It’s an all too familiar refrain for many inside Old Trafford. A visiting team turns up and when there’s nothing left to sing, break out in a rendition of “We support our local team” as if it’s some sort of huge insult to the home fans, like it’s a badge of honour and it should be forbidden to support a team from, let’s say, more than one hour away. But if we’re really honest, it’s really a bit pointless.
Firstly football is a global sport now, teams from the Premier League and across Europe have followings all around the world, is it only a Manchester United where this is not allowed? It’s rather silly to aim this insult at United when it could be said for almost any team in the major European leagues. If you don’t live in one of those countries (or even if you do) how should you choose which team to follow, when none of them are local? The fact is we’re not in the 1960s or 1970s anymore. The world has moved on and so has football. The days when all supporters felt some sort of affiliation for the local area are long gone and it’s time football fans, especially in England, accepted that fact.
This argument also strikes me as somewhat contradictory. Football fans expect people to support their ‘local’ team, but they also expect which club you support to be passed down through generations, sometimes these don’t go together. A person could live on the South Coast, but his father might have been from Manchester and thus grew up supporting United, a support he passed down to his child, even though said child doesn’t live in Manchester. In short, people have all sorts of reasons for picking the club they support, not everything is about geography, nor is it always about ‘glory hunting’.
Another reason this chant comes across as stupid is that, in actuality, these ‘non-local fans’ that seem to be such a source of ridicule can often make much bigger sacrifices to watch their team play than ‘local fans’ (what the European Super League founders called legacy fans). For the recent Champions League game against Villarreal I, a local fan, walked in my front door just before 11:30pm. But the gentleman next to me told me he lived in Lincoln (that’s Lincoln UK, not Lincoln, US) and he wouldn’t get back until about 2am, he probably had work a few hours later. The same gentleman was at the Everton game. That was a lunchtime kickoff, who knows what time he had to get up.
There are similar stories involving some of Stretty News’s own writer. One took a train from Brighton at 6:40am in order to get to the Aston Villa game, whilst I met another writer ahead of the Everton game. He travelled from Ireland and told me it cost him in the region of £150 for travel and a hotel, imagine that every other week. An Aston Villa supporting friend of mine who lives in Philadelphia was up at 7:30am on a Saturday morning in order to watch that recent game. Are you seriously going to tell me these fans don’t matter, aren’t true supporters and should be ridiculed. Are you going to tell me that those Villa fans, who made that chant at Old Trafford would turn my friend from Philly away if he was ever able to make it, or would they welcome him with open arms?
Stretty News is proud of its diversity, we have writers from all over the world, places like Albania, Sweden, and even Southport. I always took pride in knowing about the youth team, who were the prospects coming up, who did I need to keep an eye on. One of those writers puts me to shame with their knowledge of our youth setup, don’t tell me, their support doesn’t matter, or they’re not a true fan.
So enough with that stupid chant, you would accept non-local fans for your own club, so why is it a problem for another club. Things have moved on, it’s time that chant did too.