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Joe Jones

Joe Jones: Soccer AM fan farce is a slap in the face for Notts County fanbase

Soccer AM used to be a must-watch for all British and British-based football fans. When I was younger, I would get up before 9am and watch Tim Lovejoy, Helen Chamberlain and the rest of the gang serve up an entertaining slice of football pie to get me in the mood for the Saturday afternoon games. It was part and parcel of the whole football package.

But that was then - I've not watched the show for years, and by the sounds of it, many other fans have given up watching it as well. Maybe it's the fact television is no longer the dominant medium and things like "Third Eyes" can be delivered online in the blink of an, ahem, eye. Maybe it's the struggles of making a traditionally un-PC show PC in the current era, or maybe it's something else, but it's definitely not the force it used to be.

For the record, the last time I saw the show, it was a couple of years ago, and there was this rock band on who was playing a game where they had to guess the brand of water from sampling several shots of the stuff, or whether it was from the tap. I found it so cringeworthy I made a mental note never to watch it again.

Last weekend, Soccer AM was mentioned a fair bit by Notts County fans on social media and elsewhere, because six individuals who were supposedly supporters of the club appeared on the show.

Only problem is, the Notts fanbase is a fairly close-knit community where most people tend to know each other, or at least recognise who their fellow supporters are, and nobody had a clue who any of these "fans" were.

Closer inspection found that several of these guys were actually supporters of other teams, like Nottingham Forest, Reading and Sunderland, and needless to say, the Black and White Army was not best pleased.

Chris and I spoke about this at length in (open link) our latest PONcast (close link) and ended up going on a bit of a rant because, as much as the whole debacle has been played down, it's unacceptable.

Since the turn of the century, Notts have been a notoriously difficult team to support. Save for a relatively bright spell between 2009 and 2013 when we were promoted and put in a decent stint in League One, plus a couple of enjoyable cup days out, it's been nothing but misery.

And Notts fans, the real Notts fans, would support their team even though they were getting humiliated by non-league teams on national television, even though they were fighting relegation from the EFL, even though there have been various winding-up orders and, earlier this year, the real fear of the club ceasing to exist.

Now that the ship has steadied, now that there's a good chairman at the club, now there's a good young manager, now the infrastructure is good, now the team's flying high in the league, how have the long-suffering fans been recognised on national TV?

By bringing in a bunch of photogenic "lads" to parade as Notts "fans" despite supporting other teams and not giving the real fans a look-in.

And by the looks of it, it's not like there was a shortage of suitable Notts fans who were keen to go on the show.

Alan Hardy has defended their appearance on the show, even going on himself, and stressed that he had no control, that Sky had the ultimate say over which fans would appear on the show.

But whatever the reasonings were, the fact of the matter is, six guys went on a show claiming to be Notts County fans, all relatively young and photogenic, all wearing either Jake Bugg home shirts or Paragon away shirts and skinny jeans, none recognised by the bulk of the fanbase and several of those seemingly showing support for other teams on their own social media.

And even though it's the kind of thing that shouldn't really be a big deal - given Soccer AM is watched by something like 40 people and a goat nowadays - it feels like a slap in the face to the fans who have suffered for years for the sake of their beloved team, being overlooked in favour of a bunch of phonies.

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I'm amazed yet un-amazed that Sky seemingly chose some random people to pose as Notts fans. What's your source? Having a bunch of fans "support" a TV programme from a makeshift stand might have been a novel idea 20 years ago but they should really have thought of something new by now.

I wouldn't say Soccer AM was ever un-PC, but its time has passed and I'm surprised it's still going. I found it all quite harmless fun back in the day and some of it was even mildly amusing, but part of me felt patronised by it even then.

Helen always came across as genuine, but Tim Lovejoy was just a complete smarm pie. On the plus side though, his book did spawn one of the best book reviews ever written...

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It still reminds me of the fake TV show game show give-a-ways, you know Channel 5 and the likes.

Absolutely daft at the end of the day.

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