Blogpost, posh, SoccerLifeBalance

Football Club Custody

In light of the recent furor over the “Super League” and my own crusade to spread the fandom of my favorite team, Peterborough United, I thought it was worth taking the time to characterize my view of American interest in English clubs. It may not be 100% accurate nor complete in its description but it may be helpful. In order to make my points, a little imagination is needed. Rather than a club being an organization with a team, fanbase, a business structure and a history; I’d like to characterize a club as a child that can never grow up.

Due to the fact that this child is never going to grow up, someone needs to be put in charge of the child. The creators of the club were truly its “parents” but as those people passed away or moved onto other endeavors, someone new needed to “adopt” the club. For the longest time, these new adoptive parents did so out of genuine love for the club. Like any parent, the economics of care meant that at best they were going to break even. Then football became a business and many people with means saw it as an opportunity to get into the game. Some adopted a club with love for the sport or the club. Others recognized the ability to profit from the sheer number of people who love this “child.” It is a difficult balance to strike. Parents with pure love may not have the means to keep the child alive while people with money may not love the child.

On the periphery of the parent-child relationship are all of the other invested parties: siblings, uncles/aunts, cousins, friends that feel like family. Fans fall into one of these groups depending on their involvement. Like any familial structure, there are people who are more involved in a child’s life or less. A fan who has been raised with the club may have the affection of a sibling for it. It’s easy to squabble over the intricacies of fan legitimacy but I’m not sure that it serves much purpose.

For my part, I’d characterize myself and most American fans as distant cousins. You don’t see us very often but we’re out there in the ether. The upside to having a large “extended family” is that there are extra resources coming in from afar to care for the club. Generally the inconveniences of having this extended family are small. A few events may be moved up or back based on a desire for “everyone to be there.” Regardless, most of us distant cousins gain a great affinity for the club. We watch, we visit, we like to stay involved. Some of us despite our distance, eventually begin to truly “love” the club. Perhaps not the same love that someone who is there day in and day out might love it. However it is love nonetheless.

Therein lies the problem with the Super League and many of the owners who get into football, whether American or not. The key to this entire equation is that love should be a major component to the acquisition of a club. Because there are so many people who love this entity like a child, to treat it like a resource to exploit for profit is contrary to its entire existence. It is completely acceptable for an owner to profit from a club. Businessmen almost never intend to lose money. However if the profit was their only intention, then that eventually hurts the entire family because no one wants their child to be exploited.

My personal crusade is to add more distant cousins to the POSH family. This is an opportunity for me to give back while paying it forward. I’ve enjoyed my time as a Peterborough United fan immensely! It is part of me at this point. The promotion to the Championship puts the club on a more visible platform. My hope is that 10,000 brothers and sisters show up each week in the stadium but 10,000 more distant cousins wouldn’t hurt. So I’m searching for people who are looking to love a club. There are no quick rewards here. It’s not the glamorous pick. The past eight years have been spent in a league that most Americans don’t know exists. Buckle up because it is a bumpy ride!

If you want an instant self-esteem boost from supporting a Champion’s League team, then support Man United. However you need to recognize that the adopted parent of the child that you care so much about doesn’t love it or the extended family. The only interest in keeping the golden goose alive is to walk away with as many eggs as possible. No doubt it is possible to love the club and hate the ownership but when everyone is aligned it feels different. Tears of joy from ownership upon promotion says nothing about return on investment and everything about commitment.

Up the POSH!

Pete

Blogpost

The POSH Pilgrimage (Recap)

My son and I returned safely from our trip to see the mighty POSH and another team based in Liverpool.  Compared with most of my other trips abroad, it was basically incident free.  That was of course by design because while traveling with a 13 year old, it is probably best to play it safe.  Despite that lack of crazy happenings, the trip was extremely enjoyable and gave us many things to ponder and remember.

Can’t Buy Me Love!

