“Who’s your second team after Norwich, Daddy?”
I shot my son a look that showed my disdain for his enquiry.
“What sort of question is that?” I asked. “It’s like asking me who else I want to be with apart from Mummy”.
“But I already know the answer to that”, he replied and proceeded to reel-off a list of famous women for whom at one time or other I might have expressed a certain appreciation.
“You like football, you must like other teams apart from Norwich?” he contested.
He’s wrong on both counts.
I don’t like football – I love football.
But I love my football team more and that means there’s no room in my affections for other clubs.
Two weeks ago I watched Lyon play Ajax in the Europa League semi-final. As the game reached its conclusion with the Amsterdam side leading 5-4 on aggregate, Lyon staged a full-scale assault in search of the goal that would take it to extra time.
Far from sitting back and soaking up the pressure, the Dutch went looking for a second and decisive away goal. What followed was reminiscent of the closing rounds of a boxing match with two tiring fighters desperately throwing punches in search of landing the knock-out blow.
It was cracking stuff for the neutral.
And I was exactly that; neutral, ambivalent. I wanted Lyon to equalise but only to take the match into extra-time to give me a further half hour’s entertainment.
Had it been a Norwich game, I would have happily foregone all of that excitement for the sake of the result. When it comes to City, give me a dire 1-0 win every time over the sort of game we witnessed at St James’s Park for example.
Perhaps somewhere along the line, my love for my football club has superseded my love of the game and it’s taken me to a place where many of the things I value about football have become secondary to the fortunes of Norwich City.
I have a mate whose Twitter profile lists out all of the football clubs he supposedly ‘supports’.
He has more sides than a fifty pence piece.
That can’t be right can it? Or maybe being a football fan means you can actually develop a fondness of all those who do it well? Maybe you can follow the fortunes of more than one club?
Location matters of course. I’m fortunate that I live within walking distance of Carrow Road and so supporting Norwich City doesn’t require the efforts made by many of you or those who are forced to follow from afar.
But it wasn’t always so. For six years around the time that Mike Walker led us to third place in the Premiership (as it was back then) and European adventures, I lived in Brighton.
Aside from ‘away’ trips to the capital and south coast clubs, plus the occasional trip back to Norfolk, most weekends were football-free. As boredom turned to desperation, I began going to the Goldstone Ground to watch Brighton & Hove Albion.
At the time they were in the third tier, which courtesy of the newly formed Premiership was Division Two, which in new money is League One.
Whatever you call it, it was dire.
In the 1992/93 season, Brighton contested the third tier alongside clubs such as Stoke, West Brom, Swansea, Hull, Burnley and Bournemouth as well as Reading, Fulham and Huddersfield.
I say ‘contested’. The matches were low on quality and low on atmosphere. Most were played out in front of a few thousand soulless souls who appeared to be there for the same reason as me (i.e. They literally had nothing better to do).
Over the course of a couple of seasons, I found myself as little more than an impassive observer.
After all, with City challenging the likes of Bayern and Inter, it all seemed a world away from what I knew as ‘football’ – not just a different club but a different sport and surprisingly easy to ring-fence the two.
Despite becoming a ‘regular’ at the Albion, I can’t say I ever developed a genuine attachment to the club but to this day, (I suppose) they are the closest I ever came to having a ‘second team’.
And now they’re in the Premier League.
Surely an opportunity for my ‘inner glory hunter’ to rear its ugly head?
After all, ‘I WAS there when they were s**t’.
But I can’t find it in myself to feel pleased for them. Not even when you consider that one of football’s nicest characters led them to the Promised Land and in doing so found personal redemption.
As a football fan, particularly one who stood on the terraces of the Goldstone, I should appreciate the achievement, in the same way that I should appreciate the likes of Bournemouth, Watford or Burnley upsetting the ‘establishment’ in the Premier League.
But I’m not a football fan – I’m a Norwich supporter.
I’m not pleased for any of them and in a wholly petty and spiteful way I hope they all get stuffed in the Premier League.
It’s odd because surely I should feel a far closer affiliation to clubs like Middlesbrough or Swansea – clubs of a similar stature to our own? I should empathise with their fans who like us, have suffered at the hands of the Premier League big boys week after week. I should revel every time they pull off an upset and stick it to the billionaire owners of the ‘haves’ on behalf of all the ‘have-nots’.
And yet I don’t.
I feel nothing, because they’re not my team.
Brighton ceased to be the club I used to watch and became the opposition; the team that thrashed us 5-0 at the Amex; the team whose supporters gave Alex Pritchard a load of abuse and crowed about being promoted.