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How do we choose which team to follow?

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Jim Spence | 18:03 UK time, Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Was Kilmarnock boss Kenny Shiels right to say that you should follow your local team?
Are those who follow the Old Firm from Ayr to Aberdeen and from Dundee to Dumfries, just glory hunters?

If so, what about those who traipse from Montrose and Forfar to follow Dundee United instead of heading to Links Park or Station Park on a Saturday afternoon?

What of those who eschew the Fife sides to head to Gorgie or Leith to enjoy the delights of Hearts and Hibs, rather than Cowdenbeath or East Fife?

How many football fans leave Cowdenbeath to watch Hibernian or Hearts at the weekend? Photo: SNS

How many football fans leave Cowdenbeath to watch Hibernian or Hearts at the weekend? Photo: SNS

Why do we support the team we support in the first place?

I suspect it is a long and complicated story, involving grandparents, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, as well as a myriad of other influences.

Are the followers of the Old Firm more or less passionate about their teams than the followers of Stenhousemuir or East Stirlingshire?

There are many armchair fans who claim allegiance to a team but seldom turn up at games.

Are they fans at all? Do you have to attend every match to be a real fan?

Or are fans entitled to choose where and when to follow their team in the same way they would choose where and when to shop?

Why do one man's loyalties lie at Tannadice when his brother's heart belongs to Celtic?

Why does one woman head for Rugby Park when all roads lead to Ibrox for her other half?

So how do we choose which team to follow, or does your team choose you?


  • Comment number 1.


    one of my colleagues - from Lewis - told me that he supports Rangers because... all of his brothers supported Celtic; he wanted to be different from them! As for me, I follow the results of several teams - Celtic from my youth (I started being interested in the game around 1967) and Ross County from my teenage years as we moved to near Dingwall but my older son is a Hearts fan, my daughter and wife have a soft spot for Aberdeen while my younger son has no time at all for football. I'm happy for them to support who they want - personal choice is all that it is down to. Strangely, when Celtic were beaten by Ross County, my heart was with my boyhood team but that didn't stop me going to the final and being a touch disappointed when Dundee United won the Cup in 2010.

  • Comment number 2.

    Jim, im from Bathgate West Lothian and I follow Dundee United. I chose to follow United as a boy due to no other senior team in West Lothian and not wanting to get involved with the Celtic or Rangers debate. My dad is a Jambo and used to drag me to tynecastle as a child. Being a United fan keeps me out of alot of heated discussions and I think when you support a smaller team you appreciate winning a cup etc more as it doesnt happen all that often.

  • Comment number 3.

    I would say that there are old firm fans from outside glasgow that do go to games and follow their team. Though when there are cup games the grounds are sometimes not much more than a thirs full and I always wonder about those people from places like Ayrshire who say they don't go as they can never get a ticket but when they get the chance they are no where to be seen. In fairness I have seen qutie a few parents who grew up as old firm fans but maybe moved away actually taking their kids to see their local club. A football club can be a good social hub for the local community especially in small to medium sized towns taking your child along to see Ayr United and they join in with the singing of Ayr Ayr super Ayr might help them take some pride in their local team and town. With faster transport links towns like Ayr are turning more into commuter towns for Glasgow with less locals going out in the town using bars, restaurants etc it has taken away some of the collective pride. In general readership of local papers are down and it is easier to access information on national media about the bigger clubs. The lower leagues though need to work collectively let every school child primary and secondary into grounds for free all over and it least it offers a reasonable priced day out for families and once they get into the habit of going to games they will become fans perhaps even despite past allegiances. Also make use of the ground for the local community even if the facilities are not great it can still be a focal point for the community.

  • Comment number 4.

    A strange blog this time I think. All questions? It was said earlier in these forums that there used to be more blogs and discussions on Scottish Football. Is there really less to write about now? Or has it simply all just been said before? Personally I enjoy Jim's blogs I find them interesting, sometimes entertaining and certainly discussion provoking. If readers of the Scottish Football section wanted an additional blogger, what experience would they like them to draw upon, in other words, what background - Manager/Player/Coach/Scout? I think if someone currently working in football was employed we would find it difficult to not suspect them of being biased or at the very least, their focuses tuned to particular channels.
    All good questions Jim. Surely a huge part of it is team form at the time of whenever your particular formative years for football passion are. Long time since East Fife had a player like Gordon Durie.

  • Comment number 5.

