Keep it local for supporting role

Dave Devereux

Published 12/03/2016 | 00:00

Supporters watching a match in the pub
Supporters watching a match in the pub

I could justifiably be accused of having more pet hates than a cat allergy sufferer, but one thing that gets my goat more than most is the way barstool football supporters speak about English sides as if they are born and bred natives of the city of their club of choice.

You know the kind of talk: 'We're back in the title race', 'our midfielders are just not up to it', 'the damned referees are always biased against us', and other such nonsensical drivel and utter claptrap.

I can never quite fathom what makes someone from Wexford, Wicklow, Waterville or Westport believe they are so tightly entwined with a club across the water - particularly when the franchise that they follow so religiously couldn't give a rat's arse about them.

We've all seen it a million times - guys in their Manchester United or Liverpool jerseys getting to their feet in some watering hole or other and applauding a goal or even a substitution like a bunch of slobbering sea lions as if somehow their glowing appreciation will be beamed through the TV screens to Old Trafford or Anfield.

In days of yore there may have been a tiny bit of sense to the undying devotion when there used to be a smattering of top-class Irish players in the ranks of the big clubs across the water, but if you were going to use that criteria these days you'd be better off plumping for a Championship club than one of the top flight's elite.

There's absolutely nothing tribal or parochial about following overseas football whether these 'die-hard' fans want to believe it or not.

Even if you make the short trip across the Irish Sea once or twice a year to Anfield, Old Trafford or the Emirates, it doesn't make you a proper fully-fledged follower.

Premier League football is just about entertainment and unless you're a dyed-in-the-wool fan it's no different than going to see a film or a concert.

It's a simple case of watching overly-paid stars prancing about on a football field for our pleasure and nothing more.

With very few exceptions, gone are the days when players actually performed for the love of the shirt.

Warriors like Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher or Gary Neville, who bucked the trend and had a real passion for their club, are becoming rarer and rarer and will soon be consigned to memory with the Dodo and Chris Waddle's mesmerising mullet.

It's understandable that people are drawn to the skills of certain players, whether it be Wayne Rooney, Alexis Sanchez or Sergio Aguero, but that's just a reason to admire, not to fervently shout about 'us' and 'we' from the rooftops.

Maybe it's just because I happen to be a long-suffering Swindon Town supporter that this phenomenon appears so ridiculous, given it's something that, more often than not, you'd want to keep quiet about.

Then again, all the Swindon fans in the country could be gathered into a phone box, so having a conversation about 'us' doing well, or as is the more usual, badly, could involve me excitedly talking to myself (nothing new there then).

Having supported Swindon from a young age and going on to live and work in the town for a few months, at least yours truly has some kind of connection to the place, albeit a small one, but I still wouldn't have the audacity to claim to be part of the fabric of the club, like some of our TV clapping, back-slapping friends.

When Ireland line out in the Euros in the summer, supporters can rightfully bellow about 'us' and 'we' all they like, as they hiss and boo players in an England shirt - stars that they idolise once they switch to their club colours.

Supporting our national teams certainly brings a sense of togetherness but the further down the ladder you go the more tribal the feeling becomes.

From country, down to province, to county, to club - the more local and parochial that it is, the more proper, chest-beating pride you can have in the jersey.

So instead of heading down to the pub to show your wholehearted allegiance to a team that you don't really have a connection to, pop down to see Wexford Youths, Bray Wanderers, Waterford United or whatever happens to be your closest League of Ireland club.

You'd never know, you just might enjoy it.

Wexford People

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