We all have one team that we follow – our team – that team that when they lose, the result ruins your weekend – the team we defend in any situation – the team we spend so much time, money and emotion in watching. How we come to support that team is a very individual thing. Mine is a simple philosophy – you support your local team, the place of your birth. So in terms of my family, my dad is an Arsenal fan, although he never tried to make them my team, even on the occasional trips to Highbury with him. I was born in Parsons Green in Fulham and therefore the men in white from Craven Cottage are my team. Liam, Leeds born, now has his own team in white to follow.
But I have a guilty secret in that there a number of other teams results that I look for. I want to be clear though, it’s not teams I support, Fulham are my team always were, always will be – my “other” teams, I have a “soft spot” for. So how have I come to this situation? For the most part, there is a good reason (well for me anyway!).
Where to begin? Well in the Premier League there is Arsenal. Quite simply because they are my dad’s team and I really did enjoy the trips to Highbury. With Fulham languishing in the lower reaches of the Football League, trips to see the Gunners meant First Division and European football during my teenage years. In recent seasons I marveled at their unbeaten Premier League season in 2003/04, admired the manner of their play and more recently because of their sensible financial approach within the Premier League that puts other “big” clubs to shame.
In the Championship, there is Leeds United. The City I came to in 1991 and the place of my sons birth. Without realising it, I’ve been attending games at Elland Road for 19 years. I’ve shared in the Premier League days, the European nights, the dark days of League One, but hopefully will see the re-emergence and return to the top-flight. I can never be a Yorkshireman, I can never be a Leeds supporter, but I do care about what happens to the club. It is one of my pleasures to be able to go to Elland Road with Liam – and all that that means in terms of sharing the experience that is a matchday.
The rest of my “mistresses” are either non-league or European teams. Stade Malherbe Caen FC (also known as SM Caen or just Caen) are a French team based in Normandy. For the 2010/11 they will play in the Ligue 1 having last season been promoted. They have no great history and my “following” of them is because I spend my 30th birthday in this area of France. I didn’t get to see them play, but fell in love with their previous slightly ramshackle ground Stade de Venoix.
Spain is the next destination and here I have two teams within my “establo”, who exist at the two extremes of the football spectrum. Firstly there is Barcelona, a team I am fortunate to have watched at the Nou Camp on a couple of occasions. This came about due to a mate who I was best-man to, moving out to the Catalan City. The stadium itself is nothing in terms of design, but the history of the place and the famous teams that have played on the hallowed turf, resonate within the great bowl that the Nou Camp is. At the other end of my Spanish rainbow is UCD Lanzarote FC. A team who play (unsurprisingly) on the island of Lanzarote. Given the volcanic nature of the island, the team play on a synthetic (FIFA approved) pitch. Los Rojillos unfortunately got relegated last season and now find themselves in the fourth tier of Spanish football. This season entrance to a game is five euros and I look forward to getting to see them in action this November when I go out there on holiday.
So finally, to my non-league favourites. As a kid, I was allowed to get the bus to Plough Lane on my own to watch Wimbledon FC in their Southern League days. It was a sign of growing up, of being trusted and being responsible. It’s where my affection for non-league football comes from. For that reason I’ve followed the Dons fortunes ever since and from afar enjoyed their rise to the top-flight and the FA Cup victory. I also despaired at their move to Selhurst Park and the hideous creation of MK Dons. A manufactured team in a manufactured town. No history, no place in it for football. The FA should hang their heads in shame that this location is part of the England 2018 World Cup Bid. A big play has been made about the England Bid because of the history of football in this country. Milton Keynes has none – it’s a disgrace. So from all that, you might have guessed that AFC Wimbledon is the team that I recognise from my days on the terraces at Plough Lane. I hope that one day (soon) that AFC Wimbledon get into the Football League and that MK Dons drop into non-league. How much appetite will there be for the club then?
That’s it then, I’ve come clean – made it public – my conscience is now clear. I can now check the scores without feeling like it’s a betrayal. Can you say the same?