    I've got to disagree with Shiels there, I'm from Fife but at the age of 15, I'm in my eighth season as a season ticket holder, and I was at several away games on the road to Seville. No matter what Kenny Shiels says, I'm pretty sure I can consider my self a real fan

  • Comment number 6.

    I think the point Kenny is trying to make is that far too many people chose to support the old firm for no other reason as to that they are a good team and enjoy a lot of success within Scottish football. I believe he is having a go at these people, as they chose to follow a team they have no connection with instead of supporting their local team. Basically he is having a go at the glory hunters and not the football fans of all Scottish clubs, including the old firm, who travel and support their team as I am sure their are a lot of football fans who support a team outwith their towns and cities, me included.

    For example I don't believe he is having a go at StuartT862 but the people who follow the old firm, and have been to a minority of games if any.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm a Rangers fan but support my home team by being a Season Ticket Holder.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm Invernessian born and bred, Season Ticket at Inverness Caley since i was 6. in my eyes, the way it should be instead of 3 or 4 bus loads of Invernessians going to Ibrox or Parkhead every weekend. Regardless of who my mum, grandad, Great Grandad supported, i chose my club.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hmm. I grew up an Aberdeen fan - my family were all from that area, though I was in Fife - at the time of Sir Alex's domination. Most of my friends at school then were either Dundee Utd or - sometimes - Dundee fans, with only one Rangers and one Celtic fan in my primary class. Clearly, it was difficult to get to many games, although at least as a child I did get to most of the Aberdeen games at either of the Dundee clubs.

    I live near Dunfermline now, and it does bother me that I see more coaches leaving from Fife to head to Ibrox or Celtic Park than I see going to East End Park. Some will, like me, have family connections to the club going back several generations, but others (and I suspect mainly younger supporters) will be chasing glory - I've known some kids who have switched allegiance from Rangers to Celtic and back depending on who's winning!

    As for me, I don't really attend any games now - last ones have all been as a neutral supporter. I like watching football, but put simply with a family I can't afford it - even if I was to go to Dunfermline every other week, I'd still be forking out at least £20 on entry for a product which, to be honest, is not as good as it was 20 years ago. One of the best matches I've seen recently was a home game at Morton a couple of years ago - the opposition escaped me, but it was a really entertaining match without the stress of wanting your own team to win!

    That said, I'm still a Scotland fan - I agree with Chick when he describes it as "my team"...

  • Comment number 10.

    Come on Jim, we all know the reason. I don't understand why no journalist or presenter is willing to mention it on the radio or TV. With some exceptions, if you go to a Catholic school, you support Celtic, and if you go to a 'non-denominational' school you support Rangers. It's a problem that blights Scottish society. Every fan of a 'diddy' team has been asked who their 'big' team is, and they all know the implied meaning of the question.

    This problem is worse in the likes of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, but exists all over Scotland.

  • Comment number 11.

    For me it was a mix of family were Airdrie supporters and for years I had been taken along to Broomfield during the 1980s but it took a while for something special to click inside me...lots of supporters can remember a specific occasion and for me it was an otherwise innocuous midweek game in September 1987...Airdrie were playing a Clyde team who at the time were riding high in the First Division. Airdrie had made their usual poor start to the season and were 2-0 down at half-time...but we came back to 2-2, went 3-2 down and came back to win 4-3, with what in my mind was the greatest goal of all time (thank god there is no TV footage to destroy my illusion!!!) from Gerry Christie. Clyde had a player sent off and with the atmosphere around me buzzing I was sat perched on a barrier next to my granddad, screaming "off off off"...from that night there was no turning back. A few good years cemented my feelings and now its unfortunately too late to change and I am consigned to a lifetime of mostly miserable weekends, of all the clubs to support, why the hell did it have to be Airdrie? Because in my mind (and the mind of very few others) they are the greatest team in the world.

  • Comment number 12.

