Throughout your life, you will have no doubt moved house a few times, changed the car you own more so, perhaps shifted jobs once or twice, even had a few personal relationships, but the one thing that never changes is the team we support. It will always remain the same club you took a shine to all those years ago. I was discussing this topic with my father over Christmas, and he agreed on what I’ve just said. However, the team we choose to give our semi-autistic blind loyalty to varies, and the reason why we want to follow one club over another differs from one person to the next.
Readers of my column will know I’m a Coventry City supporter, for my woes. The reason for this being a) I grew up on the edge of the city, and b) family tradition. My father is a Sky Blue, so is his brother (my uncle), and so was their father (my grandfather). I grew up with the only team mentioned at family get-togethers were our local side, Coventry City. We made the pilgrimage to Highfield Road together on numerous occasions, through foul weather, numerous relegation battles, several changes of manager and eventually witnessing the Holy Grail – an F.A Cup win.
Friends of mine throughout my life seem to generally fall into one of three categories – they reside close to a club, family tradition or the other option I consider a little unsavoury – supporting a team that is the current darling of the moment, a side that is experiencing a continued ‘purple patch’ – the fan who is the glory hunter.
During my childhood and adolescence, Liverpool were the team to beat. They won everything there is to win, to the point it was beginning to get quite tedious and a refreshing change when other clubs would briefly break their dominance. Like I said earlier, I grew up in the Midlands but had school mates who were ardent Liverpool supporters. I blame the media, as the back pages of all the papers, and virtually every edition of ‘Match Of The Day’ featured the red team from Merseyside. My school colleagues were simply brainwashed at very impressionable ages. The irony is, years later, I still doubt if any of them have sent foot in the city of Liverpool, let alone visited Anfield itself. One lad even stopped wearing his shirt with liver bird on chest, and unexpectedly became a Coventry supporter as they won the Cup in 1987. Talk about fickle. Come Christmas ’87, he had his red shirt back on again.
Same happened when United became the new powerhouse of English football in the nineties and remained so for twenty years. Anyone travelling on the British motorway network on a Saturday morning will see some charming collection of supporters, with Union flag taped to the windscreen with ‘Bromley Reds’ emblazoned across it. My, that’s local – just down the road from Moss Side, if my geography serves me correctly. Now, I realise some supporters of the bigger clubs do so through family tradition, but their parents left the region where the big team is based years ago to find employment elsewhere. The elder brother of a school friend who lived over the road from my parent’s home in north Coventry was a United fanatic, but his family originated from Lancashire – he was no glory hunter. Besides, he was supporting the team long before Sir Alex appeared at Old Trafford.
Family tradition is one thing, but in some families throughout the land it’s not uncommon for a clear divide in regions where more than one large club exist (Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Liverpool for example). I bet this causing some interesting Christmas lunches every year, especially within some of the suburbs of Glasgow! Like I followed in my father’s footsteps and became a Sky Blue, I hoped my own sons would do same if they developed an interest in football. My eldest son, then only aged seven, suddenly became a Chelsea follower around the time Jose Mourinho took over at Stamford Bridge and challenged United seriously, but a few years later (possibly from peer pressure at his school, and the media brain-washing), began strutting around wearing a United shirt. To be fair, I had my work cut out as regards Coventry were the team to look out for, with them being at the wrong end of the Championship at the time. Hopefully, he’ll see sense soon.