Big club, little club

I’ve seen quite a few discussions over the past few days about people who support a ‘second’ team as well as the Imps. In some instance it is fans of other clubs who also keep an eye out for their local side, both new fans and those with links to two clubs over a number of years. There is also the Lincoln fans who support a ‘big’ club as well as the Imps. It piqued my interest as personally I cannot see how it is possible to support two clubs.

First off I’m not having a go at anyone here. My old man is a Lincoln fan, but he also supports Chelsea. As a young lad he told me I had to pick a big club as well as a little club to stop myself being bullied (I was ginger and liked to read as well, there were mitigating factors). You can read about that here.

It always baffled me how my Dad could support two sides, but I like to live and let live. When the prospect of City and Chelsea was thrown up prior to the FA Cup Quarter Final draw, he emphatically stated he’d support Lincoln. It put into perspective many years uncertainty for me. My Dad even had a ‘Chelsea room’ full of memorabilia, I was certain he was a nailed on Chelsea fan. I tried to sway him, I bought a Lincoln v Chelsea programme from a 1970’s benefit match so at least the Mighty Imps were represented somewhere in the sea of blue.

My brief flirtation with Luton (if you’re confused you didn’t click the link above. I once supported Luton as well) served to make me feel as if my divided loyalty meant I was less of a City fan, and that is the point I’m pondering on now. If you have been happily going to watch West Ham whilst City have wallowed in the mire playing the likes of Hyde and Ebbsfleet, now we’re doing well does it make you ‘less’ of a fan? Perhaps not, but does it give you the right to moan about ticket allocation, especially after you’ve missed hundreds of opportunities to go and watch City over the last five years?

For those who have Arsenal and Lincoln connections, how does the game truly make you feel? I know my friend John Ventress is Arsenal, always has been and always will be. He can be seen at Sincil Bank watching City, but I’ve always identified with him as Arsenal. I get that, what I don’t get it people who claim to be Arsenal and Lincoln (or any big club and Lincoln) in equal measure. It isn’t possible.

If you’re sleeping with two different people, you’ll know which one you prefer no matter how much you claim otherwise. If you don’t mind which sauce you have on your bacon butty, red or brown, deep down you will have a preference. To a degree not picking one team and sticking by it is cowardice. I’ve often felt that about ‘two club’ fans. You have two clubs because you’re scared when one is experiencing a rubbish season you won’t have the safety net, the back up to rely on and give you some pride. I used to believe that with my Dad, he only had Chelsea in his locker for occasions when Lincoln City let him down, and as a fan from the late 1960’s onwards, my Dad has been late down an awful lot. There’s no wonder in 1970, after City had fallen from the Second Division to the Fourth and stayed there, that he picked the swashbuckling Kings Road side to focus his attention on.

I couldn’t see how it is possible to have two clubs, I’m trying to make some sense of it, and as I’ve said I’m not criticising those that do. I can’t get my head around people who go fishing as a hobby, but it is personal preference. I know that people will always have feelings and preferences that differ to mine, and no opinion is right or wrong. However, part of my love of Lincoln City is that we win together and we lose together. The night we got beat 6-0 at home by Rotherham I didn’t go off thinking “it’s okay because my second team Man United are playing tomorrow”, I went home thinking “I’m going to get smashed all weekend and forget that ever happened”. As it turns out you never forget getting hammered 6-0 at home. I still wake up in the night now almost in tears uttering “effing Kanyucka” under my breath.

As a kid I flirted with a so-called big club and it didn’t work out for me, it didn’t feel right. I have soft spots for clubs, but then that is a part of being a fan. For instance I like Ipswich because of the recent matches, I like Chelsea because of my Dad and I always want to see Exeter win when they’re not in our league for my Uncle and Cousin who follow them home and away. There is a distinct difference though between supporting a club and having a soft spot for them. I’ll be honest, a Hutchinson XI made up of all of my nearest and dearest could play Lincoln City at the Bank, and I’d be in the home end wearing red and white calling my family a bunch of diving bastards.

I’m Lincoln City, I’m exclusive to them, it is in my blood, in my bones and in pretty much everything I do that doesn’t involve working and sleeping. I’ve even infected Fe, a girl brought up on a diet of rugby and good taste. Once upon a time she’d be cheering politely at the Six Nations, rowing up and down the River Cam and convincing me to go for a walk around a National Trust property.  Now she’ll get the beers in the Travis Perkins suite and buy Paul Farman fridge magnets for our kitchen, the other day she even came home talking about Graham Taylor. I can’t help but feel I couldn’t exert that influence if I also supported a Premier League club.

What is the Premier League anyway? Ranieri sacked just months after achieving an impossible title win. Gate receipts for one Arsenal match that eclipse some lower league clubs entire turnover. National media trying to turn the little man into a laughing-stock by baiting him with pies. It’s crass, it’s in your face and it is no reflection of the game I follow so fervently. If I wrote about a Premier League club I dare wager I could get enough hits to give up my day job and write for a living, but I couldn’t just switch. Football isn’t a business to me, it isn’t something I can jump between easily.