    For me the choice was easy, born in Perth, taken to a Saints game aged 9 and I just got it from the start. It must be harder for people from places like Dundee etc where if they have moved to the area and have no family tie with either side. I have no doubt however that the decline of Dundee FC over the last 30 years will have tipped the balance in United favour over the years.
    At secondary school we were going through our low point and most of my mates were either Dundee United or Aberdeen fans but with the move to McDiarmid we got the local spirit back that has been talked about above. The fans then returned at levels we could only dream of now.
    It is frustrating to see buses leave the town each week to go and see the old firm play but not all our support comes from Perth. There is a Saints fan on our forum who grew up in Falkirk, has never stayed in Perth and now lives in Glasgow but thanks to a family friend follows Saints. Are you to turn his money away as he is a passionate about the team as any of the local fans.
    Many of us "old firm haters" will have done day trips to watch English or in my case Spanish or Canadian teams and thus fall into the same categories.
    What does frustrate me is seeing spaces in old firm grounds or in away ends when the old firm come to Perth, the town being full of these fans many of whom wear their club colours 365 days a year and yet they don't go to games. On the first day of the season I met Rangers fans walking into Perth rather than go to the game. Are these people fans?
    The amount of live TV will in time effect even the old firm as the younger generation are more likely to support Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid or Barcelona than either of the old firm.
    Supporting the team of choice of your parents also does not always happen. My own brother in law supports Rangers but his daughter at his suggestion goes to McDiarmid with my dad, partly due to good pricing and partly as he did not want her caught up in some of the baggage that a minority of old firm fans continue to carry with them to games.

  • Comment number 13.

    Having been given my first Celtic scarf by my grandfather before i started school the die was cast , closest stadium to me has always been Fir Park but having sat in the main stand watching Celtic at a young age and listening to worse abuse than i,ve ever heard at Ibrox being directed at Celtic players there is no way i could have the slightest affection for my local team.
    The idea that it,s only the Old Firm who attract bigoted and sectarian supporters is total nonsense

  • Comment number 14.

    I had no chance Jim. Born in Elsie Inglis, brought up in Abbeyhill, walked to school within yards of ER. My old man was a Celtic fan because his brother played for them which is fair enough. His mates were all hibbies so I saw a lot of games.

    My daughters are all Hibs fans. Their local side would be Elgin City but they were never interested.

    Incidentally don't tell the locals up here they are not as passionate as Old Firm fans. Highland League teams in Moray have a small but very vocal hard-core of fans. Local rivalries are fierce and derbies attract attendances at least as good as the Third Division.

    There are a lot of OF supporters which is a shame but perhaps understandable. If you grow up wanting to support successful sides who are on the TV most often then fair enough. I am not sure it has anything to do with religion up here. There are no denominational High Schools in Moray. The kids go to the local High regardless of religion. One of the reasons for staying up here.

  • Comment number 15.

    Jeanfield Swifts #12 is right. The power of televised football will continue to dictate where new fans' loyalties will lie, and to the detriment of the local scene. As an Arab now living in Midlothian I introduced my three sons to the Scottish game and went to Tynecastle and Easter Road for their first games. They got the bug and love football. But they quickly tired of the Scottish game and all three are now passionate fans of Man Utd. They rarely even discuss the SPL except to ask their old man how his United got on and occasionally check out the progress of our local Junior teams.
    It is the same with all of their mates too, the only difference being which EPL team they follow. They have more interest in the Barca - Real Madrid rivalry than anything to do with the Old Firm.
    The SPL is a poor product at an inflated price. Much better value at a standard that is not significantly lower in the ranks of the Scottish Junior FA. Support your local team!

  • Comment number 16.

    I dont agree with Kenny, I'm born & bred in the North of England & supported Rangers all my life & i've being going to games since I was 9 (i'm now 26), i picked to support Rangers, as my dad & his family are from Barrhead & i followed on from him, at 9 i didnt know how successful Rangers were or much about there background, its only as i've grown up i realised the size of the club i support & it boils my blood when people think i'm an arm chair glory hunter.

    in my eyes family matters when picking who to support, it would have been so easy for me to copy my mates & support Newcastle/Man U/Leeds, but i decieded to follow the family team

  • Comment number 17.

    Jim , a bit of Devil's Advocate..... put it another way. Why, when there is no chance of winning the league, and lifting a cup is only a remote possibility.... would anyone support a team outside the old firm ?

    I say this as a supporter of a team outside the old firm. If the best you can ever do is 3rd or strive to be 6th..... whats the point ? The lack of competitiveness in our league (and in other leagues) will be a complete turn off to many fans who don't have an allegiance to the big 2

  • Comment number 18.

    I hate the fact that aberdonian rangers fans go to pittodrie and sit next to their 'fellow' supporters singing songs about sheep etc. The same applies to dundonian OF fans at tannadice and so on...

    This is, in my opinion, a very serious problem in our culture. As someone has already said, they dont have much pride for their local town, who knows where that will lead. Football fans are meant to be parochial and partisan. No wonder our league is dying.

