Malcolm Dawson writes….Summer Madness is the retrospective spot where we republish articles from days gone by. Well it helps to fill in time whilst we wait for the start of the new season. Pete Sixsmith and I are off to Tow Law this afternoon where the Development squad take on the Lawyers in a pre-season friendly. Chris Waddle of course has played for both clubs but I doubt he’ll be there shouting “pelanty” every time a player goes down in or near the box! A match report will follow.
Meanwhile we go back half a decade to 2010 when M Salut asked the question “What gives you the right to support a team.” I have included the comments which were made at the time. Please feel free to add to those.
Like the look of Chelsea? Gasp in admiration at Man United’s trophy cupboard? Fine, then let’s become a supporter. We can always find out where the place is later.
What are the tests a supporter should pass to qualify as a real fan of the team he or she follows, as opposed to a bandwagon jumper?
I have my own set of rules.
You are entitled to support Sunderland or Melchester Rovers or whoever IF one of the following applies:
1 You were born or brought up in Sunderland, Melchester or whatever, or their surrounding areas
2 They were the team your dad took you to see for your first professional league game
3 Your family’s roots are in the relevant area even though you were born and/or raised far away, even abroad
4 You formed a close bond through playing or otherwise working for the club, or in the town or city where it plays
You do NOT qualify IF:
1 You decided to support the club because it seemed to be very successful or had just won something important
2 You liked the club’s name
3 All the lads at school put club names in a hat and you had to promise to support the one you pulled out
That’s all dogmatic enough and I’m aware of another rule: the one about glasshouses and stone-throwing.
I believe I match up to my own demands on proper football support on rules 1-3 of eligibility. I was born far away from Sunderland – in Hove for heaven’s sake – but my family, which had many roots in the North East, Sunderland included, moved to Shildon, County Durham when I was a few months old.
Sunderland was always known as the County Durham team, whatever fiddling was later done with local authority boundaries to create Tyne and Wear. Quite simply, if you grew up in what I do not remember being called, in those days, The Land of the Prince Bishops, you supported SAFC and Durham County Cricket Club. Allowances were made if your bit of Durham was so close to Newcastle or Middlesbrough to make one of them the more obvious choice.
You could be much stricter than this, and some people are. They argue that the right to support a club is determined by one thing and one thing alone: place of birth.
But if you applied the letter of that law, it would exclude all sorts of people with long-established family traditions of support or strong links developed in one way or another with the club in question. In Sunderland’s case, it would disenfranchise thousands upon thousands of people who have, like me, always regarded the whole of County Durham as a legitimate catchment area. If only people born and bred in Sunderland were allowed to support the team, the attendances over the years would have been much lower.
Look at this girlhood memory of Kate Adie, from an interview for the Celebrity Supporters series that began life in the magazine of the SAFC Supporters’ Association London and SE branch.
“I remember thinking how curious it was as you got nearer the ground to see all these rather ancient buses full of supporters from Tow Law or Spennymoor or Crook. They seemed such far-off places. The small towns and pit villages were somehow seen as separate from Sunderland, and the one time that the divide was breached was at the match.”
I’ll go even further. Sir Tim Rice would expect to be disqualified under my ineligibility rule number two. He and his school pals were deciding who they should follow, and young Timothy liked the name of Sunderland. Yet no one could doubt that he has become an ardent and loyal fan.
Read the interview he gave me a few years ago and see if you agree:
Ineligibility rule one might also shunt Lance Hardy, author of the 1973 FA Cup final book, into the sidings of football support. At home in Nottinghamshire as a very young boy, he was placed in front of the television on May 5 of that year and told to shout for the Lads against Leeds. He has supported us passionately ever since.
So maybe my rules are not rules at all but guidelines. There has to be flexibility. What do others think?
You can learn more about the origins and depth of Lance’s allegiance to Sunderland AFC, and about his book, Stokoe, Sunderland and ‘73: The Story of the Greatest FA Cup Final Shock of All Time. when my interview with him is posted at Salut! Sunderland in the next few days.