I wrote an article the other day about the season’s resumption and received a comment from a reader who felt I’d attacked the fact some fans support two teams.
This was the article and, if I’m honest, I can’t see where I attacked fans who have two teams. In fact, I think being uniquely a one-team supporter is more of an oddity in this day and age, but I don’t have a serious problem with either. I wanted to state that before putting anything out; there is nothing wrong with someone having two teams. I’d say it is alien, but I had an experience back in May last year which reminded me it wasn’t.
I’ve told the story many times how when I was a lad my Dad made me pick a ‘big’ club from a sticker album so I didn’t get bullied for following Lincoln. Remember, I went to my first match in 1986 when fewer than 3,000 turned up to watch us get rolled over by Hartlepool (4-1), so my Dad just wanted to protect me from being bullied. I unwittingly defied him by picking Luton Town, something that wore off after a couple of years. Since around 1992 I have been exclusively Lincoln and the only times I ever saw the Hatters play was against Lincoln. However, as a kid, I did have the thrill of following a top-flight club as well, until they were relegated and I realised where my heart lay.
I forgot about this, treated it more as an amusing (ish) anecdote rather than any serious intent on my part to be the typical two-team (insert your own expletive here). After all, supporting two teams is something football snobs look down upon and perhaps, for a while, I did feel ‘better’ as a wholesome Imps’ fan than someone who followed two teams. A bit like a man loyal to his wife feels better about his own integrity when he talks to a workmate who is having an affair.
Last May I went to the Ivy Club in Wragby to watch the Champions League final. My mate Jimmy Newlin and his brother Mike are huge Spurs fans, whilst a friend of mine since I was six, Dayle Rowson, was there watching Liverpool. I didn’t really give two hoots who won, but I pretended I didn’t want Liverpool to win son all my ‘dirty scouser’ hating mates were in a good mood. I think my mate Pete has conditioned me to hate Liverpool, slyly feeding anti-Merseyside rhetoric into every conversation we have. This very morning he told me he would feel sorry for fans of any club, Leeds and City included, if they were denied a Premier League title this season, but if Liverpool are he’d love it.
Back to the Ivy Club; Mike and Jimmy came over from Bardney and brought with them a chap called Kieran who my Mum and Dad knew from back in the day. I remember going with Kieran to watch the Imps and Southampton in the League Cup in 88/89, so started to chat to him about that. He’d been on the sauce for a bit so it took him a moment to realise who I was, then he exclaimed ‘little ginger Gary, the Luton Town fan? Bloody hell’.
I was mortified. Here I am, a man who prides himself on being Lincoln City, through and through, and yet in a pub I’ve drunk in since I was 18 (honest guv) I was being called out as a supporter of Luton Town. We smoothed that over with a few chuckles, but it did remind me of how I seriously supported another side. I revelled in Luton beating Oxford 7-4, in Lars Elstrup and David Preece playing slick football, in Big Mick Harford elbowing anything and everything he could. I loved those ‘Bedford’ sponsored shirts, all the time also yearning for Gordon Hobson, Paul Smith and red and white stripes. My first love, always, was Lincoln City and sometimes, when the darkness sets in at night, I have to remind myself of that.
It is why I think Kelvin’s comments drove me to my keyboard on this fine afternoon (when I should be out treating the log cabin). I thought about my circle of friends now; Dave (Liverpool) who sat with me for two seasons and Matt (Spurs) who sits next to me now. I remember spending loads of time with Casey (Leeds) when I was Poacher, or even convincing my Dad (Chelsea) to come watch the increasingly awful Imps’ side of the late 10’s. I see it on Twitter, Facebook and at the ground, supporters of big clubs watching both Lincoln and the top flight.
It is alien to me now, I couldn’t imagine caring about anyone other than Lincoln, but let us be honest, our league and the Premier League exist in different worlds. Did I think less of Gav and Shaun (Everton) when they got excited about their two teams coming together in the cup earlier this season? No. Why? Because both can be found down at Sincil Bank putting their money, heart and soul into following Lincoln. If they’ve also got an affinity for another club, is that such a problem? I was mortified to think a reader believed I exercised such snobbery when it came to football. If your two clubs are Grimsby and Lincoln, or something similar, then you’re clearly missing the point, but Lincoln and a bigger club? No issue from me. If you’re putting money into your local club, that’s great. I’d rather you had two teams and followed the Imps than living on Scorer Street and spending your Saturday afternoons watch Sky Sports News. I think back to my mate Marc Woolley, he was a huge Forest fan but used to come to the Bank every week with his young lad because it was his local team. Why on earth would I disrespect someone like that, committing to following his local club even when his heart lay elsewhere? We don’t want a stadium full of fans who prefer to be at other grounds, but it doesn’t hurt to keep local people coming down when there are seats available.
I suppose the interesting question would be if someone like me, a podcast presenter and content creator for a smaller club, could also support a bigger club. I think to some fans who also support bigger clubs but have held prominent supporter roles, such as Kev Barwise (Man City) for instance. He edited Deranged Ferret for a while, did it lose credibility because of that? No, certainly not at the time, but would this site and the podcast feel as relevant to Lincoln fans if I also spouted the virtues of Arsenal’s attack? I’m not so sure. It’s not a question I need to address, I couldn’t tell you who started matches this season for Luton (apart from Alan Sheehan), and although I rib Ben about being a Man United fan, he isn’t.
Could I sit on the Supporter’s Board if I followed two teams? Yes, I suppose so, I don’t actually know if any of my fellow SB members support two teams or not, but what would it matter? I know staff at the club who support the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves, does that make their input on a daily basis any less important? Of course not. However, if you identify as a ‘supporter’, not staff or the like, but you have a second club, then any opinion you express on Lincoln that is contentious is bound to be met with ‘yeah, but you’re just a part-time fan anyway’. I suppose that’s the go-to insult for anyone disliking the opinion of fans with second clubs isn’t it, the ‘I’m better than you because I only support Lincoln’ defence. Are you though? What makes one fan better than another? Being able to afford to forgo a refund on a season ticket? No. Having supported for much, much longer? No. Never giving up on the club, always being behind them on a Saturday and always sticking with them through thick and thin? Maybe, yes. Then again, who am I to say which fan is better than another? Who is anyone to judge another person at all, on their football club or in wider society? I suppose this whole debate begins to become a little philosophical when you start to ask the wider questions.
The point here is that I don’t have an issue with two team fans, never have and never will. Loads of supporters have second teams, even our much-loved photographer Bubs has a second team (South Shields) but it is odd for Lincoln to be the ‘big’ club! I suppose having a non-league side and a league side is like having a team you follow in separate countries isn’t it? Bubs follows the side he grew up near and the Imps, something I can wholly get on board with. I do see how people have clubs in other countries they look out for too; I had Siena in Italy (they went bust), then AS Bari (same). I used to keep an eye out for Seattle Storm back in the day as well (now defunct), so with that record maybe I ought to start following Liverpool too, eh Pete?