Thursday, 28 June 2012

Supporting Manchester United - how I enjoy a wife and a lover.

By Shane Bailey (Follow me on Twitter)

Is it possible for a supposedly ‘true’ supporter to have real affection for two teams? Many people will baulk at the very suggestion, and their cynicism is perhaps understandable. But I consider myself to be what most would consider a ‘proper’ football fan, and I do enjoy both a wife and a lover where the beautiful game is concerned.

My family aren't really football fans. I wasn't one of these kids that saw his first match from atop my dad’s shoulders when I was three. I developed my own interest in football through the wonder of television, and was quickly attracted to the total football being served up every week at Old Trafford. I jest of course, this was the 80’s and Ron Atkinson was in charge. Nowadays, United supporters from Torquay naturally face accusation of being nothing more than ‘glory supporters’, but I’m referring to a different era. The ‘glory’ was being enjoyed at Anfield. It was the Scousers winning everything at that time, and if you wanted to be popular at school & enjoy the regular taste of victory, your shirt was a different shade of red.

So if not the flavour of success, what attracted me to United at that time? The same things that attract anyone from remote geographical locations to support the club I imagine. The history and tradition of great players playing great football for great managers (well, one great manager at that point). All that, plus the fact I watched the 1983 FA Cup Final with my Chelsea supporting older cousin. He was supporting Brighton, because they were wearing blue, so I did the opposite. I have a lot to thank John for.

My early recollections of watching United revolve around Big Ron’s perma-tan, a keeper with the same Sir-name as me, a little Danish winger with a mullet who played with his socks rolled down and his shirt un-tucked, and some bloke in the middle of the pitch that could do everything better than everyone else. More often than not on one leg. Having caught the bug, I dug deeper into the history of the club and it’s impossible not get immersed in those stories of Munich, Busby and the European Cup. There isn’t another story like ours. There was no turning back.
"Alex who?" (picture from
So who are the other team in this equation, and how did I become involved with them? Well, unsurprisingly it’s Torquay United my hometown team, and my affiliation with them came sometime later. If you are 14 and support Manchester United, but live on the English Riviera, the chances of getting to watch your team in the flesh are naturally limited. So with a desire to watch some live football, allied to a maturing mind that suggested offering support to my local team would be beneficial to them, I made my way to Plainmoor. And that it where I spend most of my Saturday afternoon’s to this day. I get up to Old Trafford 2 or 3 times a season now. But it just isn’t practical or financially viable to make the trip anymore regularly that that. So Torquay fill the void. They are my ‘other woman’, and I care passionately about them.

To sum up then, contrary to all the rules, I have affection for two teams. But do I actually ‘support’ them both? I think I do - just not necessarily in the same way. Manchester United is in my heart. They took residence when I was very young and will never leave. Torquay United are in my head. They are the team that society dictates I should support and for whom I’ve developed great affection. I’ve no doubt if it was up to those supporters who are ‘better’ than me, I’d ditch United completely and dedicate all my efforts on Torquay. But that was never going to happen. In physical terms, my support for Torquay probably is more tangible these days. I spend money through the turnstile at Plainmoor every other weekend after all. But my mood is more dependent on the result at Old Trafford than anywhere else, and that is most telling. Confusingly for others, when I talk of either team I refer to them as ‘we’. Though I sometimes feel obliged to correct myself if discussing Torquay. There remains a hierarchy, and United are at the summit. United are we.

A question I am frequently asked is ‘Who would I want to win if they ever played each other?’ The simple answer is I’d like to be given the chance to find out. It’s not happened yet. The one time they did play each other in my lifetime - in a friendly as part of the deal that took Lee Sharpe north, I was on a family holiday in Yugoslavia. One was not amused. To see Torquay run out at Old Trafford against United remains a dream. It would be a strange day for me personally, but I could at least be confident of a positive result! I have to be honest and suggest my desire for United to avoid embarrassment would override my excitement at seeing Torquay create a massive upset.

Unfortunately, in writing this, I’ve probably gone down (even further) in some people’s estimations. This kind of thing bothers people, it makes them uncomfortable. People do it, but don’t want to talk about it. I still get frustrated if my loyalty to either team is questioned. All the ‘not a real supporter’ nonsense does get a bit tiresome if I’m honest. Certain people have a real need to feel superior, and being able to declare support for just one team seems to satisfy that desire somehow. I guess if it makes people feel better about themselves, that’s fine. I do support both teams (albeit in different ways), contrary to popular belief it is possible – I know this because I’ve been doing it for a long time now. It was watching Manchester United that got me interested in football in the first place, so if it wasn't for them, Torquay would have one less through the turnstiles every Saturday. Would that be better? Not for them I’m sure.

Do you think it is possible to "support" two different teams? We would love to hear your views both for and against the argument so please leave your comments below.

1 comment:

  1. I don't find supporting more than one club unnatural at all. I consider myself neutral in most games but my mood generally depends on how United and AC Milan perform. It was a horrible feeling when these two were drawn against each other in the Champions League in 2005,2007 and 2010