If I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody, baby…
Now that we won’t be hosting Peterborough United in round four of the Carling Cup, I thoroughly recommend you try and get to the Playhouse on Wednesday October 28th to catch Tim Minchin. Looking like a younger, ginger-haired brother of Robert Smith from The Cure, the Australian pianist/comedian’s material isn’t easily pigeon-holed; I’d say he’s a cross between Ricky Gervais, Eddie Izzard and Victoria Wood, as unlikely as that probably sounds. And howlingly funny.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this. Bear with me. Don’t worry – I’m not a Posh fan trying to offload a couple of tickets so I can make it up to Blackburn. It’s just that I happened to see Minchin at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, and particularly recall a number in which he debunks the whole ‘soul-mate’ thing.
It was a song for his wife, basically saying, “listen, darling, I love you and all that, and everything’s great, but if I hadn’t met you, or if it hadn’t worked out, well…it would’ve just been someone else. My life wouldn’t have been ruined or rendered meaningless. I would have got over it. And I’d have simply gone for some other woman instead (possibly even your best mate)”.
It’s rare these days for any of us to find ourselves hooked up with our childhood sweetheart. We like to play the field, as they say, ‘sow our wild oats’. Some of us – especially the gentlemen – keep on playing (and sowing) longer than we perhaps should. Yet to our football teams, we remain feverishly loyal, usually pairing up for life.
So I got to thinking…
Let’s suppose that for some reason you were no longer able to support Nottingham Forest. Say there’d been a law passed against it, or the club simply ceased to exist. Who would you go for instead? Which club would you console yourself with, transfer your passions to?
Clearly there are some no-go areas. Derby, for instance. That goes without saying. Liverpool wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of my list either, oddly enough. And I’ve always had an instinctive dislike for Spurs, which predates the 1991 Cup Final. I think it came from that period in the early 80s when they seemed to believe the success they were having was only what a self-styled ‘big club’ such as themselves deserved. The occasions over the last few seasons where Tottenham have flirted with the bottom three of the Premier League in the first half of the season filled me with false hope. That they might have a rude awakening, such as that visited upon Newcastle (another one of God’s chosen clubs, of course), was the stuff of fantasy.
It’s not always about loathing. For some reason, I find the idea of supporting Aston Villa hopelessly depressing. They’ve always seemed such an unexciting prospect, and not even the presence of Mssrs O’Neill and Robertson has altered anything. Then again, I feel roughly similar about Birmingham City, so perhaps it’s just geography. Speaking of geography, following Plymouth Argyle is unattractive from a financial perspective, in view of the cost involved in getting to most away games.
I ought to confess at this point that Forest weren’t the first club I ever snogged. As a seven year old, my dad took me for my debut experience of professional football to Sincil Bank to watch Lincoln City beat Preston North End. The following weekend, we stood (as you did then) at the front of the Main Stand as Forest beat Millwall in the final game of the 76-77 season. And that was that.
But who could I realistically consider transferring allegiance to if forced? I spent three years as a student in Sheffield and developed a certain affinity for United. I frequented Bramall Lane from time to time if Forest were playing a distant away game, and even took part in a celebratory pitch invasion when the Blades won promotion from the old Third Division in 1989. And I still dig the ‘greasy chip butty’ song. Although I’ve always liked the name ‘Wednesday’ (and supporting a team who aren’t just a boring old ‘City’, Town’ or ‘United’), this was the Howard Wilkinson era, so Hillsborough wasn’t exactly a theatre of dreams.
Names do count. Crystal Palace: great name. Good nickname too. And I recall, from my Subbuteo-playing days, picking them out on account of that fabulous white strip with its ‘Saturday Night Fever’ blue and red sash. Whereas Brighton and Hove Albion is far too much of a gobful, and there’s something more appealing about being an Eagle than a Seagull. Crewe Alexandra is another fine name, and I imagine supporting a team who also play in red would have certain advantages; it would feel more natural.
So give it a little thought. I might even suggest to the creators of this fine website that they make this the subject of their next poll. And remember, there’s nothing to worry about: as long as you’re only thinking about it, it doesn’t really count.