Friday, June 05, 2009

Up for Adoption

I've decided to adopt a Premiership club.

This entire concept may be anathema to many readers, and if so what follows may risk generating considerable ire, for which I apologise.

Now I'm not suggesting that I will love my adopted club in the same way that I love Charlton, but I intend to put in enough time and interest to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship.

Particularly whilst living abroad, but frankly also increasingly at home, coverage of the Premiership is ubiquitous.

It is almost as if the other divisions don't exist, and indeed if nothing is done about the inequity, many of the clubs therein may cease to.

Whilst Charlton were only a single promotion away from the promised land, this disproportionate interest was bearable.

But with us set to begin our first season in the third tier for nearly thirty years, I believe my planned adoption should be seen as merely platonic, and certainly not an infidelity.

Many fans for example would not think it strange to have an ostensibly lesser club for whom they maintain some affection.

I look out for Barnet's results without fear of being labelled a footballing cad. The irony is not lost on me however that we could theoretically switch divisions next season.

So why shouldn't the same concept apply in an upwardly-looking direction? Some may say that our spell in the Premiership ended far too recently, and suggest that I'm simply on the rebound.

Rather than declaring it an 'adoption' (which suggests a degree of permanence), perhaps I should use a 'fostering' analogy instead, implying a loving relationship of unknown length.

My relationship with my newly adopted club will include, but not be limited to the following:

- active viewing of live TV matches involving chosen club;
- review of pre-match team news and interviews;
- reading of post-match media reports;
- occasional visits to fan-based media such as blogs, forums etc.;
- study of key moments in club's history, famous players etc.;
- possible attendance at matches.


The following is however explicitly banned:

- purchase of any club-branded merchandise;
- any declaration that "I'm a ........ fan"
- attendance at matches if Charlton playing at same time, and within reasonable travel distance.


In order to select a suitable club for adoption, a simple process of elimination seems appropriate, except to note that should my adopted club exit the Premiership, a brand new emotionally-charged search must resume.

Likewise, if Charlton return to the Premiership themselves, then all ties must immediately be cut with the adopted club.

I begun by eliminating the two clubs that I find positively abhorrent, namely Tottenham and Chelsea.

When it looked as though Charlton might go out of business in the 1980s, I made some tentative enquiries about the feasibility of owning a Tottenham season ticket....in the away end. However I concluded at the time that the cost of 19 replica shirts was prohibitive.

As for Chelsea, they will always leave me stone cold; they represent everything I loathe about modern football. In the 1980s they played in front of tiny crowds in a dilapidated stadium, and when Abramovich walks away, they'll play in front of tiny crowds in a modern one.

Portsmouth might seem to tick several boxes (plucky underdogs, passionate fans, Hermann Hreidarsson etc.).

However knowing my luck, straight after the adoption ceremony, Harry Redknapp (who repels me) will return as the Messiah, leaving me in a decidedly awkward moral situation.

And lest one forget that the ground is a dump, the town is full of drunken sailors.....and Jerome Thomas plays for them.

Let's quickly tick off the trio of Blackburn, Bolton and Hull, if only because supporting any of them may involve having to visit.....Blackburn, Bolton or Hull.

Bolton's ground is quite nice I suppose, and I'm not that put off by their functional football (it works it seems), but if none of those three clubs existed, no-one would think to invent them.

Manchester City might ordinarily have warranted some consideration. They've always seemed the 'cooler' of the two big Mancunian clubs, and I've always looked quite good in sky blue.

I liked those inflatable bananas too, whilst as a team in League One as recently as 1998/99, they can serve as inspiration for Charlton.

However I'm annoyed that unlike us, they managed to snag the 'good' Arabs (the ones from Abu Dhabi not Dubai). Meanwhile their Chief Executive Garry Cook recently referred to the club as a global franchise entity.

I can swiftly rule out Wolves, Birmingham and Stoke, on the basis that adopting them would be akin to adopting a child, and finding out they were actually your bastard offspring anyhow.

I'll never easily be able to accept they're two Leagues above us now, so similar did we seem barely eighteen months ago. I do admire Rory Delap's throw-in though.

My Dad has confirmed that he has adopted Liverpool, so that would be a popular choice within the family at least.

