A New Englishman in New York Part 11: The MLS

Our lone Englishman goes to watch Thierry Henry's New York Red Bulls, remembers what it was like growing up as a Reading FC fan and learns why the Big Apple's homeless are the best homeless in the world...
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In 1993 my dad started taking my brother and I to Reading FC games. At 2pm on a Saturday he would put us in the ground, we would get a good spot behind the goal in the Tilehurst End, while he would meet his friends in ‘The Spread Eagle’ for a pint.

I loved going. I was 8 years old at the time. I liked the noise of the crowd. The shouting. The swearing. Yet, I didn’t always understand what was being said, shouted or sung. I once turned to my Dad and asked, “How do they know the referee is a banker?”

He told me it was in the programme notes.

Yet my brother and I still wanted to join the singing but we just didn’t know how. We particularly wanted to know what the crowd shouted at the away goalkeeper when he took goal kicks. It was just a noise to us.

One day at school, my brother found out from a friend exactly what they were shouting at goal kicks. Excited, we practiced at home in preparation for the coming Saturday. We were ready.

At the game, the away team has a goal kick right in front of us. As the away keeper runs up we went ‘You’re” along with everyone else and then as he kicked it we both shouted “Nottingham.”

Now, obviously, later we realised they weren’t routinely shouting a northern town but were actually shouting, “You’re s**t ah.” Foolish. Imagine it though, every game; “Not-ting-ham.”

I once turned to my Dad and asked, “How do they know the referee is a banker?” He told me it was in the programme notes.

Now it’s 2011 and I’ve gone to see the New York Red Bulls vs. The San Jose Earthquakes. Reread those names. Madness. It was a decent game. 3-0 to New York. Thierry Henry still has class and I got to see former Reading FC hero of mine, Bobby Convey, be utterly anonymous on the left wing.

New York score in the first minute or so and the guy stood next to me shouts “Now, that’s how you play soccer.” It’s perfectly acceptable to him, utterly baffling to me.

It’s a good set up at the ground; you can wander round the stadium with a beer, stand anywhere and watch the game. In the 2nd half we go by the “Supporters Section.” They have people orchestrating the chanting with loud hailers and flags, which read “Our home, your hell.” One particular chant goes “Attack, Attack, Attack, Attack, Attack.” It feels a little bit forced and unnatural.

Midway through the second half the Earthquakes keeper has a free kick. This is it. I’m intrigued at what will happen. What are they going to shout? The Red Bulls organized supporters begin the all so familiar “You’re”, he kicks it and they all shout in unison.

“You Suck A**hole.”

And they say football will never catch on in the United States.


I’ve done it again. Made a big mistake. I’ve got myself involved in a conversation with someone. I tried not to. I’m sat waiting for my girlfriend at her work. I’m staring intently at my phone. I’m clearly closed for conversation. I see the person walking closer and closer to me. All I’m thinking is “Please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me.”

“Hi Tom.”



She starts telling me that she just came back from a week in San Francisco.

I ask her that weird question people do where they ask after the welfare of a city.

“How’s San Francisco?”

How’s London? How’s Purley-on-Thames? Meaningless.

“I mean, they suck so much. It was so nice to come back to New York and be around good homeless people again you know?”

“Yeah San Fran is good but the homeless people suck.” She says.

Not sure what to say here. I keep quiet and nod.

She continues: “I mean, they suck so much. It was so nice to come back to New York and be around good homeless people again you know?”

“Err. I remember there being a lot of homeless people when I went there.” I say.

“Oh my god. And they are awful right? They need to get lessons from New York homeless people on how to be better homeless people. You are in Non-Profit right? You could set that up.” She says in all seriousness.

“That… would be a bit weird, wouldn’t it?” I say.

“No. They suck. They are so rude. It was just so nice to come back to New York with good homeless people. I was like; I love New York homeless people.”

You never see that on an ‘I Love New York’ T-Shirt do you?

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