Every football fan is brought up being told by seemingly everyone you know that your club is your club, and that’s the end of it.
Like the wedding vows, you will take just the one club, love and cherish them, and there can be no other.
However, as you grow older, you realise there are other clubs about. You move to different parts of the country, you become friends with different fans, and things start to change.
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But is it ever OK to support another club? And if so, where do you draw the lines?
It’s a question I have progressively had to wrestle with over the course of the past decade or so.
I am, without doubt, a diehard Leyton Orient fan. They’re my local club, the team I supported as a child, and a club I care more than I probably should about.
You have to be a proper fan of a club currently in the Vanarama National League and hovering just above the relegation zone, having seen them miss out on a place in the Championship in a play-off penalty shoot-out just three seasons ago.
You have to be a proper fan of a club if you’re making the journey to see them play away at Ebbsfleet on a Saturday evening in a game that you can watch at home on BT Sport. On your own, as well.
But here’s the thing – I have a soft spot for Arsenal. And Nottingham Forest for that matter.
Come the end of this week I will have seen the Gunners play four times at the Emirates, and I’m lining up a trip to the City Ground for Forest’s Boxing Day fixture against Sheffield Wednesday.
So is it OK to ‘support’ another club? We threw the question out using the highly-scientific method of a Twitter poll, and the results came flooding in.
Within six hours the No votes had picked up 76% of the vote, with over 1,600 votes cast.
However, this is where the lines start to get a bit blurred.
Supporting a team v following a team
The problem is, you might not be ‘allowed’ to support more than one club, but a lot of people argued that you probably are allowed to follow a club.
Much of the response to the poll suggested that a lot of fans do have a second club, either from where they grew up or had been passed through the family for generations.
The local link is a strong one when it comes to supporting another team – but the bigger caveat most fans made was ensuring that the two teams supported were far enough apart in the league system so they can’t have a unwelcome clash should they play against each other.
There were also those who made a distinction between teams who play in different countries.
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, there were even those who made a distinction between supporting a team and supporting individual players.
Support or ‘soft spot’?
So then the debate comes down to whether you truly support a club, or you simply have a soft spot for them – you might look out for their scores at the weekend, and go to the odd game.
But where’s does this put me? I go to watch Arsenal occasionally, have Forest goal alerts on my phone, but go to every Orient match I can get to and regard them firmly as ‘my club’.
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However, I listen to the Footballistically Arsenal and Reservoir Red Dogs podcasts to make sure I’m fully informed of the goings-on at the Gunners and Forest.
Am I a supporter or do I just follow these clubs? I suppose it’s always up to the individual to decide how much of themselves they invest in supporting a side – and how much they really care, for that matter.
To conclude, there will always be those who say that your club is your club, and won’t hear any different.
But for me, when your actual team is doing so badly, you need those fleeting moments of joy. I’m a fan of the club I’ve always supported, so what does it matter that I like a couple of teams three or four leagues higher than my own?
Besides, having a soft spot for Arsenal and Forest is hardly glory-hunting, is it?