I am only a Charlton fan because he brainwashed me as a child (how many other Charlton fans do you know with no historical family link whatsoever to South-East London or Kent?).

Having ruined my life once, I don't intend to give him the pleasure of supporting his adopted Premiership club too. Indeed I may support Everton to spite him (see below), just to add some extra spice to those ding-dong Merseyside derbies.

When I told a friend about my adoption plan, he immediately assumed I'd choose Fulham, and that annoyed me. In truth, they never stood a chance.

Thanks to their location on the 'right' side of London, they already enjoyed a higher profile than their mere dozen historic seasons in the top flight warranted, at least until promotion in 2001.

Although they've never won a major trophy, somehow being synonymous with the likes of George Best, Bobby Moore and Johnny Haynes, has earned them a fonder place in footballing hearts than Charlton (albeit without other good reason).

When I see their (admittedly atmospheric) ground filled to capacity, I ask myself how many of these so-called fans will show up when they are relegated, and Al-Fayed walks away.

And I also wonder how many of them work in the City, happen to live nearby, and have names like Sebastian, Rupert and Tarquin.

Sunderland warranted more than a brief thought. That play-off final at Wembley in 1998 was an unbelievable experience, but it was also a shared one.

Walking away from the stadium that afternoon, I vividly recall their goodwill towards us, aware that football really was the winner that day, even if we secretly knew that Charlton were too.

However, now 100% owned by an American billionaire, and with Steve Bruce installed in the manager's office, I struggle to feel any affinity.

This is Bruce's seventh managerial appointment in just eleven years, yet perhaps someone can tell me in less than a hundred words what he has achieved at any of his clubs (short-term, let alone long-term).

Apparently he brilliantly 'guided' Wigan to 11th place last season.....with 45 points.

Alan Curbishley meanwhile accumulated 52, 44, 49, 53, 46 and 47 in consecutive seasons at Charlton with considerably less fanfare and no wealthy backer. He's now unemployed.

So let's quickly eliminate Wigan too then. I just find them to be such a 'nothing' club, not even the biggest sports club in a small town.

Their rise from non-League is apparently a 'fairytale', except that it was all paid for, whilst in their infinite appreciation for Dave Whelan, their stadium was 3,000 short of capacity for their 13th May fixture against local rivals and soon-to-be-crowned Premiership champions,Manchester United.

Speaking of which, I've never had any particularly negative feelings towards United. Indeed in a world of supposed big clubs that aren't (think Spurs, Newcastle, Chelsea etc.), they truly are the global footballing brand supreme.

And moreover, it was as recently as 1989/90 that they finished 13th in Division One, below such giants as Wimbledon, Norwich and QPR.

Their success has been built in fairness as much on loyalty to Alex Ferguson, and an outstanding youth set-up, as it has to their unparalleled ability to generate commercial interest. However as a result, they hardly need me to adopt them.

The same cannot be said for Burnley of course, apparently the representatives of the smallest town to reach the Premiership (a bit unfair of course given that Charlton is hardly a thriving metropolis but anyhow).

I have greatly admired their League and Cup exploits this season. Their football has been straightforward but inventive, and Owen Coyle seems to have the appealing combination of intelligence, ability and humility.

A good friend in New York is Clarets-mad, so I would have an immediate drinking buddy to watch games with. However his passion is such that it would be akin to lovingly adopting a child, yet having his or her natural parents round every Saturday for tea.

Moreover, whilst they thoroughly deserved their Wembley win over Sheffield United, their lack of pace was painfully obvious.

Unless they can inject some into a rather ageing squad, they risk becoming the new West Bromwich Albion....admired for their football, and thanked for the points.

So that just leaves Arsenal, West Ham, Everton and Aston Villa.

As a born and bred North Londoner, if one is not going to directly support either Arsenal or Spurs, it at least helps to decide at an early age which one you will despise less.

Perhaps it was their red shirts, or the fact that I very much enjoyed attending their 5-1 win over IFK Gothenburg in March 1980 (on their way to a Graham Rix-inspired final defeat in Valencia)

Either way, I've not so much not despised Arsenal, as rather liked them, even before Arsene Wenger turned them into the best footballing side in the world. And their stadium is awfully easy to get to from my parents' neck of the woods.

