Sheffield Wednesday and the pride of association

How many supporters of Football League clubs would be able to run a site like this without resorting to petty name-calling and snide digs at rival teams or anyone who deigned to beat their own beloved boys in blue, red, green or a particularly fetching shade of pink? More than would previously have been likely…

One thing brings us together. Well, two things. But putting aside the general hatred of referees for a moment, it is financial mis-management, the threat of administration and an overall feeling of helplessness that most supporters of clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two can identify with.

Every fan and every club has a different experience of this unwelcome addition to our game, but that continuous theme remains. Suddenly, events are being played out without the opportunity to contribute in any meaningful way.

This is not too different from the average football match. We can stand, sing, shout, curse, dance and be plunged into abject misery throughout any given 90 minutes (plus five of injury time and where the hell did that come from, Kettle?), but the fact remains that a comical last-gasp own goal will be purely the work of, for example, that young right-back on loan you had hitherto thought looked fairly solid. Our chants of support and curses of damnation matter little.

The real contrast comes with the news stories that filter out during the hazy days surrounding uncertainty of a club’s future. Just ask Portsmouth and Sheffield Wednesday fans. Some claim to be in the know and many will form opinions of what the best option is, not to mention deciding the culprits for landing their fine clubs in a Laurel-and-Hardy type mess to start with.

But this is not what we signed up for.

Most people are still burying their heads in the sand about the problem. Not just specifically the ongoing cases at Fratton Park and Hillsborough, but the situation as a whole. Because until a large club actually goes to the wall, many are able to dismiss the front-page drama that envelops each passing temporary basket case. The hysteria that accompanied Liverpool’s recent “crisis” didn’t help matters in that regard.

Soon it will happen to someone and it will hurt.

Clearly, we are not all The Swiss Ramble. We don’t all know the gory details and we don’t want to know. We shouldn’t have to know. The problem is that this isn’t the same as when Woolworths disappeared from the high street. Consumer shuffles up high street, goes to WHSmiths instead. Supporter shuffles elsewhere. It just isn’t the same…

The pride of association is what prevents us being able to move on quite as easily as your average shopaholic. It almost goes without saying that your club is your club for life and that it is impossible to feel quite the same about another. But this is what Sheffield Wednesday fans may have found themselves contemplating in recent weeks.

The recent article on Queen’s Park Rangers is a perfect example. Here is a club that have, in the eyes of many of their supporters, underachieved for much of the last decade and a half. A simple piece of writing acknowledging their success so far this season caused pride to swell in the chest of at least one R’s fan on a QPR messageboard. That’s what football should be about. Up and down the country we go, waiting for our turn in the spotlight and the reflected glory that follows.

At the moment, Wednesday fans can only receive sympathy, feel uncertainty, take solace in good results on the pitch and pray for the future.

The lesson is loud and clear. It could happen to anyone, within reason. It could happen to your club, so those who continue to make demands of investment and signings, a plea which became all too common during football’s boom period around the turn of the century, should be in the minority now.

Do we look to the past or the future? My tendency is always to opt for the former. Remember when things were better? No-one was going into administration and we could all concentrate on the football rather than the boardroom?

Rose-tinted spectacles, perhaps. Clubs still went to the wall. And not that long ago, either. Aldershot (1992), Newport County (1989), Scarborough (2007)…

How miserable it is to check a Wikipedia page for each of these three and see the words “was a football club…”

The spectre appears to loom larger than ever, but perhaps that is partly due to the greater transparency afforded, among other things, by the internet and its constant supply-and-demand of information.

Buried amid a gigantic pile of conjecture, answers can be found out there somewhere. Sadly these words cannot supply any.

But at least there is growing empathy among all true supporters for a situation like that currently faced by Sheffield Wednesday fans. Whatever you think of the reasons and responsibility for Wednesday’s plight, most football fans will know that feeling, the pride of association, and know that it cannot disappear from so many lives.

For now, we type “Sheffield Wednesday” into our Google News searches and hope for the best. And not just Wednesday fans…

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The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

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