Studies have shown that of all the human senses it’s ‘Smell’ that’s most likely to evoke a memory from your past. ‘Olfactory Memory’ refers to the recollection of certain odours, which have proved to be the most resilient and explicit memories.
Memory and smell are linked so heavily, that (in certain cases) Dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers have lost the ability to differentiate between certain smells as their disease worsens.
Even if it has never occurred to you before, I’m sure that you’re now thinking about a smell (or Odorant if you will) that’s taken you back to your childhood – Pipe smoke and stale Whisky, White dog shit or even Candyfloss (personally, the smell of burning hair will always take me back to a simpler time, when setting fire to vagrants wasn’t really frowned upon).
Experts even go as far as to claim that the smell of breast milk is so distinctive that an infant is instantly encoded to its mother, and it’s this sense above all other that creates the maternal bond.
Although ‘Olfactory Memory’ may have been overlooked in the modern era, it played a huge part in the evolution of man – Communication and even survival would have relied heavily upon ones sense of smell (in the age of the hunter/gatherer).
It’s only domestication and the eradication of our former animalistic nature that has pushed ‘Smell’ to the wayside. In the modern era it’s more likely that the smell of a certain perfume will evoke a memory of a 2am fumble in ‘Discotheque Royale’ or the smell of vomit will remind one of what happened 15 minutes later outside ‘The Midland Hotel’.
Memories from our past are either at the forefront of our minds or locked away for reasons unbeknownst to us, so it came as quite a shock to me this morning when my old pal Blumphy cocked his cheek in my direction and let out a tranquil Apple Tart. In what seemed like an instant, I was whisked away to a place and time that I’d long forgotten - ‘Blumphs Trump’ had transported me (like Doc Brown and his trusty DeLorean) to 1983, where as a 7 year old boy playing ‘ARMY’ with friends I had come face to face (literally) with a dead cat half eaten by crows, the smell of its withering carcass was so overpowering with eye watering properties akin to Mushroom gas, it was like being trapped inside an arseholes arsehole.
As a fan of science (I’ve seen ‘The Big Bang Theory’ on E4) I was left in a quandary – If the Weizmann Institutes paper on the primal connection between smell and episodic memory is to be believed – then Blumph had dined on a rotting feline the previous evening and then replicated its fragrance via his sphincter, is this likely!? Has his local take-away been routinely visited by a Health inspector? Did he actually have cheese on toast (the fragrance of which bore no resemblance to ‘Tiddles’ cadaver)?
……..or is science a right load of old bollocks?
Many fans have been pushed to the wayside since the inception of the Premier League. Some have been ‘priced out’, others have been left feeling as though the game itself has been prised from their hands and treated like a product, rather than a ‘birth right’ passed down from father to son.
After 30+ Years traveling home and away with the Red army - this fan handed back his Season Ticket - disillusioned by the game and the way that money had taken precedent over everything.
Here’s his take on the proposed ‘Singing section’ and why the problems at Old Trafford run deeper than an apparent lack of passion amongst the home support.
All of the big clubs had grounds with their own bastion of hardcore support. In reality all four corners at Old Trafford (and everything in-between) were populated with tens of thousands of fanatics who all shared the ideology and religion that was and still remains Manchester United FC. Women, men, children, priests; it didn’t matter who you were. We were all equals, defenders of the faith and for many’ that visit to the temple was their raison d’être. As (initially) the Stretford End was redeveloped, supporters relocated to the remaining terraced areas or reluctantly accepted the inevitable of seating (and in the case of many, found a new home in what is K stand, either staying there or moving back to a much changed Stretford End). The removal of terracing and the camaraderie that came with it had some impact on the atmosphere at Old Trafford, but didn’t make United any less of an intimidating place to be. People had moved, but kept or made new friends, there were now less of us in the ground, but we were still as vociferous.
As the years passed by, top-flight football would see all grounds become sterile places of false worship. Many of those fanatical defenders of the faith and their bloodlines priced out / pushed out and replaced by day-trippers, tourists and hospitality organisations. United’s heart traded out for those who had no concept of the history, culture or the soul for that we all lived ate and breathed. Crudely exchanged for those who recognised only the value of or wanted to be part of the brand that was Manchester United. These were and continue to be the ideal customers for the clubs owners. And so the games where the 12th man made a difference confined to spurts of excitement during the games now or memories of great days long gone.
And so, this week plans have been resurrected to develop a singing section at Old Trafford……. Excuse me?? I know that the atmosphere is shockingly bad, but what does it say about today’s supporter if you need to be in an allocated part of the ground to feel that you will make a difference to the acoustics? Location inside Old Trafford is not the issue; it’s about passion. And if you can’t / won’t bring this to OT and have a desire to get behind the shirts (wherever you are sitting), then staying at home is where you belong. If you really need a singing section to get yourself going, then you need to ask questions as to why you are really there.
I’m fully supportive of any fan-based organisation as long as they have a clear and constitutionally approved set of objectives and that the benefits impact on the majority and not the minority. The relocation of away support will be a killer blow to the already fragile atmosphere. I know many take offence at the current location, but let’s be honest; the abuse, vitriol, envy and emotion that emanates from the away support is very often the catalyst that stimulates activity all round the ground. Am I the only one who sees the irony in exulting the benefits of a singing section when lobbying to relocate (to the gods) the one section that is guaranteed to generate an atmosphere amongst United supporters. Relocate the away support to Tier 3 will destroy an already fragile ecosystem in the ground
Back on May 3rd 1993, my ticket (in that last piece of terracing) at Old Trafford cost £10, today’s price is circa £30. I remember paying in on the gate 10 years earlier (Stretford Paddock) when we played Spurs on a Friday night. I was under 15, it cost me pennies and I was surrounded by people who wanted and needed to be there. Creating a singing section at Old Trafford or relocating the away support is not going to improve atmosphere. What’s needed is to ensure that those who do have a genuine desire and dyed in the wool passion get the opportunity to share that and at a price that’s affordable
However romantic it may be to want a football club that cares about those who have been disenfranchised or priced out of the game, the reality is that finding ways to get these supporters back alongside the rest of us and leaving the away supporters alone, is the only way that consistent atmosphere can be developed / achieved / grown.