Unfortunately however, the recent news that Wenger himself is reportedly 'under fire' from some fans, means I cannot voluntarily associate myself with such ignoramuses. Presumably the same ones that walked out just minutes into their Champions League semi-final second leg.

After seven major trophies, and thirteen consecutive top four finishes, it brings to mind that famous line from 'Life of Brian': "...but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order....what have the Romans ever done for us?"

There are a few family links to West Ham, and indeed my late Grandmother who passed away last week lived for a while just a well-struck 3-wood away from Upton Park. The sentimental tug is certainly a strong one right now.

However I can't easily forgive the way they treated Curbs, noting that Gianfranco Zola is feted as a hero for accumulating a whopping 51 points, whilst the 49 that Curbs managed the previous season was clearly wholly unacceptable (whisper it quietly of course, but 6 of this season's belonged to Curbs too!).

So it looks like I'll be adopting either Everton or Aston Villa. Such an important decision should be the subject of a separate head-to-head post, in keeping with the spirit of the times (think Britain's Got Talent, Pop Idol etc.).

Before I embark on a thorough study of their respective histories, I'm reassured that I'll be choosing from two 'proper' football clubs.

Both are founder members of the Football League, playing in the same stadium they've occupied since 1892 and 1897 respectively, and with a plethora of major trophies amongst them (just not acquired that recently).

Their respective fans might be described as passionate but understanding, whilst both are led by sensible British managers that one can feel an affinity with.

There won't be much to choose between them. I'll report back in the coming days with my educated decision.

11 Comments:

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

It has to be Villa rather than the Toffeemen, although they are losing their better players.

 
At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always had a preference for some major teams over others - United over City, Everton rather than Liverpool, Villa and not B'rum, but left short going the whole hog and announcing my "support", keeping Charlton as the one and only. I do think you have come down to two of the better teams to be a armchair fan of, with good reason too, and good luck with your choice!

Pedro45

 
At 9:32 AM, Blogger mikewoodhouse said...

Because my dad was a Man Utd fan in the 40s and 50s before moving to Kent and converting to the One True Faith over the next couple of decades, I've always had a soft spot for them. If I've "adopted" a Prem club, though, it has to be boys from (formerly) SE18, which I realised I'd done when they were the team I was most motivated to watch when they appeared on Sky. It adds up in other ways: they aren't likely to win any competitions but do win a good number of individual games, ticket availability issues mean I'm not going to be troubled by any idea of actually ever going there, red shirts, etc. And when they're playing at the top of Wenger's game, they're, well, they're just gorgeous.

Of the two short-listed, I'd add a vote for the Villa. While I can admire the job Moyes has done with Everton, there's just something unloveable about them. IMHO, of course.

 
At 10:44 AM, Anonymous sillav nitram said...

it would probably be everton for me. the first fa cup final i can say that i definately remember,from my boyhood was , sheff. wed 2 v everton 3 and mike trebilcock ( i think that's how it's spelt ) scored a hatrick a very exicting match and something we hardly ever get today in the big fa cup final yawn. i really don't know why i bother watching, depite everton being there this year.

having said that, i am a big fan of martin o'neil,if only we'd tried to get him on curbs departure.

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger Kings Hill Addick said...

I made the decision at the start of last season to follow Liverpool in the Premier League. Back in the 70s and early 80s when very few games were on the tele and Liverpool were winning everything I used to sit up and watch Match of The Day with my maternal grandmother, who was from Liverpool.

My parents would drop me (and my sister) off on a Saturday and pick us up on a Sunday. Bedtime was well before MoTD, but I used to wait for my sister to fall asleep and sneak into the front room and sit on my Nan’s lap and watch the football before she would sneak me back without my sister knowing. My sister was (and I guess still is) three years older than me.

Anyway, the team that seemed to be on most weeks (and won everything at the time) was Liverpool. As she was a keen fan and we (and my granddad) had this secret about me watching, I soon started to follow Liverpool.

This was in the days when my Dad was taking a bit of a sabbatical from Charlton as with two young children and a mortgage he just couldn’t afford to go. This was also long before I’d ever been to a football ground.

