Fan of the Month: December 2017
You’re probably much more familiar with Jessie Ware the singer-songwriter than Jessie Ware the football fan. But she’s supported Manchester United for years, way before she burst onto the music scene with her soulful, sensual sound. And on the promotional trail for her latest album Glasshouse last month, Ware sat down with our Editor-in-Chief to talk female football fandom in a South London football pub for Copa 90. Clapham raised and now Dalston based, the singer reminisced about the 90s, her favourite player Ryan Giggs and looked forward to sharing her fandom with her baby daughter.
Was music an inevitable career choice? Because I read that you wanted to be a football journalist when you were 16 and that you interned at the Daily Mirror.
Singing, doing music was definitely not an inevitable career path. It was quite unlikely. I thought being a football journalist was easier. I was obsessed with Manchester United. I knew everything [and] I think I would have been a terrible football journalist because I would have been so biased to United. But it was a really exciting time. I managed to get work experience at the Mirror and shadow Darren Lewis who I think still works there. We covered Arsenal vs Boreham Wood and I’d be on the pitch with Arsene Wenger asking him questions. He really threw me in- it was brilliant. It was really fun and I just felt like it was the most exciting prospect of a job. [Then] I was backing singer for my mate and then it escalated into me doing sessions with SBTRKT and getting a record deal. And I think I kind of gave up on the football career- journalist I was never going to play football- when I was a teenager.
Why Manchester United?
I feel like I have to explain myself which is really annoying, especially in the time when it was their heyday. It was like I’m a girl who supported Man United: it was really obvious. My mum was from Manchester, my whole family support United. We have season tickets in the family [and] my mum’s cousin set up their child protection scheme so she was working alongside Sir Alex Ferguson. That was like the most exciting time because she’d be there at The Cliff [the old training ground] and she’d know everything that was going on. I used to go to quite a lot of games at Selhurst Park when it was Wimbledon and we’d go to away games but it was really hard. I’d probably go to a couple a season at Old Trafford but it was always kind of luck of the draw really. I managed to if someone was ill or…
Do you have a favourite memory as a United fan?
I think it was the journey to the treble. I managed to go to one game of each of the trophies which seems kind of pitiful, was I 16 when the treble was won? So went to a league game, went to a FA Cup game and Champions League and I think my most exciting was the away game at Chelsea. I think that was for the FA Cup or maybe it was the league? Anyway it was a great game however Chelsea fans pissed on my mum’s car which was a shame. I mean she did fly her flag out of the car and it was just across Albert Bridge so she asked for it.
Where were you when they actually won the treble?
I was in my living room crying. I think I still have the champagne cork that we popped after they won. It was incredible.
Do you have a piece of football memorabilia that you’ll never throw away?
I actually managed to win, well somebody else won it- a neighbour, a Spurs fan so they didn’t want it. A signed treble football. It’s got the squad of the treble so I’ve got that. And I think I’ve kissed the David Beckham autograph so much it’s a bit smudged. But otherwise I’ve got this collage from when I went to a training session at Old Trafford. I must have been 13 and I had a disposable camera and so I was doing Jordi Cruyff and Andy Cole. Dwight Yorke, Ryan Giggs. And Ryan Giggs was my favourite and I didn’t wash my hand for about a week after he shook it. Alex Ferguson- it was all kind of all up there [She marks the spot in the air] so they’re quite unflattering photos and I made this collage. It was quite sweet and I think I’ve still got that somewhere.
Do you ever play football or are you a massive armchair critic?
I don’t play football. My daughter seems really keen to kick a ball. I really want to get her playing football as soon as possible. She’s a bit of a brute so I think she’ll be able to look after herself. But yeah I tried it at primary school but it was quite stressful. I prefer to watch it.
Talking about your daughter, do you think you’ll pass on your fandom? Does your husband have a team?
He supports Spurs so he’s adamant that’s she’s going to be a Spurs fan. I feel like she’s a Londoner and she, although Spurs are doing so well at the moment, I feel like she’ll get less criticism about being a Spurs fan than being a United fan.
Also they actually have a women’s team [Spurs] and United don’t.
Maybe she’ll be there.
How do you feel women fit into and contribute to football culture right now? More women are visible in the game and Premier League stats say that 25% of people that go to football are women.
I don’t know how to answer that one really. Women are entitled to like football and they’re entitled to have their opinion. I feel like it shouldn’t be such a discussion point maybe, it shouldn’t feel novel anymore.
Do you feel that your experience was any different because you were a woman or a girl at that time. Or do you think it would just be the same.
No I think it’s exactly the same. l watch football, the bloke next to me watches football, maybe he swore a bit more than me but it’s the same and that’s how it should be really.
Do you have any football shirts? What fit do you go for if you’re wearing it?
I do yeah. I’m pretty gutted I lost the drawstring United one which was such a great one. I have quite a few football shirts. I didn’t know there was a ladies fit so I just get the ones that the players are wearing.
Which one would you say is your favourite- the drawstring one? Did you get your name on the back?
Yeah, I think it was from the ‘90s, it was a great one. It was when we had Mark Hughes in the team and it was when Ryan Giggs was really coming up. It was the best. First time I did a really makeshift one which really depressed me, we had Giggs [on the back] but we did it ourselves and it looked really pitiful. I always had Giggs. I’ve been given United ones with my husband’s name on the back and it just doesn’t work for me. I prefer to have my favourite player.
Finally what do you think about women’s football? It’s got more visibility, the England women’s team did really well at the Euros in the summer. Do you think that the press could do more in covering it?
I think it’s great. I wish I had more of an opinion about it as I haven’t actually watched that many games of theirs so maybe I should. Everything is positive about that. Yeah absolutely, a bit more visibility sure.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Words Felicia Pennant
Photography Jack Grange
Location The Holmesdale Pub
Shoot Direction Copa 90