    An other point i'd make is that to be an OF fans dont have to support their club. Being a irish republican or a loyalist, a protestant or a catholic pretty much guarantees which team you'll 'support'.

    You dont, obviously, get passionate OF fans but you dont have to be much more than a casual observer to be allowed in.....

  • Comment number 19.

    I grew up on a farm in rural Galloway with a father who was a rugby man and a mother who was a St mirren supporter. Everyone at my school was either a Rangers or Celtic fan. I chose Dundee United as i didn't want to be like everyone else and because my father shared the same name as one of the United players at the time. I also loved the tangerine strip. I was a season ticket holder for many years but have recently become very bored with Scottish football what with playing each team 4 times a season and the general quality being poor and the admission overpriced when balanced against the quality of the product and have recently found myself going on jaunts to England to watch football at all levels.

  • Comment number 20.

    My dad played for Forfar and supports no team. My brother supports Dunfermline as it was out local team when we were young. And my full family support Rangers when they are playing Celtic just to wind me up! We moved to Kinross from Fife when I was 6 and my first few friends had surnames such as Reilly, Murphy and Boyle and funnily enough all supported Celtic due to their families telling them that was the only team allowed. I'm a proddy but quite happily supported Celtic as I had no idea or care about sectarianism and my family never condoned it either. It was only ever about football which I feel is lost when it comes to OF supporters. Very few are given the choice. I always still managed to go to alot of Dunfermline games though as it was close and relatively cheap so although not directly supporting Dunfermline I still managed to support my local team.

  • Comment number 21.

    First game I attended was the 1990 Scottish Cup semi final between Celtic and Clydebank. My grandfather(Third Lanark supporter) took me and we stood in the Clydebank end. Andy Walker scored first and I celebrated because I didn't know any better. Been a Celtic supporter ever since, although in recent years I've gone to watch the Bankies since they reformed in the juniors.

  • Comment number 22.

    On the whole I agree with the idea that you have one team and it chooses you. In my case that team is Grimsby. I feel almost ashamed to admit that I have interests in other teams too. For Scottish purposes I'm a Jambo: they were the team that played at home the first weekend after I moved to Edinburgh, and I planned to go and watch Hibs the following week, but never did. (I went to see Hearts v. Bologna in between and the game and atmosphere got me hooked!). That's not really a problem as Hearts and Grimsby are in separate leagues (in more ways than one these days). But before I decided to go and watch my local team at age 12 and got the bug I used to like watching Liverpool on MOTD. (My Dad was a Sunderland fan back then and only took me to watch Grimsby when the opposition were interesting). Nowadays I'm too far away to watch either Grimsby or Hearts, but when I'm watching games on international TV I find myself cheering Liverpool a bit louder than I would like. That actually makes me feel uncomfortable. I know it's not supposed to be allowed, but I can't seem to help it. I have shaken off the England affiliation though: I would support Scotland over them any day!

  • Comment number 23.

    A 'fan' and a 'supporter' are different things. I'm a dundee utd supporter and fan.

    however, i am a Liverpool 'fan' - kinda. I like their fans, their history and the like. I'm also a Bayern Munich and Barca 'fan'.

    In the same way as many OF supporters are, in actual fact, just fans. Not always for footballing reasons either...

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    was kenny shiels not simply drawing attention to the fact that scottish football is in dire need of local people turning up to their local team. football clubs need to be put back at the centre of their community. there needs to be a promoton campaign for this. for too long now in our wee league we have sold the OF to death in order to build a pretence of elite. aiming at the armchair fan. it is now showing to be the death of us.

    we need to become community and family orientated and put the fan's who go through the gates interest's first.

    yeet the exploitatative machine rolls on, proactive dicussion stalled and doncaster still grinning like the grinch...

  • Comment number 26.

    Are those who follow the Old Firm from Ayr to Aberdeen and from Dundee to Dumfries, just glory hunters?
    ............... Celtic and Rangers fans glory hunters .... in Europe they are rubbish?

  • Comment number 27.

    A lot of the time peer pressure is the decider I reckon. I started as a Hibbie as my Dad was from Leith and he took me to the odd game. But we moved to Dundee and it was no fun being a Hibs fan among all the Arabs and Dees. Plus I couldn't get to the games. So gradually I drifted into being an Arab, helped I admit by United's good times in the late 70s and 80s.

