View From The Hill – Nicholas Lezard February 2023

It’s a funny old thing, supporting a football team. The majority of supporters never set foot in the grounds of the clubs they support; many of them don’t even live in the same country. In their a heyday, a map of Man Utd’s fans would be properly global; and this was a cause for some taunting by others. 

The proper thing to do is to start at an early age and adopt the team nearest to you. For me, this meant Arsenal, although I was, as a North Londoner, unsure whether to support them or Spurs; a persuasive argument from the school bully when I was around six or seven helped to settle the matter: he put my head in the toilet bowl and threatened to flush it if I didn’t promise to support Arsenal for the rest of my life. As I was of an age to at least half-believe that flushing the bog would result in my joining the North London sewer system, I thought this a good enough deal; and as Arsenal won the Double next season, I in time became grateful to him. And, true to is word. He has never stuck my head down the toilet and flushed it ever again.

That said, I have been very pleased by Brighton’s success in the Premier League and FA Cup (so far) lately. At the moment of writing, they have beaten Liverpool in both, and as I once had a girlfriend who broke my heart terribly and also supported Liverpool, I give a little cheer whenever anyone beats them. Klopp may be a decent guy and Liverpool a team with a fine underlying philosophy, but, to paraphrase Gore Vidal on success and friends, it is not enough that Brighton should win; Liverpool must lose.

As it happens, the editor of this fine journal is a Spurs fan, and a serious one; so it would be unbecoming, and ungentlemanly, for me to mention the result of their most recent encounter (2-0 to Arsenal, playing away). He has his own cross to bear. Or, shall we say, his own cross to fail to score a goal with.

He has lived in Brighton for many years, and, like me, although he is happy for the team when they win, when his loyalties are tested he supports Spurs, as I support Arsenal when they play B&HA FC. That said, I am now entertaining a reverie in which the team is split in two, one side representing Brighton, the other Hove. 

How wonderful that would be! Imagine the derbies! Pitched battles on either side of Boundary Passage, effete Hovians being taunted to tears by mighty Brightonians, a Berlin-style wall being erected to keep an uneasy peace. The Hove side teased by images of tattoo parlours and interesting architecture and people actually having a good time. It would make Man U/Man C, or Liverpool/Everton rivalries look like walks in the park on a sunny day. It’s a long shot but one can dream.

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