IMG_4315The Beatles may have been right by saying that  love can’t be bought but the purchase of a new jersey of your son’s favorite team does help.  Our first stop was in Liverpool for the Everton vs Manchester United match.  We had a day to tour around the city a bit but most of our time was spent at the club shop and taking photos near the two stadiums of the city’s rival teams.  Despite leaning toward Liverpool in the past, I had to stick with my son in his support of the Toffees.  It was not an easy thing to do since the first English player that I ever knew by name was Kevin Keegan.  Remember that I was raised in an era before the internet, so VHS instructional videos on soccer were my introduction to international soccer.  However keeping with my overall thought process, supporting Everton makes much more sense for me.  I tend to choose the road less traveled.  Regardless, on match day it seems that I made the right choice.  Everton pummeled the Red Devils from start to finish.  It seemed as though ManU was expecting the Toffees to roll over and die.  My son got the perfect introduction to live football in England, coincidentally 4-0 was the same score to the first POSH match that I ever attended.

We Lose If You Win!

Before and during the trip, I tried to impress upon Luke that football is taken very seriously throughout Europe but especially England.  During our train ride to Peterborough, he got an up close look at what I was talking about.  I had feared that we might end up seeing a clash between fans of opposing teams at some point.  That didn’t happen.  However on our trip to Peterborough, three Man United fans were having a heated discussion about who they would prefer to win the league.  The two older (around my age) fans were adamant that they would prefer that ManU lose to Man City in order for City to win the title.  Their historical hatred for Liverpool was so strong that they could not bare to see them win the title.  The younger man was not bothered by who won the title and only cared whether United sorted out their own issues.  It never looked like the conversation was going to turn physical but it was just enough of personal experience for Luke to see the gravity of support for one’s team in England.  We changed trains in Manchester and headed toward our next destination.  In the evening of Easter Sunday, we reached Peterborough.

Home Again!

One of my favorite quotes is “A man can never step into the same river twice because the river is different and so is he.”  This quote applies to my return to Peterborough.  Whenever I travel, I try to go for a run early in the morning.  It’s a great way to see a city before it becomes crowded with people, traffic, etc.  My first destination was London Road Stadium (The ABAX).  It had been almost exactly twelve years since my last visit.  The stadium much like the team seems to have been upgraded in noticeable ways but there is a core to both that have remained and make it seem the same.  I often wonder how fans of teams that have been bought and revamped like Man City feel about their club.  Having read the book by our chairman, I am quite comfortable with the methodical progress of the POSH over the past decade plus.  The success has come with sacrifice and resources that are not limitless which suits me perfectly.  The same is true of the city.  Peterborough is a small city that is not overwhelming.  It’s easy to feel at home there.

When In Rome!

IMG_4381 (1)With my young son in tow, I could not take part in everything that football culture has to offer.  I did take the time to visit the home of PISA at Eb’s.  We didn’t stay long and I only had one beer but I felt like I needed to show up and see what was going on.  I really should have coordinated better with some of the people on londonroad.net.  It would have been nice to put faces with screen names but this was a last minute decision because I did not know what to expect from the place.  It was actually the perfect place to go prior to the match.  The food looked and smelled good.  The memorabilia around the place was a good retrospective on some of the reasons why I’m a POSH fan now.

Close Enough to Feel a Part!

IMG_4398The match itself was preceded by a “First Time Fan” experience.  My son got the chance to sit in the team seats and high five the players on their way out to the warm-up.  For me it was an opportunity to be a few feet away from two POSH legends: Aaron Mclean and Darren Ferguson.  Although I must admit that I dropped the ball on getting photos with both.   As a coach I just couldn’t bring myself to interfere with pregame preparations.  Despite that fact, I still enjoyed the experience of getting down on the field level and seeing the players up close.

Our seats were great and the Sunderland fans were definitely up for the game.  During the first half, I was a bit worried by our play and support.  The team created a few opportunities but there seemed to be a non-committal feeling from the players and the POSH fans.  It was as if neither were truly ready to give their all for fear that they might be disappointed.  In the second half, that all changed as the players and the fans seemed to be fully invested in challenging a “big club” for the win on the day.  Although the Sunderland goal came first, it was at a point in the game where POSH were starting to cause real problems.  I knew we could pull level!

Then it happened!  Godden’s goal electrified the stadium (other than the Sunderland areas).  I don’t know exactly why but the combination of all of the circumstances culminated into so much excitement that I almost fainted.  Jumping, cheering and clapping, I could feel myself getting light headed.  The only thought that saved me was that if I passed out, my son would have to deal with it.  So I calmed myself down.  Godden had a chance to make it the perfect occasion but it wasn’t to be.

