Why Do We Love Our Football Club - Part Four: The History, Trophies And Tradition

Why does our club's history mean so much to us?
19:00, 29 Sep 2022

In this five-part series, The Sportsman will be exploring one of football's biggest questions. Just why do we love our football clubs? What makes this entity, made up of fleeting players, ever-changing crests and variable fan bases so special to us individually? In this fourth part, we focus on the influence of a club’s history. 

We’ve talked about the kits, we’ve discussed the stadiums and we’ve considered the emotional impact of the fans. But in this part, we are diving deep into a club’s history and its role in the modern game. 

For fans, history can make up the fabric of a club. Manchester United wouldn’t be the club they are today without the Busby Babes, Sir Alex Ferguson and the 1999 treble. Liverpool’s rich tapestry was woven by Bill Shankly, added to by Bob Paisley and enhanced by Kenny Dalglish. 

But history is being written as we speak. Manchester City’s current period of dominance will be looked back upon fondly by future generations as the glory days for a club that has only recently been thrust into the European elite. Every trophy won adds to the dynasty and in this social media age it is consistently used as a stick to beat opposition fans with.

Liverpool may have 19 league titles to their name but only one has come in the Premier League era. Meanwhile, United have an emphatic 13 PL crowns, but that total is likely to be matched at some point in the near future if they continue to stutter. These league titles matter, but not just to the fans who are alive today.

When did your club’s greatest ever moment happen? 


For my team, Coventry City, it was winning the FA Cup in 1987. I wasn’t yet born. For Rangers fans, it was winning nine Scottish titles in a row in 1997. Many of their younger fans weren’t around then. For Huddersfield Town, it was winning three league titles in a row in the mid-1920s. None of their current fans can remember that triumph. 

These historic moments, which are still talked about to this day as stuff of legend and immortalised in bronze outside stadiums, play such an important role in our fan experience even though we weren’t able to witness them. That is how important football history is. No United fan was alive to remember the 1907-08 title triumph but that doesn’t stop them singing ‘20 times, 20 times Man Utd’ every time they step foot in Old Trafford. 

This history, through tales of the past from family members, or just a sheer obsession to learn about our club, is taken on as our own. I’ve seen Keith Houchen’s diving header in the 1987 cup final more times than I’ve had hot dinners and I feel like I’ve lived that run, even though I wasn’t physically there. I’m sure every other fan feels the same way about iconic moments from the past. 

Football Twitter may view winning trophies as purely a numbers game, but the emotions connected with doing so can inspire a whole new generation of fans. A club’s history is far more than just the glory days though. Brighton & Hove Albion wouldn’t be the club they are today without their spell at the Withdean Stadium in the lower leagues, while Wimbledon’s story has completely changed since they were a Premier League club. 

Their tight-knit fans were forced to start a new club, which they quickly led to the Football League, and those who played any part in that journey now have a tale to pass down to future generations. There’s also moments from the past that have completely changed modern football as we know it. Woolwich Arsenal’s move to north London and their election to the top division, a place where they have remained ever since, has drastically shaped the landscape of the modern Premier League. Consider that as you take in the North London Derby this weekend.

The National Football Museum in Manchester is packed full of memorabilia, and those relics of the past can sell for thousands online. Having a historic keepsake from your club can feel so special, induce all sorts of feelings of romance and, in some cases, make you feel even more connected to those on the pitch. 

The success of the NFM shows the desire that supporters have to relive the past. Even things that don’t involve your club carry sentiment and getting the chance to see some of those items is well worth a trip. But why do fans buy into a path a club has taken?

Fans from around the world are more likely to start supporting a club if they see them being successful on TV. They are more exposed to the big-name players and more likely to engage with them. But for local supporters, it is more than that. It is the romantic stories passed down the generations that make them want to follow one club over anybody else. 

Your journey with your football club is an incredibly personal one. It is different to every other fan in that stadium and those watching on at home. But the history of the club is the thing that binds us all together. It’s the one evolving constant that travels with us all. As fans of our clubs, we are now part of their history. It’s something quite special to think about.

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