    But I think it is an important point that when a lad is 8, 9, 10 the pressure to conform with his mates is strong and it takes guts to be different.

  • Comment number 28.

    My favourite 'excuse' for following a football team (usually a big club) is that my dad/uncle/grandad followed them. Most people don't apply this to any other part of their lives, so in my eyes its a poor excuse to latch on to a big club, and in the case of 'ugly sisters' buying into all the nonsense involved. I definitely concur with Mr Shiels, and would encourage fathers etc to take their kids to local games, whatever the league they're in.

  • Comment number 29.

    I was born and bred in Aberdeen, and regardless of how rubbish they are, I could never be anything other than an Aberdeen fan. I have absolutely no respect for any Aberdonian that claims to be a Celtic or Rangers fan, they're the scourge of our game. I follow several other teams - Newcastle, Dortmund, Feyenoord - but there is only one team whose results I truly care about. To me, choosing to support anyone other than your local team is like choosing to support a different country at international level. Again, I have my favourite international teams - Nigeria, Germany, Croatia - who I follow at tournaments (well, I can hardly follow Scotland's progress...), but they are all secondary to Scotland. So it should be for people's club teams - it should not be a choice.

    If you don't support your local team, you are not a proper football fan, that's all there is to it. After all, what's the point of teams being based in specific towns and cities if we have no concept of locality attached to them? Might as well rename them with arbitrary titles.

    The only exception I make to that is family reasons. After all, if I ever moved back to Glasgow and ended up having kids, you can bet your life they would be brought up to be Dons fans - no son of mine is wearing a Rangers or Celtic top. But that's okay, because the same is true of international sides - I had a mate at school whose dad was French, so he supported France (although he still supported Scotland a bit too), and again, if I ever moved down to England and had kids, there's not a chance in hell that they'd be putting on anything other than the dark blue jersey.

    But apart from that, it's your local team or nothing.

    (Actually, two exceptions - I see no problem with someone from a town in the lower leagues adopting a top tier team, although it should be their most local one, and they should still be a fan of their local team when push comes to shove).

  • Comment number 30.

    @skibs - i dont agree with you, before i was taken to a Rangers game, my father took me to quite a few games of my local team (Darlington), but it never truely interested me & still doesnt to this day, its because they arent successful, they won a cup last year, its because i didnt want to support them, i was given the opition to support/follow any team i wanted & i picked Rangers to be my team for life, it would be a hell of a lot cheaper & easier for me to go to Darlo games but they arent my team, so in my eyes family is a major impact of who your "boyhood" team is

  • Comment number 31.

    It's easy being an Old Firm fan - you don't have to do anything (well perhaps subscribe to a satellite TV station). It's much more difficult to support a smaller team. As a Hamilton fan you need to make more of an effort if you want to see your team, and it's much more difficult if you follow Albion Rovers. With the increasing amount of TV football it won't be long before the armchair Old Firm fans are replaced by armchair Barcelona and Man Utd fans.

  • Comment number 32.

    Best one I ever heard was a guy I worked with for a while a few years back. Him and his whole family were Dundee United fans, had season tickets and travelled home and away with them, even though they were born and bred Glaswegians. I asked him how he ended up supporting the Jambos, was he from up there originally ??? Turned out that one day in the past, neither him or nobody else in the family were that interested in fitba. He was a bit ill once when he was a wee boy, and the next door neighbour gave him an old United top to cheer him up. And that’s it. From that, the whole family are now season ticket holders. Very strange.

  • Comment number 33.

    Meant to say the Arabs, not the Jambos

  • Comment number 34.

    #32 and 33,

    Are you on Planet Earth ? Jim has opened up an interesting topic. You appear to deal in euphemisms.

    I have another. Go forth and multifly !

  • Comment number 35.

    Sorry. Typo. Multiply !

  • Comment number 36.

    Was born within a mile of Ibrox.

    Supported Rangers through thick and thin. From none in a row to 9 in a row and back again.

    I now live a mile from Stenhousemuir FC. I never would have believed I could support any other team but give your wee team a chance. Now I sponsor a player, watch my wee lad train in facilities and with coaching staff that would shame the big clubs and act as a scout for the Warriors.

    Feeling part of the Stenny family is something you will never do with most clubs!

  • Comment number 37.

    #29 My favourite international teams are .... Spain,Czech,Republic, next season it will be Croatia,Serbia,Macedonia,Wales.


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