The issue of the second club is a prickly one among football watchers because, as poets and Jeremy Kyle viewers have asked through the ages, can you really love more than one? Among football lovers such ‘away from home’ fondness is often categorised as disloyalty but I believe this simplifies a range of relationships each with their own characteristics and comforts.
The first type of relationship I have identified is the most long-lasting and could be categorised as a sort of Concubinage. It stems from a ‘I deserve this’ mind-set developed after years of fulfilling but hard betrothal to a local side. I have a good friend who dutifully supports his Home Counties non-league team but he also follows Manchester United. Follows them closely. Knowing him and what his side have put him through I can’t begrudge him this bit of fun on the side. The excitement, the glamour, the big nights could seduce the most true.
The second relationship type is far less serious. You might even call it a fling. Long- time football watchers will know (and some of us bores will even be able to recount) the varying lists of the ‘big’ clubs. The number of this group may vary from two to six but what defines them is their potential as title winners. They will generally be the best footballing teams in the league, as well, although extraordinary events like Leicester City’s championship year will occasionally occur.
Leicester City during the 2015-2016 season are the perfect example of how it is possible to develop an affection for another side. So much so that even supporters of the pre-season title challengers found themselves favouring them over their rivals once their shot at the big prize had gone. For everyone else it was the romance of the story and the fearless resolve that Leicester showed after barely surviving relegation (and an explosive manager/owner drama) the year before. However big in terms of fan-base the top clubs are the majority of football watchers will always be supporters of other clubs. Leicester’s antics upsetting the footballing applecart brought them global attention but they follow in the footsteps of Arsenal and Newcastle as fling-clubs.
The last type is the least solid but not necessarily the most ephemeral. In terms of longevity it can rival the first listed above although never reach its depth. It is a foreign affair, an admiration from afar for a certain side perhaps dimly remembered for their grace on the field or the handsomeness of their stadium. They may have been encountered on a holiday abroad, through television or even the stories of family or friends. Whatever it was for some reason they left an impression, there was something about them that appealed and compels you to look up their results and see how they are doing. Don’t feel bad; the heart wants what the heart wants.