My affinity with Liverpool continued long after I started going to The Valley. In fact, it wasn’t until we were promoted in the 1980s that the thought of Charlton and Liverpool playing in the same division ever occurred to me. The relationship with Liverpool really cooled during that four year spell in the old First Division, and it never really came back until Liverpool appeared in the Champions League Final in 2005. A good friend of mine was a Liverpool fan so we both became excited about an English club (and his) being in the ‘biggest game in club football’. It was also a great game, a great night and incredibly exciting – just like football is supposed to be.

I found that I developed an interest in watching Liverpool in the Champions League after that. Only on an armchair basis, but as Charlton were not likely to trouble themselves with qualification, it didn’t feel wrong. I was still a little indifferent in Liverpool’s league form, after all we were in the same division.

During the season 2007/08 I went out of my way to have as little contact with anything Premier League as possible. My only interest that season was based around Fulham being relegated – something I though should have happened the season before. The win at home to Liverpool, on their way to a second Champions League Final, and the 2-2 draw with us on the back of that horrendous referring decision made me despise Fulham. There is plenty of justification for Liverpool resting some players on the Saturday after they’d contested 120 minutes and penalties on the Wednesday night, but the anger in me made me resent Liverpool. I even felt that they got their just deserts when AC Milan beat them a few weeks later. They could have changed our outcome on that day. Had they beaten Fulham, which was not beyond their first team, things could now be very different.

Anyway after a season of abstinence, the pull of The Premier League was too great for me this season. As the season went on and Liverpool looked more and more like genuinely challenging for the title, and we fell further and further into the mire my interest in the Red side on Merseyside grew and grew.

Like you, NYA, I think it is unrealistic to have no exposure to the ‘Biggest League in the World’ and if you can’t beat ‘em….

Despite my personal preference for Liverpool, I agree with your logic for narrowing down your options to Everton and Villa. I would have thought that Arsenal, Liverpool or Man Utd would have been options as you would then have a team to follow in The Champions League too. The later stages really are exciting if your second team in still in it. However both Villa and Everton are in the ‘Champions League II’ and stand a decent chance of proceeding to the latter stages.

One question.

Do you intend to start a blog New York Toffeeman or New York Villain, or is that a step too far?

 
At 2:06 PM, Blogger CharltonChris said...

I adopted Liverpool as my top flight club when we went down, I'm actually a little afraid at how closely I follow then now...

Beware, NYA.

 
At 5:49 AM, Blogger College Park Addickted said...

Best of luck.

I wasn't able to do it. I could not care enough about any other team to actually follow them.

Instead, participating (and doing very poorly) in Fantasy Premier League games led to an interest in particular players which dovetailed well with watching the limited offerings of EPL games on American television.

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger StoneMuse said...

Purely because of Martin O'Neill I recommend you go for the Villa

 
At 1:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I admire your detailed analysis of the pros and cons of each team but am somewhat disappointed by the conclusion. A quicker way to get there would be: can’t go for a Big 4 since would be seen as a glory hunter, don’t want to go for anyone who might go down – imagine the shame!!; so you are left with Villa and Everton.
Problem is you are now left with two teams who are themselves in a league of two – not very exciting I’m afraid.
Take some risk – no pain, no gain. You didn’t become an Addick for an easy life so why start now.
I read with interest your obvious admiration for Burnley - they will invest in some pace and have a number of good young players (Eagles, Paterson, McDonald, McCann). Don’t worry about feeling that you are late to the party on that one. With only 6,500 season tickets sold last year, 31,500 of the 38,000 fans who went to Wembley are only one game ahead of you. You can catch up quickly.
Everyone expects them to go down so every point will be celebrated like it is made of solid gold. And imagine how wise you will look when they stay up!!!
The drinking will be fun too.
Come on board!!!
Up the Clarets!!!!

 
At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Simon said...

Mate, as the once might addicks shared a ground with us, surely your spiritual home has to be Upton Park? Come on, no one hates Tottenham as much as we do!!!!!!!

 
At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Captain Spaulding said...

I have to approve of your choices, since it validates my choice of the same two teams after Charlton dropped out of the Premier League.

Both teams remind me of the North American Football teams I supported as a youth (poor hard working teams who's occasional success came when their work ethic led them to perform above their talent).

Especially this year as Everton did the football version of the Black Knight as player after player went down to injury ("It's only a flesh wound...").

And how can you not love a team that's owned by the owner of the Cleveland Browns (the most star crossed team in the NFL).

 

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