Football is a game is full of opinions. Which team is better? Who’s the best player of all time? What does it take to make Rafa Benitez smile? Just a few of football’s common questions and yet, in recent times, a new debate: as a fan, should you support your local side, or whoever you want?
Two people heavily involved with the game give their opinions on the matter: James Norwood, striker for Tranmere Rovers, and commentary legend Clive Tyldesley.
The ‘Support Local’ Debate – Who Should You Support?
James Norwood – Tranmere Rovers Striker
“I think it’s very important (supporting local). A lot of children grow up playing for a local youth team and if they carry on, transition into men’s football or, if they’re lucky enough, to be picked up by a club. I’m still a fan of Eastbourne Town and check on the Twitter etc. It’s a great thing to do and sometimes they fly up the leagues – Crawley, Fleetwood and AFC Wimbledon to name a few”
When asked whether he is in favour of supporting local as opposed to simply supporting a ‘big team’ James replied:
“Yes mate. Even if you do both”
Unsurprisingly, Norwood seemed to answer the question from a footballer’s point of view. This means that he focusses on the experiences of playing the game in relation to supporting local. He emphasises the importance of developing an affinity to a club through playing for them at a youth level. When he also mentions the possibility of these local clubs ‘flying up the leagues’, Norwood appears to be touching upon a theme which was a common one throughout the research for this piece. In short, you can get a much greater sense of excitement when following your local club instead of just watching a bigger team on TV. This isn’t to say one is better than the other, but it could be said that as is with most things in life: the more you put in, the more you get out.
In footballing terms, this translates to the further the lengths you go to in order to follow a team, the more emotion you’ll feel based on their results. It’s common sense; the more time you put into something, the more you care about it.
Norwood goes on to say that fans should support local even if they also support a bigger club. This is an interesting point which will be delved into later.
Clive Tyldesley – Commentator/Journalist
The second opinion to be expressed is from experienced commentary legend Clive Tyldesley. When asked the same two questions as Norwood was, Tyldesley responded at length.
“Everything changes in football” is one of the key themes which Tyldesley uses to explain the support local debate. He noted that in the past, before the days of football on TV, supporting your local club was the norm. However, with the media focussing “so much attention on the successful few” it has become difficult for local clubs to steal the hearts of young supporters like they used to. “I would never be so bold as to tell a fan who to support but I do think you can get closer to your local club”. This quote is the point of this whole article. A football fan can support whoever they choose, but if you support your local team, you can get a greater sense of enjoyment out of it. “You can only get so much back from players who live in a different millionaires’ world”. Another fantastic point. Football from a fans’ perspective is all about emotion, be it in victory or defeat. Wouldn’t you feel these emotions to more if you had been following the club in the flesh for life?
Supporting local brings all kinds of rewards. A stronger connection with your team, more enjoyment and a more down to earth feel. “You are more likely to bump into a League Two defender in your local Sainsburys than Virgil van Dijk.”. A humorous conclusion to a well-argued opinion. At the end of the day, football is a game of opinions. You can support whoever you want, for whatever reason you want, but as Norwood and Tyldesley would say, supporting local is a wonderful experience that grants you many rewards. Even if you already support a ‘big team’, why not spend less on a ticket for a local team? You never know, it could be the start of a lifelong love for a local club.