on loan at Wigan; I thanked him for mine on his Facebook page, to which he replied to me, twice.
I’ve had autographs from players who have left the ground on crutches before too, struggling to walk yet they still make sure they sign for supporters.
Players still stop for me having met them four, five times before. They must be sick of the sight of me but they do it. They’ve cracked jokes and I’ve had brief chats with a few of them too, and the majority of those I have been lucky enough to meet, have come across as great people.
I just wish all footballers were like that, not like those from clubs like Man City, when not one player signed a single autograph for fans after the Community Shield. Yaya Toure; two-hundred odd grand a week clearly isn’t enough for him to sign a few. Ridiculous!
So if by the off chance you’re a professional footballer reading this, one who often tries to avoid signing autographs, I’d quite like it if you thought about the fans a bit more, the effort and money they put into supporting their club, the fact they’re the reason you’re in a job and the fact that five seconds of your time, writing your name on a bit of paper, can make a fan’s day. Not that much of an ask, is it really?