Peace and Goodwill
In his latest piece for TTU, Russell George writes about the affection he holds for friends’ teams, and considers the motives behind these casual allegiances.
I felt surprisingly ambiguous about Dagenham & Redbridge’s win in the League 2 play off final. Which is only surprising because I was born in Redbridge. It says Redbridge in my passport, international proof that I am, for better or worse, a Redbridgite. They should be my team.
And I liked Redbridge, too, until we moved away when I was about 7. After that the place became a bit rubbish, and on visits back it seemed harsh and abrasive, an East End overspill without that mythical community spirit. So I ended up supporting a team quite a long way away. Everyone at my school supported Spurs and Liverpool anyway because of Glenn Hoddle or Ian bloody Rush, but there was no ‘local’ team where we moved. And, of course, Dagenham & Redbridge didn’t exist.
But the Daggers’ win (an unfortunate nickname given the prevalence of knife crime in suburban London) did please me in one sense: my friend at work was at Wembley because her family are involved in the club. And that got me thinking about the allegiances that I have gradually developed over the years beyond my own team. Everyone has soft spots for certain clubs. Sometimes it’s because you always enjoy a good trip to a particular ground. Or an ex-players of yours plays for them and, vague but paternal, you’d like to see him do well. But generally they are my friends’ teams.
Now, for example, I like to see Cardiff do well. Darren’s a mate, and their fans from the valleys have never crossed my path. And I’ve watched both Ipswich and Plymouth several times on days out with friends, and however indifferent I think I’ll be during the game, you can’t help joining in when you’re in an away end and they score. I have even forgiven Ipswich for beating us 6-0 in 1980, for beating us 2-1 in 1993 which resulted in me running naked round a quad for a bet; and for beating us 3-2 in 1995 at Portman Road when we were 2-0 up. And I was sitting in the home end. Fuckers.
There are, inevitably, teams that I will always have a natural antipathy towards. Liverpool and city are the big two. And hating Chelsea is like hating the taste of mouldy bread, a gagging reflex that everyone shares. I also foster an intense dislike for West Ham because so many of their fans are thugs, yet somehow they are talked of as morally superior because of their ‘attractive’ football, and because of Ray bloody Winstone. But when you know that a friend’s Sunday will be a bit more rubbish if their team loses, you sort of — unless it affects my lot — want them to do well. I have even, against my better judgement, wanted Newcastle to win the odd game. OK, they see my club as a rival, but it’s really just unsettling, like being stalked on Facebook by someone going through a crisis. And Chantal’s a friend. She cried when they got relegated watching the game round my flat. It was all a bit awkward.
Maybe this is all some horrible Nick Hornby metaphor about growing up, that we can’t really survive by loving just ourselves, and that through empathy comes maturity. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve gone soft, and supporting Manchester United allows a certain graciousness towards my friends’ teams. Not Scouse Terry though. That would be freaky.