Laps of honour? For some clubs laps of shame would be more appropriate
A confusing vignette from Spurs’ shambolic season last weekend. Stereophonics’ ‘Dakota’ boomed out at disgusting volume after another home defeat while departing Lucas Moura, hero of the better times, wept on his five-year-old son’s shoulder.
Then he and team-mates paraded around the pitch in the established end-of-season style, waving at a thin crowd and several thousand plastic seats. Why did Spurs deserve a lap of honour? A repeat of Queen Cersei’s walk of atonement from Game of Thrones would have been more appropriate, Hugo Lloris pelted with vegetables while Ledley King strides behind, solemnly ringing a bell.
At West Ham on Sunday, where fans are so far from the pitch binoculars are helpful, it was difficult to pick out the team during their lap. The supporting cast of partners, friends, well-wishers, local dignitaries and men dressed as giant hammers must have been in excess of 200 people.
Anything that helps families and children have a more pleasant time at football matches should be encouraged, and the now-traditional Kop goal scored by Mo Salah’s daughter Makka is delightful. But the concept of a lap of honour has become hollow.
In the pre-Premier League age teams would not routinely salute their fans after the final game unless there was a trophy to parade. In the 1980s the priority was escaping before the pitch invasion and subsequent liberation of turf. Now a lap of honour is expected, regardless of circumstance.
Of course many are now technically laps “of appreciation,” a sinister rebranding not quite as dystopian as people calling what was once known as a holiday “annual leave”, but still to be resisted. But there was a time when the end-of-season ritual meant something. All right, not lots. But something.
It was a chance to commune with players as people, changed out of full kit so mildly out of context, like seeing your teacher in the supermarket. There was an alluring novelty to it, now ruined by social media which shows us altogether too much context. We now know not only what these players wear when not in kit but what their voices sound like, what videogames they are playing and which decentralised blockchain technology they are endorsing.
Before the celebration police police turn on their sirens, I have no objection to the lap of honour other than the automatic assumption it should take place. It is time to wean ourselves from it and perhaps the independent regulator can deploy an algorithm. If: [league finish] > [average predicted league finish] or [fans not too annoyed] then: “honourlap” else: “no_honourlap”.
In that spirit, here is the verdict of who in the Premier League is allowed an end-of-season lap this weekend, and for what:
Manchester City won the league, Newcastle United qualified for the Champions League, Brighton and Hove Albion made it into Europe and Manchester United will finish fourth. You can be the one who explains to Roy Keane why that is worth celebrating.
Brentford and Fulham could have gone down but have finished in the top 10, Aston Villa under Unai Emery have been revelatory and Arsenal’s last games should not detract from a season beyond Piers Morgan’s wildest sexual fantasies.
Liverpool have righted after chronic vibe issues and hopes are high again. Roy Hodgson has made Crystal Palace unexpectedly fun, Bournemouth and Forest are delighted to stay up, as will be the survivor of the Everton / Leicester / Leeds deathmatch.
No one is rushing out for commemorative DVDs of Wolves and West Ham’s 2022-23.
Are you joking?
Tottenham, Chelsea, Southampton and the two relegated teams from Everton, Leicester and Leeds. Laps of apology, perhaps but really we could afford to be a bit more continental here. These players should be hiding in the dressing room and fearing for their car windows.
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