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
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
, 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
, 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.