This weekend sees the start of the new football season in the UK. The Premier League is one of the best and one of the most difficult leagues to win in the world. My two favourite teams are both playing in the Premier League this season but what does it really mean to support a footbal team?

When I was a young lad I was crazy about football so much so that it affected my mood. When my team won I would be happy but when they lost I would be down and depressed. When I was in my late teens/early twenties my friends and I would go to the match and support our local team. The team certainly wasn’t the best in the division but this wasn’t just the reason why I would often play down their chance of winning. I have been called a fickle supporter, someone who would easily turn against the team when they weren’t playing well. Looking back I wonder if I was simply trying to safeguard myself from being too depressed if they didn’t win. Why build my hopes up just for them to come crashing down, better to expect a loss so as not to be too upset when it happened.

Football was so important to me as a kid, the thrill of scoring, the joy of winning and the pride in wearing the scarf. To go along with the elation there was always the heartbreak of losing a game. When a team and a club has a real hold on you then you have to accept the ups and the downs. However, things are not quite the same for me as they used to be. I still love my teams and follow them closely but I am no longer moved in the way I used to be. If they win, great, if they lose so what! Am I critical of them if they don’t perform well? Am I disapointed if they don’t get a good result? No not anymore. Maybe I am less passionate about the game than I used to be but does that make me any less of a supporter?

Passion is highly valued among football supporters but don’t let it get in the way of reality

I no longer go to the games and very rarely watch a match on tv but I am still a loyal follower of the two teams I loved from my youth. Now that I am older and more mature I am able to detach myself from the disappointments and not get too carried away with the successes. I totally believe the performance is more valuable than the result and football, at whatever level, is first and foremost a game to be enjoyed. Enjoyment of the game will always help the players perform well. Pressure to not lose a game will most often reduce a players enjoyment. As for the fans, I think much of their pleasure and enjoyment is lost when they become too critical. After all what is the point in being too critical or angry at your team for losing! Are you going to stop supporting your team when they are losing, of coarse not, not if you are a real fan.

Don’t confuse passion with stupidity

I think the majority of fans have it the wrong way round when they go to support their team. Go to any big football stadium on match day and listen to the noise. The fans are incredibly loud and bouyant at the start of the match. When their team scores the fans are at their most vocal but when the team concedes the fans are quiet. They are sucked into the game and lost in a tide of emotion. This they consider passion! Little do they realise that with a little detachment from the ebb and flow of the game they can actually serve their team better. They should be at their most vocal when their team is at a low ebb because that’s when the team needs them most. To play the role of a real supporter a fan should realise it’s about what he or she can give to the team and give to the game, not what they can get out of it.

When I was a kid I went to the match in the hope of seeing my team win. I had a very selfish approach, it was all about what I wanted from my team. I don’t ever remember thinking ‘how much can I give to my team this day’. I would sing and chant and give my support in this way but would also shout at and criticise the team if they were playing poorly. Clearly that can not be considered a form of support. I certainly don’t ever remember seeing the team improve when under a barrage of criticism and negative emotion. Thankfully I am no longer that young kid and am now perfectly capable of refraining from sending out negative vibes. I look forward to the time when the crowd is as bouyant at the end of every match as they are at the beginning, whatever the result.

The crowd is part of the team, the twelth man on the pitch. What an advantage to any team to have the crowd on their side continually.