IMG_4404Prior to the match, the man who lead the “First Time Fan” activities had said to the group, “If we win, you need to come back because we won.  If we tie or lose, you need to come back to see a win.”  Although the game ended in a draw, it was still a great experience for Luke and I.  I would have preferred three points and a dominant performance like I got during my last visit to London Road but this was special in its own way because I was there with Luke.  We will will be back at some point and hopefully it won’t take a decade this time!

Pete

 

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

The POSH Pilgrimage

It’s a regular occurrence to see English Football Teams on TVs across the United States at the moment.   The Premier League is arguably the most popular league in the world and many of the most beloved English teams are on display regularly for the American audience.  However my team is not!  For close to twenty years, I’ve been supporting Peterborough United Football Club.  The club is known by the nickname “The POSH”.  They do not play in the Premier League.  Nor do they play (at the moment) in the Championship.  The POSH are a League 1 team which means that they are in the third tier of English Football.  Since they are not on the television often, I follow my favorite team weekly through the internet by watching highlights and interviews on Youtube etc.  This week I’ll be making my second trip to watch a match at their home, The ABAX Stadium (formerly London Road) and I can’t wait!

My interest in the POSH was completely unexpected.  My girlfriend (now wife) bought me the first XBox and the FIFA video game to go along with it.  At first I used Liverpool as my team because as a young player I had watched soccer videos with Kevin Keegan.  Eventually I got bored with how easy it was to win the league.  So I decided to choose a lower league team and get them promoted to the Premier League.  As I was searching through the lower league teams, I found Peterborough.  Since my name is Pete, it seemed like a fine choice.  My POSH teams on the XBox were usually a combination of quality POSH players and a few of my favorite American or English players.  Brian McBride and Scot Thompson were regulars in the digital version of the blue and white.

PoshLukeandIAfter playing the game with the POSH for a while, I decided to look into how the team was in real life.  It was very casual at first but the season they got into a relegation battle really drew me in.  After that I followed the team regularly online by reading the match reports and checking Skysports.com.  The POSH forum at LondonRoad.net was another way that I got information relevant to the club.  The slow burn of my love for POSH got a large log thrown upon it in September of 2006 when Darragh MacAnthony became chairman of the club.  He stated that his ambition was to do exactly what I had done in the video game world.  If I wasn’t hooked before, I was all in at that point.  My newborn son had a full kit and I wore POSH blue (or bright yellow) regularly.  In addition to game days, I wore the POSH colors whenever I ran long distance races.

IMG_4279In 2007 I decided that it was time to visit London Road to attend a match.  It was possibly the most frugally planned trip that I could arrange.  I was in England for three nights including one in a basement room of a one star hotel in London.  It was an amazing trip!  The main reasons that the trip was amazing were all POSH related.  The team beat MK Dons 4-0 despite Shane Blackett getting sent off in the second half.  After the match, I waited around for autographs from the players and coaches.  Shwan Jalal and Craig Mackail-Smith were particularly nice to me.  Unfortunately I did not get to meet the new manager, Darren Ferguson.  At that moment, I mainly knew him as Sir Alex’s son.  Eventually he would become one of the best POSH managers by putting Darragh’s plan for promotion into effect.  By signing ambitious young players and putting them into a system that created boatloads of goals, he has become my favorite manager.

So after a twelve year absence, I finally get to return to Peterborough.  Many things have changed but many have not.  Darren Ferguson is the manager but he is on his third spell with the club.  The club is still ambitious but pragmatic in its approach.  On the outside looking in on playoff spots, there is a slim possibility that they’ll make the cutoff.  Regardless I am still hopeful that I’ll get the chance to see one of the games culminating in a playoff promotion success.  I know that it will be a great atmosphere having watched “Sunderland ’til I die!” recently, it’s obvious they have passionate fans.  Regardless, I can’t wait to be there!  It may require thousands of miles of travel and over ten years of waiting but I’m proud to be a POSH fan!  Supporting Man United would just be too easy!

Pete