Sunday, 8 September 2013

Switzerland

For those of you into football – the round ball variety – the highlight of last week was finding out which players your club signed, failed to sign or (in my case) made no attempt to sign before the transfer window slammed shut at 11.00 pm (BST) on Monday.

Monday’s events (or non-events) firstly got me thinking about how a transfer window might play out in rugby (utter chaos being my conclusion) and secondly had me pondering why, in rugby, I have never really developed any affiliation with or loyalty towards any of the professional rugby teams in England.

If you were to ask me which football team I support the answer is easy – for better or for worse (inevitably the latter) I have followed Newcastle United since 1971 when, aged 6 and on a black and white telly, I watched Malcolm Macdonald score a hat-trick against Liverpool on his home debut before being knocked unconscious.

Now, I very much prefer watching rugby to watching football and I am as passionate as the next man about the England rugby team (unless the next man happens to be Welsh) but if you were to ask me the same question – i.e. which rugby team do I support – I simply wouldn’t be able to tell you.

My most local team remains Saracens, even after their move to Barnet and, while I have been to see them play on occasion, I would venture that even the most die-hard fez head will concede that they are a difficult team to love. Via my work I have occasionally been associated with Wasps, as a teenager I played rugby against the Colts XVs of both Leicester and Northampton and I do have a soft spot for Newcastle having been brought up in the North East. I do not, however, feel any real connection with any of these teams. The simple answer is that I don’t have a rugby team that I follow.

Why is this? Well, firstly I didn’t grow up anywhere that might consider itself to be a rugby hotbed. Rugby simply wasn’t on my radar as a child and, whereas during the amateur era in the likes of South Wales, the Scottish Borders, the West Country and the East Midlands the locals may have flocked to watch rugby, outside of these areas club rugby was largely ignored. And, although the professional era has changed things to an extent, it is still a major effort for many clubs outside (and in some cases inside) the traditional rugby areas to get bums on seats on a regular basis.

The other issue is that when I was a young man and might otherwise have been attending matches at Harlequins, Wasps, Saracens or one of the other London clubs, I was simply too busy playing the game every Saturday afternoon. My team, in effect, was the club I played for each week, not some random club chosen for their locality, star quality or replica shirts.

So that’s that. A rather unnecessary and long-winded way of explaining that, as far as club rugby goes I am, more or less, the equivalent of Switzerland – I embrace neutrality (although sadly do not have a fortune stashed away in dodgy bank accounts).

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