Supporting two teams – it’s gunner get you some time.

Split loyalties

April 8th 1978 - the last time Orient faced Arsenal.

Not supporting the same football team as your dad would verge on ‘immorality’ to many and if that is the case, then unfortunately I’m immoral and last Sunday would be the day it would be tested.

When my cousins registered me as a Junior Gunner (The Arsenal membership scheme for young supporters) as a Chanukah gift, aged just 5 they set me on a path that would take me all over the country and indeed across Europe supporting Arsenal.

My dad, a Leyton Orient fan with an affection for Liverpool, didn’t put up much of a fight in truth – an acceptance that the allure of Highbury and the 38,000 filled seats couldn’t match the vacant rows and blocks amongst the 12,000 of Brisbane Road. I think we were both happy with Orient being my second team.

That they hadn’t met since 1978 filled me with belief that it was entirely justifiable to keep a close eye on both. Indeed I had an Orient season ticket in the late 1990s within touching distance of the dugout, such was my interest in ‘The O’s’.

Orient certainly had an attraction – the comedic value of a football manager turning around to swear at someone in the crowd having been unable to avoid hearing the abuse directed towards him will remain an appealing memory of lower league football.

Some of my old Leyton Orient Season Ticket booklets I've kept.

Yet, Arsenal, with a double cup success in 1993 and European success the following year proved they would be the more entertaining to follow. Of course i didn’t know Wenger, Premier League titles, an unbeaten season and a Champions League Final were on their way, but it was pretty obvious even to a six year old where the fun would be. A nagging bid to support Aston Villa from an eager cousin would also be rejected – I don’t think I liked their colours and it was in a faraway land called Birmingham. Arsenal were number one.

So, in essence, I’m a glory hunter, just not the sort that lives in Suffolk and ends up supporting Manchester United.

 

Orient Success

Leyton Orient cup runs have been few and far between in my lifetime. They managed to get to round four back in 2002 but fell to Everton, Newcastle came for a League Cup second round match in 2000, but glamour ties for Orient have been few and far between in the last 10-15 years.

So when it was that they were drawn to play at Norwich, an in form, impressive Championship team in round three this year and managed to win 1-0 in a shock victory I was delighted for them. Four weeks later they did it again as they beat Swansea City – another shock success giving them their place in the last 16 of the FA Cup.

I’d joked with friends that Orient would get Arsenal,  for there was little doubt they deserved a big team in the draw and then of course it happened. Orient v Arsenal for the first time in my life.

 

The pre match tension

A few weeks back I went with my dad to watch Orient beat Swindon Town 3-0. After the game, I waited whilst he queued for almost an hour and a half to get a match ticket. There were over 1,200 queuing – a sign of how much this game meant to the long suffering East London fans.

Arriving at the ground to see the sense of anticipation and a sold out ground was pleasing – there is little doubt Orient deserved this. A special programme for £5, special matchday scarves for a tenner, ticket touts outside Brisbane road – it was almost surreal.

 

The game

Arsenal and Orient line up ahead of the game.

I cant imagine what Richard Williams feels when his daughters walk out at a tennis final but this was the nearest I was ever going to get.

However, once the game started I did not feel I was suffering from any split loyalties, instead finding myself hoping that Orient could put up a fight, maybe score but ultimately lose.

Arsenal were here to win, set up a quarter final against Man United and get on with the Premier League campaign on Wednesday against Stoke – it should have been that simple.

Arsenal led 1-0 thanks a goal shortly after half time and it appeared as though they believed it would be enough. It wasn’t to be. Tehoue, the French substitute for Orient did well in scoring two minutes from the end to draw the game and force the replay.


Normally in such situations I suspect I would have been more upset, yet in truth there was a part of me glad that Orient would get another (comparatively) huge pay day as a result of the replay. As my mates left quickly in disgust, I held back a minute or two to witness the jubilation. They deserved their moment.

Of course, it’s another needless game for Arsenal, but we’re (yes, we’re) not out the cup and you have to imagine Arsenal will get the better of Orient in eight days time.

 

Conclusion

The match proved to me that it’s impossible to have split loyalties in football, but after the replay next week if history repeats itself it could be another 30 years before I have to worry about it.

For the good of Orient, I hope I have to.

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Comments
One Response to “Supporting two teams – it’s gunner get you some time.”
  1. Josh Moritz says:

    Great post and a great pun Landy.

    An interesting thought which I had when reading this was what urges us to support the teams that we do. It may sound stupid, but one of my first memories of life is the Primary school playground, being asked quite bluntly by one of the older kids ‘Who do ya support, City or United?’. My response was intuition, I generally thought as a 7 year old, that the word ‘United’ sounded cooler than City (it had the syllable ‘Knight’ in it, which I associated with swords and battles). Since then, I haven’t looked back.

    Its clearly not always geography, or ‘glory hunting’ (although you find those late to the game often are susceptible to this), but rather the introduction to the game. Its the team who you are generally first exposed to. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and I have known people to switch from supporting United to City, and vice versa, and even one guy who stopped supporting United to follow Stockport….

    I’ve rambled now, but my conclusion is an interesting read with some wider questions about allegiances…

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