Friday 2 August 2019

The New Football Season Cometh

Crusty The Pie - Wigan Athletic Mascot
As I’m writing this, the ‘start’ of The Football League and National League season is barely 15 hours
away (I say ‘start’, as Luton Town and Middlesbrough have just played out an enthralling 3-3 draw, live on the telly).

Nevertheless, in a few short hours, near enough a million people will be winging their way to football grounds across the country, walking, driving, catching the coach, train or tram. Supporters everywhere will be going out for the first time in their new replica shirts; singles, couples, families and mates.

Whilst on their way, they may stop off at a favourite pub, café, restaurant, shop, food stall, ice cream van (it has been warm!); supporting the businesses and communities that surround a football club. Chats will be had about the game, their hopes for the season aired, as dreams of success are created. The more technological fans will be taking photos of themselves, others, the scenes around the ground, posting them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat for everyone to know that the football season is back.

On arriving at their destination and before they take up their seat/spot, friends who haven’t seen each other since May will shake each other by the hand again, swapping stories of their summer. Pints will be sunk and pies will ate – as they await for the drama to unfold on the pitch.

The two teams will come out to applause that probably won’t be as loud for the rest of the season – those clapping are doing it enthusiastically after missing being at a game for so long. Then everyone will settle down to watch; all the new players and the old ones too. New managers playing new tactics, the old managers playing their usual ones – or perhaps something new. The opening game, especially, will be a dull affair or an exciting end-to-end slugfest – and we’ll love it either way. Perhaps there’ll even be a number of goalmouth scrambles to get excited about as well?

This is what the start of the season is for many of us, and we can’t wait!

Crusty The Pie – The Football Mascot We Didn’t Know We Needed, But Got

Just to rope in the name of this blog (again), it would be amiss of me not to celebrate my own team’s novel approach to supporter engagement (and marketing in general) for the new season. Crusty The Pie, the brand-new Wigan Athletic mascot, has been a social media sensation today. Covered on the BBC Sport website, Sky News, ESPN, even NBC in the States, Wigan’s perceived love of pies led to a club competition that saw two children create an amphomorphic pie, complete with his own kit that has ‘Crusty 8 The Pie’ on the back!

I must admit that I was slightly unnerved at first – as ever, I worry about how the decisions taken by the club would be perceived by the wider football community. Would it make the club look backward? No, the vast majority of people loved it – pies and football go hand-in-hand for some supporters and so you could say that Crusty is seen as an embodiment of what being a football supporter is about.

One of the reasons why I do get worried about this kind of thing, is that the 'Wigan is famous for pies' stereotype is born out of a reputation that has been manufactured – yes, we do have many independent bakeries and chain outlets selling the culinary delight, but so do many other towns in the North of England.

The ‘Pie Eaters’ moniker was created during the events of the 1926 general strike when Wigan miners were starved back to work, whilst their colleagues in Leigh, and other nearby towns, stayed put (easy to do so, when you’ve food to eat). Brilliantly, this furthering of the myth helps to get one over on those who tried to shame the town; as we take the name for ourselves, creating a culture which has ultimately seen Wigan’s children create a football mascot with!

From a marketing standpoint, it’s a genius move – the aforementioned news outlets have had tens of thousands of people liking, sharing and commentating on the story. There’s no real negatives to it – after all, it’s a mascot designed by kids, for kids – any adults getting upset over it should have think again, to be honest. As a (literal) Pie Eater, I’m just hoping the quality of the actual pies at the ground improves!

So here’s to a great season of repartee, entertainment, pints and pies – I’ll be kicking off mine tomorrow, with my season of groundhopping also starting very soon.


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