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Louis van Gaal has blamed 'luck' and the lack of a 20-goal-a-season striker for Manchester United's poor performances. After limping to victory over Sunderland, when will the excuses run out?
A term we've seen used quite often in recent times, albeit exclusively online, is 'football hipster'.
Like the parent term, 'hipster', it's one of those phrases that seems at once approving and sneering. After all, surely liking independent, quirky, artisanal, quality products is a good thing - buying local, spending your dollar on creative, small enterprises rather than sucking on the corporate megadong ought to be encouraged.
Then again, watching young men with plaid shirts and difficult haircuts queuing for 45 minutes to buy a ten quid hamburger can certainly grind the gears. Especially if you want a hamburger in a hurry.
As with hipsterism in general, we find ourselves in two minds, or actually because this is a joint column, four minds. What is a football hipster, and should we celebrate him, laugh at him, or attempt to steal his hamburger?
At root, football hipsterism describes the non-mainstream football lovers amongst our brethren - those who reject the idea that the Premier League is The Best League In The World, perhaps preferring instead Belgium's Jupiler Pro or the French Ligue.
The etymology of the term is a bit vague so we thought we'd help you and ourselves reach a conclusion as to hipster status (or otherwise) by virtue of what football media you consume.
We think the football hipster's media dude of choice is James Richardson, a fellow of whom we have written approvingly on many occasions. He knows about stuff that isn't mainstream. He comes from a cultural hinterland which your typical 'get right up their arses' terrace beer monster wouldn't understand. This is important to your hipsters because not being like the common folk is an important element of the calling. The nearest a football hipster wants to get to the grunt labour is when attending an exhibition of Italian Poor Art, as favoured by Fabio Capello.
So AC Jimbo (a football hipster nickname if there ever was one) stands atop the hipster media tree, especially as he does most of his work on the Guardian's podcast. Podcasts are a hipster's wet dream. While others go to work listening to Radio 1, you can hear people talking about Schalke's defensive weaknesses or which national side plays 3-2-5. And what's wrong with feeling good about yourself for being clever or, at least, informed?
TV is tricky for the hipster though. BBC1 and ITV1's offerings are such a slurry of milky middle-of-the-road rusk puke that no-one worth their hipster credentials would sully their eyes with them except to exercise their withering vitriol and confirm their own superiority. The hipster will, however, watch ITV4 for the Bundesliga highlights and for the Europa Cup game that no-one else cares about. Anderlecht v Trabzonspor you say? Now that's a game.
The Champions League coverage is a problem. No hipster can watch an English side with total satisfaction, as it's far too obvious, far too four pints of Stella. They're looking for something to tickle their football synapses along with that Polish wheat beer or the rare vintage Hungarian Tokai wine. This is where clubs such as FC Bate come in useful.
We think the football hipsters have some basic media preferences - they like Rebecca Lowe over Ray Stubbs, they worship Gary Neville's analysis and have an Alan Shearer voodoo doll. They love the excellent Zonal Marking. They love blogs that are not widely read and are wilfully obscurantist. They enjoy the new wave of intellectual, not to say esoteric, fanzines like Surreal Football and The Blizzard.
They scour Eurosport for something no-one else will watch, such as Under-21 Women's World Cup or England Under-17s internationals yet are often very uncurious about Conference football, fearing it to be too rootsy, which to the football hipster means 'common' and of the people, neither things which the hipster can identify with.
Football hipsterism isn't the same as football nerding though. It is more culturally aware and more self-aware than the over-focused individual who never leaves the house for fear of having to put down the 1975 Rothmans he is currently committing to memory. The football hipster has an awareness of literature and of the lyrics of Half Man, Half Biscuit. All he wanted for Christmas really was a Dukla Prague away kit.
Like hipsters of other stripes (music, fashion, food, beer, etc) the football hipster rarely sees himself just as a consumer: he is a producer, a contributor to the experience. The internet has obviously opened this up in technological and practical terms (see the vibrancy of online magazines, specialised blogs, Twitter etc) and, like following a small band, your presence and participation do actually count in the way that they don't if you are a fan of Man United/The Rolling Stones. Incidentally, we have referred to, and think of, this creature as being pretty much exclusively male - although would be very happy to stand corrected.
There's no doubt that the term 'football hipster' is used disparagingly or even sneeringly, but that isn't to say it's a bad thing to be. We wonder, though, if in the desire to seek out the path less travelled, one could miss out on the more obvious delights in the mainstream. While there is much to be said for the delicious artisanal morsels of the Argentina Second Division, there's no shame in a full English either...
So what do you reckon? Are you a football hipster? Is obscure football fandom the one true way, or is it merely intellectual snobbery for its own sake?
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
Alan's football and cricket books are all in one place here
Follow Alan on Twitter here
or Johnny here.