The perils of the Championship supporter, an insight into fans of lower league football
28th November 2010
You don’t choose to support a lower league team; you choose to support Manchester United or Arsenal. Supporting a lower league team is forced upon you. You’re either born into a club or dragged into due to location. If you’re born in Brighton and your Dad supports Cardiff, you aren’t going to be an Aston Villa fan. Being born into a club, you’re led to believe that they are the greatest club and it’s hard to realise that they aren’t. Being brought up as a Forest fan and believing Steve Chettle to be a cultured defender, or that Neil Shipperley really was good enough to hit the back of the net on a regular basis (his record of 1 in 20 for the club would suggest otherwise), it became hard to admit that we really weren’t as good as
my Dad promised we would be.
What you get for supporting a lower league side rather than your Chelsea is the emotional roller-coaster that you receive alongside it. The whole week to come will be shaped by how your side have fared come 5pm on a Saturday evening; lose and until the next game comes around it’s unbearable. However, if you win, it’s the best feeling you can have. This is because no club has boring season after season consistent finishes. One year you can finish in the tense, nail-biting atmosphere that the play-offs bring and the next you can be languishing at the wrong end of the table. Because of this reason a win means so much more than it does to your average, prawn sandwich eating Manchester United fan. Even the bad times, a freezing Tuesday evening in February, sat in a half empty City Ground watching Forest lose 2-0 to Barnsley, whilst sipping on a tongue burning Bovril and wishing you had of brought your scarf and gloves, give you more satisfaction than sitting with 74,000 Londoners watching an overpriced Bulgarian knock five in, past a defence whose names you spend half the time reading from the back of your programme trying to pronounce.
I’m not saying that there aren’t genuine, proper football fans at these grounds; I’m just saying I haven’t met them. There must be a couple of families who attend the matches and every win means as much to them as a win does to a Crystal Palace fan. Crystal Palace wins are just harder to come by. These fans will also never experience visiting Valley Parade or the B2Net Stadium and surely football is partly to do with those away games that you don’t really want to see. The games that you know you shouldn’t, but you will lose. Another thing that Manchester United fans have missed out on is the regularity that your club decides that 6 months ago they made the wrong decision in appointing Paul Hart and put him back in the expanding pool of managers searching for a job. These managers always seem to find a new suitor though, be it Gary Megson, Joe Kinnear, Alan Pardew, Iain Dowie or Bryan Robson, they always worm their way back into a new club.
It isn’t all miserable though, occasionally a player breaks into the first team from the youth and steals the limelight for a while, only to be snapped up in the next transfer window by one of the big boys for a couple of million, or the club will receive an influx of money and spend it on a player to lift the fans morale. This has happened a few times over my 12 years as a Forest fan, whether its Jermaine Jenas, David Prutton or Michael Dawson breaking through or the £3million spent on David Johnson the excitement it brings is worth the wait. Every club has a player, such as Lewis McGugan at Forest, Steve Morison at Millwall, Darren Ambrose at Palace or even Craig Davies at Chesterfield, the one man to pin all their hopes to in an attempt to salvage the fading hopes of their season and no matter how the club do end that season, in a few years the fans of that club will view the season with fond memories.
By Adam Wilkins