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It is, to all intents and purposes, the end of the football season, and I’ve got something of a dilemma that I wanted to share, or whatever reason, with you lot. In order to fully explain this dilemma, though, I need to give you a little bit of life history. Bear with me, though, because it will all make sense in the end.
I was born and brought up in North London and Hertfordshire. The first match that I went to was an Isthmian League match between Enfield and Carshalton Athletic in 1977. For those of you that don’t know, Enfield is fairly solid Tottenham Hotspur territory, and my father is a Spurs supporter, so I got co-opted into that as well. The very early 1980s were a very successful time for Enfield. They were asked to join the Alliance Premier League in 1981 and won the FA Trophy in 1982. They were happy, innocent days. In the summer of 1982, though, my family and I moved to a village in Hertfordshire, and I went to my first St Albans City match, a 2-0 home defeat by Walton & Hersham, at the start of the following season.
At the time, my remaining grandparents still lived in Enfield, and were becoming very infirm. My parents visited them every weekend, so I managed to alternate St Albans and Enfield until about 1987, by which time school football matches and the onset of adolescence meant that the appeal of going to London with my parents every other Saturday was starting to wane. I started going to St Albans’ home and away matches. It became a habit, and it wasn’t really about the football. By the time I was into my mid-20s, a small group of us would meet in the morning and get the train to wherever St Albans were playing, usually accompanied with enough drink to float a battleship. In 2003, when I moved to London, and lived near Kentish Town because I still worked in St Albans, continuing to travel up for matches most Saturdays. It was just the way that things had turned out.
Last April, though, we moved to Brighton. I made a promise to myself that I would try to get to as many St Albans matches as I could, and managed the first two, but then life started to get in the way. It felt like an effort to make a two hour train journey to get there, and I started to go to matches that were more convenient. As you guys are well aware, I went to Wimbledon four or five times, a couple of games at Worthing, an FA Vase match at Whitehawk, and so on. I went to four St Albans matches in total this season in total. The fact of the matter is that I love living in Brighton, and can’t see myself moving back to London, or to St Albans, or anywhere. I’ve had to contemplate that my relationship with St Albans City FC will always be a long distance one. As the season has worn on, I’ve cared less and less about how they’ve been doing. I know, in my heart of hearts, that I will never be a regular at Clarence Park again.
So, my question to you is this: what do I do? I’m asking the question now, because the close season is the best time to think about it. Now, a few things to make clear, before we go any further. Firstly, I am aware of how much the above reads like some sort of marriage gone sour, so there’s no need to point that out to me. Secondly, as those of you that read this blog regularly may already be aware, I’m not exactly a glory-hunter. I’m not set to transfer my allegiance to a team that wins all the time, like Manchester United, or whoever. I have, however, come to a conclusion that long-distance football relationships don’t work. I have, therefore, come up with a number of options in advance of next season, and would be interested in your thoughts.
Option 1: Carry on with St Albans. I mean, there is a direct train there, and I do own a replica shirt. But who am I kidding? Am I seriously going to make that sort of journey every other week? It’s not an issue of relegation into the Conference South. We’d spent the previous 19 years at that level, after all. It’s the reality of the fact that I would only go to about five matches, no matter what league they were in.
Option 2: Pick another team. A clean break, and everything. I wouldn’t claim lifelong support, obviously (because that would be a lie), but this has a lot going for it. More local would be great, and I’m unconcerned about whether they’re any good or not, too. I’ll probably post a follow-up post with a short-list for this at some point.
Option 3: Sell my support on Ebay. I don’t know or care whether this has been done before but, if I can’t decide who to support, what better a way to decide? I could spend the money a replica shirt, or a scarf or something. It would have to be limited to, say, within 90 minutes journey from here by public transport, though.
Option 4: Become a groundhopper. Now, I’ve mentioned the appeal to me of this before. Trouble is, none of my local football-type friends find this appealing in the slightest, so it would be a completely solitary pursuit, which I find slightly troubling.
Option 5: Not support anyone or go to matches, and sit here like some sort of irritatingly impartial football equivalent of buddha. Doesn’t really sound like much fun, does it?
So there we go. I’ve got until about the start of August to make a final decision (after all, I could have squad numbers and club histories to learn, and so on). Your thoughts would be most appreciated.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
I’d suggest following Brighton, but that would involve going to football with Dotmund.
should go for option 4 be life changing
EASTBOURNE TOWN, EASTBOURNE TOWN.
Edmund, we discussed Eastbourne Town at great length the week before last (yes, I’m afraid that I do have this conversation on the real world) and, if I recall correctly, the conclusion of my findings was a resounding “NO”.
Clearly, you are a St Albans fan. You should go to your five games a year, and enjoy them, and have that wonderful ‘why don’t I do this every week’ feeling before disappearing for another couple of months. However, you obviously need a local fix as well, so you should adopt a local team who are at least a couple of divisions away from your first club. Brighton might be a good start, and god knows after the last ten years or so they deserve some support, or someone down in Rymans one…Basically, I don’t see why 1. precludes doing 2. too.
Brighton is an option, and one I’ll be more likely to take if Falmer gets the go ahead (when is that announced? July?). Me and BHA have a “bit of history” (family connections, etc), but I really couldn’t handle watching football at The Withdean every week. Truly, it is the worst ground in the League.
Nothing wrong with being an armchair fan, and just going along to games you fancy. Ive seen Birmingham precisely 0 times this season, my “second team” (liverpool) also zero, and have no interest in following a london team. In fact, the only game i was going to go to this season was tomorrow at Wembley, but due to a scheduling cock up, i’m in wales.
I was supposed to be going to the Trophy final, but have utterly made a bollix of it. Wembley and it’s voluminous floor space will have to wait. Like I say, I’ve got until August to decide, but I’d like to be a little less scattergun in my approach to watching football matches next season.
From my own experience non-league football allows you the beauty of connection without the long-term commitment – a footballing fuck-buddy is the best analogy I can make at this time on a friday afternoon.
You can go along pick a team and then if the entertainment is good enough – you can reap the joy of success or taste the crushing disappointment of defeat.
I had no problem dropping Croydon Ath for Whyteleafe – and they’re in the same division.
You’ll always have st albans, who knows, you may even meet up again in a few years time at a friends reunited disco. After coy pleasantries and reminiscences you’ll embark on highly inadvisable affair – one you’ll probably regret even before you start.
Talking from experience. I find that supporting Plymouth and going when I can but also supporting Bristol City and going to may matches has been good. Now I have the problem, City have just been promoted so will be playing Plymouth next season. Whcih end do I sit in?
Well, there’s a dilemma. The away end is usually more fun than being at home, but you’re less likely to be on the winning side if you go in the away end. Also, the away end at Ashton Gate isn’t up to much. So, the only rational answer is: support Bristol City.
I don’t really understand the idea of changing your team, so I’d say stick with St Albans but just go and watch other people as you fancy.
you’re right that long-distance doesn’t work. This is a major reason why I don’t want to have to move back to the UK. The thought of what the Italians with typical sentimentality call ‘the team of my heart’ being in another country is awful.
If you start regularly going to see another side you may or may not end up developing a proper bond with them, it needn’t necessarily threaten your St Alban’s-ness… but it might. That’s a risk you take, I guess.
Whatever you decide will be correct Ian. I watch all the Spurs matches but managed to get to a ton other new grounds this season. I enjoyed your blog on this subject.
what did you decide?
The soluntiion seems clear to me – support Carshalton Athletic, they were there at your first game and have been waiting patiently for you ever since.