Monday, 26 March 2012

Support your local team? Why bother?

Derry City v Bohemians


When I was younger I was a massive fan of Tottenham Hotspur. I'm not from North London, let alone England, but I was a supporter: I followed the fortunes of the team, watched their games when possible and bought (or rather received) replica shirts, which I wore with pride as I attempted to emulate my heroes Stephen Carr, J├╝rgen Klinsmann and Darren Anderton. I endured the obligatory teasing from what I always thought were gloryhunting Liverpool and Manchester United fans for my choice of team and even found a degree of solidarity with other suffering Spurs fans.


But was it my choice? That is, was it really my choice to support Spurs? 

Klinsmann playing for Spurs


The short answer is no; I was, to use a rather crude term, indoctrinated. My father (also not from North London) supported Spurs and, at the time, it seemed only natural for me to do likewise. In fact it was somewhat expected that I do so. When I look back on it, is was actually a great opportunity to bond (I think every father should endeavour to find an activity that he can include his son in). However as I grew older I gradually lost interest in Spurs, whose fortunes, in a cruel twist, conversely improved. It suddenly felt strange for me to be supporting a team that I had no personal or even perceived connection with, a team that didn't, in reality, represent me. So instead, I chose to focus my energy on my local team, Derry City. 

I had been a regular at the Brandywell in the late "nineties" and early "two-thousands", going to games with my father and a cousin who held a season ticket. I actually won the Derry Journal's "Face in the Crowd" competition which, to my joy, gifted me the latest Derry City home and away shirts at the time. It was almost a type of consolation for the embarrassment of having an open-gobbed image of myself broadcast to the City (something which my friends and teachers wasted no time in slagging me for). Around the time that I was born, Derry City was one of the strongest teams in Ireland, but their fortunes had declined somewhat approaching the early "two-thousands". However, that did not stop me from relishing our regular trips to the Brandywell. One of the greatest spectacles I ever witnessed was a relegation playoff in 2003, when City legend Liam Coyle, in his last ever game, condemned local rivals Finn Harps to another season in the First Division in front of a crowd of over 7,000. Magic stuff.


The Brandywell
Nearly a decade on from that day, I am still supporting Derry City and there have been quite a few "ups" and, unfortunately, some "downs". What Derry City fan could forget that marvellous European adventure in 2006 or the (various) cup wins? By the same token, fans experienced the pain of an acrimonious fall from grace as the club was shrouded in controversy and relegated, for the first time in its history, to the League of Ireland First Division. One thing is certain, following Derry City will not leave you pining for drama. 

Cup celebrations


The real attraction, however, for me, is the sense of belonging that supporting the club brings. When I watch Derry City on television or travel to watch their games, I am watching a team of modestly paid players, most of whom hail from Derry and the surrounding area. I have even gone to school with some City players, played with and against others - the connection truly is palpable. When I appeal to people to support their local team rather than some foreign entity like Manchester United or Glasgow Celtic, it is not, as it might be misconstrued, out of a petty hatred of all things British; it comes from a genuine desire to help local pursuits prosper.

But as my good (he might argue great) friend sardonically put it: "Sure what's the point in supporting your local team? Why would you bother taking the short journey into the Brandywell to spend a small amount to watch a team of local men play when you could spend preposterous amounts on supporting a team from a different country filled with overpaid individuals?". Indeed. Why would you bother?

Support your local team!


6 comments:

  1. Although I agree with the sentiment of supporting your local team, there is one core reason why I don't, the stupidity of the FAI. Perfect example is the debacle surrounding Galway United. Galway City is only big enough for one LOI team, yet last year we had three, and this year we now have two, Galway SD and Mervue United. Two teams that represent sections of Galway rather than Galway as a whole. Before, Galway enjoyed attendances ranging from 600-2000, depending on the game. Now combined these two teams are lucky to get 500, as many Galway United supporters don't see either team as representative of them. So the LOI has lost supporters due to this. This is one example of many that infuriates me and prevents me form wanting to associate myself with LOI. Instead I rather watch a well run league that contain the best footballers in the world. Overpaid, spoiled ponces some of them may be, put extremely talented overpaid spoiled ponces. But that is only the upper echelon, the likes of Stoke and Sunderland and particularly Swansea this year, I feel are more representative of the English leagues.

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  2. That's an interesting point regarding Swansea in particular, considering that they're a Welsh team!

    I understand the frustration with the FAI and the Galway situation is a bit of a shambles all right. Hopefully the running of the league will improve, but that would entail more people taking an interest and subjecting the organisers to more scrutiny, in my opinion.

    With regard to the standard difference, I have a small issue. That is, while I know that the overall standard of the EPL is better than the LOI, the LOI (and to a lesser degree the IL) is regularly exporting talent to British leagues, so there is talent here which would benefit from a much more competitive league. The most recent example is James McClean, who made the jump from LOI 1st Div to LOI Premier to EPL and an international cap in successive seasons. Ex Derry player Danny Lafferty just made his Burnley debut last week, while we also have former Sligo Rovers and St Pat's players Seamus Coleman and Keith Fahey, who are now Irish internationals.

    These players benefitted from full time top quality coaching, but they didn't change drastically overnight - McClean in particular is the same player who was scoring rockets against Mervue and Galway a few seasons ago. If Irish clubs can change at a grass roots level, to nurture young talent and bring them through here first and maybe send them off to England at 19/20/21 (or in McClean's case 22 going 23) rather than sending them off to England at 16,then I think the standard of the league will improve.

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  3. Funny you mention Swansea being more representative. I whole heartedly agree. However, there is an annoying little side-effect of their promotion.

    I've been in Swansea since October and have spoke to countless fans who went to virtually every home game Swansea played over the last 10 years but since they've been promoted they have literally been unable to attend a single home match. This is due to 'fans' buying up season tickets. I suspect a large portion of these season ticket holders were not attending every game The Swans played on their journey to the premier league but once there they decided it was now a good time to swear alliance. Lucky for them that this coincides with the best teams in England visiting Swansea once a season...

    With regard to what you were saying about Galway and its fabricated division along an imaginary line it is quite unbelievable. Someone must have mistaken the City for Manchester. Obviously because of the sprawling suburbs and enormous population!

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  4. Fantastic read I'm a Spurs fan too but a LOI die hard first. Irish people really make no sense they hate England but love Man United. Rooney is a God yet when he plays at the WC with England he's a fat ******* that you'd love to kill? I love Ireland but I hate the "Eircom League" really folks make up your mind your either English or Irish.

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  5. Cheers for the comments, they are much appreciated! I hope to return to the notion soon enough.

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