I was interested to find that I had preferences in all the League playoff finals this year, for various reasons. Beyond my beloved Bristol Rovers, I don’t care much about what any other teams do, but I found I had a desire for a particular result in all these games, and they seem to say something to me about how football tastes can work.
The first house I bought, four years ago, was in East Ham, ten minutes walk from the West Ham ground. They were in the Premiership, Bristol Rovers were low in the 2nd. I thought I’d adopt West Ham as my second team – I’d get to watch them on TV every week, they had several players I really liked (Di Canio, Cole, Sinclair). It never really took, but I was rather sorry when they went down – and that cost me the first reason, of course. Still, I was hoping they’d come back up. Crystal Palace I have a slight negative feeling about, I think due to Ron Noades comments about black players when he was their chairman, years ago. He said something about their having talent, but not being tough when it counted. This was when Palace had Eric Young in their team! I know it’s unfair to dislike a team due to that, but these things are naturally irrational.
The 2nd Division one was clear cut: I’m neutral on Brighton, but their opponents were Bristol City. I don’t have the great hatred of them that many Rovers fans do, but I have enough that I was glad to see them lose.
In the 3rd, Mansfield mean nothing to me at all. Huddersfield, however, are a mixed back. I have a friend who supports them, which usually disposes me a little towards a team, but Huddersfield were the other team in what seems to me to be the pivotal moment in Rovers’ recent history. The only time I’ve been to Wembley was for the 2nd division playoff final several years back, Rovers vs. Huddersfield. We were 2-1 down in the closing moments, when Marcus Stewart hit the woodwork. 2-1 was the final score. We sold Stewart to Huddersfield, and since then we have been selling really good strikers regularly – Barry Hayles, Jason Roberts, Bobby Zamora, Jason Cureton, Nathan Ellington and more. We’ve declined to our worst ever performances – the last four seasons have been our worst positions ever. I always imagine that if we’d gone up we might have held on to our best players and the extra money might have allowed us to consolidate there. So, hardly anything to Huddersfield’s discredit, but I blame them in a small way, so I’m a Mansfield fan today.