Doncha just hate people who claim to be football fans and then reel off a list of ‘second’ teams – they just don’t get that being a real fan means complete investment in a single team and ideally the developing of a profound and irrational hatred of the local rivals.
Weeeeell, that would be me. Norwich will always be my team (allowing for my recent rants here about the state of football in general) and whoever is playing Ipswich is elevated to temporary favourite.
But I also keep a raft of second teams. Firstly there is Nottingham Forest.
As a kid, when I didnt know any better, I supported Manchester United (you can’t accuse me of glory hunting, they were a bit rubbish in the mid 70s). The Greenhoff brothers, Martin Buchan, Alex Stepney (I cried after the 1978 Cup final), Gordon Hill and Steve Coppell – ah the mud, the violence and the romance…
Then as geography lessons started to kick in I realised Manchester was nowhere near North Lincolnshire. But Nottingham is and not only that, Forest were getting good (these things do matter in your formative years – admit it). Unfortunately for Brian Clough’s red and white army, some time around 1982 I discovered politics and lost interest in football for best part of a decade, by which time I was living in Norwich and considered the Canaries to be my team.
I also adopted Rapid Bucharest – the Legione Granata – when I was living abroad. There are three teams of note in Bucharest – the army team (Steaua), the police team (Dinamo) and the railway team (Rapid). Given the choice between the army, the police and the railway workers, I know what side I am on… (well that and the fact they won the league the day I arrived in the city for the first time and they have a cool kit).
But my real guilty secret is that I always look out for the results of all four Lincolnshire teams (Humberside, you understand, is a fiction invented in Whitehall forty years ago and in this House was never officially recognised). I am pleased Scunny are doing so well. I hope Boston stay up and I am glad Grimsby have recovered from their wobbles. But Lincoln City are the team I follow with the greatest of interest – guilt probably that I opted for Forest all those years ago instead of my genuinely local team.
And that is why I am feeling so pained tonight. I dont think there is another team in the league who has got into the play-offs so many times without ever winning promotion via them! It’s disastrous, therefore, that defeat against Swindon today leaves them adrift of the automatic promotion places and probably condemned to another futile attempt on the play-offs.
What is even more galling is that the third automatic promotion spot will probably be taken by MK Dons. Milton bloody Keynes. Its not even a proper place let alone a proper team! Plucky Lincoln – the first team to be automatically relegated from the football league (an event Adrian Sanders still celebrates). The holders of the record points haul under two points for a win (in the days before Graham Taylor turned into a turnip). And the club bought by a fans trust to save it from bankruptcy – a genuine community club – will probably lose out on promotion to English football’s first US-style franchise. It’s not, as they say, like it was in my day…