Therefore if you do support two teams, one being Arsenal and the other being Lincoln, and you don’t know which one you want to win on March 11th dare I suggest you probably don’t feel the way I feel about Lincoln City. If there is any element of doubt at all, it doesn’t make you less of a person, but it does bring into question exactly how much Lincoln City really are in your blood. If you openly admit to supporting the big club first and foremost, fair enough. If you claim to be an Imp and you still don’t know, then I’m afraid there is no helping you.

As for the day trippers who don’t support Lincoln but do want to go to the Arsenal game, I welcome your money. I just find it a crying shame that when we were losing to Rotherham, Shrewsbury and Bury that you felt your armchair was the best place to comment from, and if you do get some hostility from fans that endured the hard times, I’m afraid you’re going to have to live with it. Those fans might well enjoy our win at Burnley, but I guarantee you it didn’t feel half as good for you as it did for me, and others like me. That Burnley win meant so much more to bona-fida, full-time, lifelong Lincoln City fans that it ever could to someone who cheered Man Utd’s Champions League win just as passionately.

100% Lincoln City. There’s no other way for me.

Please don’t take offence if you’re one of the half and half generation, whether it’s Arsenal, West Ham or whoever. It doesn’t make you less of a person. It’s like a disease, and this season should be providing the perfect cure. Just keep taking the 90 minute Saturday afternoon medicine courtesy of Dr Danny and Nurse Nicky, and eventually the scourge of top-flight commercialism and crass exploitation of football fans will be eradicated, and you too can feel as pure and as smug as us full-time Imps fans.

Featured image by Graham Burrell



  1. Whilst schooling in North Hykeham it was generally accepted that you’d follow a bigger club (I choose Wolves rather than the predominant North West or London based teams) and I’d go along to Sincil Bank once in a while to see a professional game and maybe pour a little scorn on the team, it seemed to me LCFC were continually seeking re-election to the football league back in those days. During season 82-83 I took my nephew to watch Wolves at Hillsborough, I quickly fell in love with the City of Sheffield and the big match atmosphere that Hillsborough offered, SWFC became my team. I jettisoned the old gold of Wolves for the blue & white of Wednesday 15 years after deciding at the age of 11 that Wolves were my team. Ten years further on and with the birth of my son my match day experience became less relevant and I quickly weaned myself off SWFC. At this time I had moved from Boston (visited York Street on a number of occasions during my brief sojourn there) to South Yorkshire and from time to time watched my local club Barnsley. As I reflect on the passing years and my commitment to two clubs mentioned above, LCFC were always in my thoughts with occasional return visits to the Bank to witness their lot, mostly not great it has to be said. It feels over recent years that LCFC is indeed my team, the club that perhaps I’ve been married to since the league cup tie with Newcastle back in 1967 but with two notable indiscretions. Can I be forgiven as I endeavour along with 9,000+ supporters to acquire a ticket for a match I couldn’t foresee happening in my life time?

  2. Tottenham fan from Nebraska, USA here. We get all the EPL games albeit, 6 hours earlier than you would consider normal.
    Back in July I picked a few non-EPL teams to watch just to get a broader sense of the game. There are a lot of nuances that escape a foreigner and I thought that seeing how it all fit together I’d understand it all better. Lincoln City just got tacked on to my list a week into the season because I liked the name. I thought Tranmere was going to be the biggest challenge of the season.
    But seriously, I thought, what ever happens in the National League? Well, quite a lot. It’s been a magical season for the Imps and I do feel a little guilty, as a Spurs backer, cheering for another team.
    When the Imps get to the Premier League I’ll have to stick with my Spurs but till then I’ll be a fan.
    Good Luck,
    Patrick D.

  3. Gary. You may be posting this just to be provocative. However, let me offer you a different perspective. The first point is that everyone is different. Judging others by your own frame of reference is not a great starting point in any analysis of ethereal things such as passion and commitment. You have explained what works for you. Fine. But that can’t be a basis for judging others. What you seem to be doing is working on the basis of elitism in terms of putting your own passion on a higher scale than others because you have suffered all the dark days (in person). So, as I understand how you work this, you will be very high up the scale of entitlement, but below someone like Chris Ashton, presumably because Lincoln City is his life to the exclusion of anything else. But, you are much higher up the scale than a person who (god forbid) wasn’t allowed to go to their local club until they were 11 and in the meantime supported a club they could actually watch on TV (having retained an affection for them, despite that coming very much second to their love for the Imps). On this basis, people who dress up as Darth Vader of a weekend and have a house full of Star Wars memorabilia are more entitled to shed a tear when an old Han Solo appears on the screen in Star Wars VII, than anyone else in the cinema. Passion and commitment is personal and different for everyone. A great deal of people have found this season very moving – including those who are not season ticket holders, or who now live in other parts of the country. All are equal. All are entitled.

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