Ten Things That Make The Crowd Go "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!"
In the age of tired, formulaic chants (refer to Ollie's recent piece "Shall We Sing A Song For You" below for examples) there are few more instinctive reactions for a football fan than a good, hearty smug "waaaaaa[h]eeeeeeeyyyyy!" (the "h" is optional, and depends purely on the individual, but the additional syllable is often problematic for the average fan).
Usually a sign that the match is going your way (and, quite spectacularly, not the way of the opposing team and supporters), such an outburst is reserved for the more comical moments in the ninety minutes. The Angle... presents the incidents most likely to generate one. In no particular order:
1. The referee falling over.
A relatively rare example of when the whole ground can morally justify joining in, the "Waaaey!" that ensues when the referee goes to ground is immediate and heartfelt. A truly classic "Waaaey!".
2. An opposing player's pass goes astray.
A fascinating example. There are two stipulations that must be addressed in order for the "Waaaey!" to occur here. Firstly, the ball must cross the touchline, as to emphasise the misplacement of the pass. Secondly, although occasional exceptions can be made for fans of lower-league sides, the players concerned must be on the losing side.
Once these criteria have been met, this example of a "Waaaey!" is subject to a form of sliding scale:
Relatively quick, sharp "Waaaey!" when short pass eludes full-back and exits field of play.
Long pass proves too high for wide player, and drifts hopelessly over his head.
Low pass eludes intended recipient and heads towards touchline, but slowly enough to give hope of rescue. Intended recipient chases ball, but fails to reach it and slides unceremoniously out of play, usually into advertising hoardings or, more excitingly, into front row of opposing fans.
Has been the maximum attainable level on the Stray Pass/Waaaey! (SP/W) Scale since c.1992, when the backpass law was introduced. Occurs when a full-back's pass to a goalkeeper races towards the goal-line and out for a corner. The accumulative effect of flailing custodian, hands-on-head full-back, cheaply-won corner, confrontation between said custodian and full-back and the resultant possibility of a scoring chance all mean that the maximum SP/W level has thus been reached.
The further up the scale, the more drawn-out the "Waaaey!" becomes. A longer "Waaaey!" serves to highlight the increased calamity of the spectacle in question. Furthermore, the longer the "Waaaey!", the more pronounced the inflection at the end ("WaaaaaaaaaaaaeeeeeEEY!"), in order to provide a definitive end to the episode.
3. A second yellow card.
It is important to make clear what warrants and constitutes a "Waaaey!" and what does not. Celebrating a goal, whether or not it involves a similar cheer, is not, under any circumstances, a Waaaey!-worthy event. Although usually set aside for more humorous incidents (as the majority of examples in this article are), a "Waaaey!" can be called upon as the weapon of choice with which to ridicule and individual or collectively signpost a player's misfortune of any sort (barring serious injury).
A clear example of this is the second yellow card. While undoubtedly an expression of the pleasure towards their team gaining a numerical advantage, the fans of the beneficiaries of the sending-off also wish to give the departing member of the opposition a fitting send-off. The referee assists here, acting as an unwitting conductor. The first yellow is shown, causing a ripple of recognition in the stands. Just as the crowd realise the implications of it, the red card follows and they are given licence to "Waaaey!" as they wish. Spoilsport referees, who surprisingly include attention-magnet Graham Poll among their ranks, wish to brandish the cards in quick succession. Although this succeeds in removing the rhythmic element of the "Waaaey!", it does little to stifle its fervour.
4. The "Ironic Cheer".
A unique example of a "Waaaey!", this occurs when the referee is perceived to finally give the home side an overdue decision in their favour. It is mandatory, on any televised match, for the commentator or co-commentator to mention this. A useful, harmless way to vent anger towards an official.
5. A shot that goes out for a throw-in.
When a shot is sliced (veers in the other direction to the foot that strikes it, due to lack of purchase) or dragged (the exact opposite) and subsequently rolls out for a throw-in, this again entitles the opposing fans to emit a loud "Waaaey!". If the SP/W Scale was extended to include shots on goal (or intended to be so), such an effort would probably register around the Strong/Ridicule mark.
6. Player hit in groin by football.
An instantly identifiable event, marked by the crumpling of the player to the ground in a manner that simply cannot be simulated, this is perhaps the cruellest of all "Waaaeys!". Players getting struck in the unmentionables are a highlight for stadium and armchair fans alike, the latter even being treated to a slow-motion replay of the incident. As with the ironic cheer, (co-)commentators feel compelled to offer something humourous at this point. When the commentator is Clive Tyldesley, however, there is a further compulsion on the part of the viewer to re-enact the incident upon him.
7. Injured referee/linesman.
A beautiful example of a good "Waaaey!". Similar, of course, to a referee merely falling over, the "Waaaey!" here is accompanied by a period of reflection allowed by the stoppage in play, in which the referee receives appropriate treatment. How it is decided which medical team is deployed to assist the ailing official has not been established, and clearly warrants further investigation. Undoubtedly hilarious shouts toward the referee that he is in some way pretending to be injured (the "irony" of which is too much for fans to resist) ring out randomly.
8. A streaker.
The invasion of a naked member of the public into proceedings, whilst being a bit You've Been Framed, is another prime candidate for a solid "Waaaey!". Indeed, depending on the success of the uninivited guest in evading the police and the markedly more inadequate stewards, this incident can result in a multitude of "Waaaey!"s. An act enjoyed by everybody present, except Barry Davies, whose retirement from football commentary allowed him to take up the art of grandfatherly disapproval full-time.
9. Manager controls the ball.
Often the reserve of limelight-fetishist managers such as Alan Pardew, Stuart Pearce or Steve Bruce, the literal take on "kicking every ball" often rouses the supporters into some semblance of a "Waaaey!". Interestingly, both skilfully adept or comically bad attempts to retrieve the football in the technical area are greeted with the same approval from the onlookers.
10. Linesman "fouled" by full-back.
Similar (yes, I know...) to No.s 1 & 7, a linesman being taken out by a full-back is a delightful sight. It is set apart from its aforementioned official-plight cousins by virtue of the fact that it directly, and violently, involves a player. Unless a rare serious injury has been inflicted on the referee's assistant, the reaction of the assailant can range from sheepish schoolboy grin to all-out laughter with teammates and opposition players alike, regardless of language barriers.
One interesting conclusion can be drawn from this, and similar, incidents. Despite spending 90 minutes berating the opposition, the opposition fans, useless members of their own team or the board (but only at Villa Park and debt-ridden League Two clubs), football supporters, if they are really honest, thoroughly enjoy sharing a light-hearted moment with everyone present. An incident that brings the whole ground together in a moment of comedy should be applauded. The fact that sincere hostilities are resumed within seconds is even more brilliant.