The phrase long-suffering fans is used to pay tribute to loyal supporters of underachieving teams, but it is regularly applied incorrectly to followers of pretty decent clubs.
Newcastle United’s legion of fans, known as the Toon Army, are noted for taking their shirts off in very cold temperatures, incessantly singing ‘Toon Army, Toon Army’ until everyone wishes they would fuck off, going home disappointed, and harbouring massive delusions about the contemporary relevance of Newcastle as a football club.
Because of the club’s lack of silverware, members of the Toon Army are routinely described as ‘long-suffering fans’. In an address to the UN in 2005, then-Secretary General Kofi Annan referred to ‘the terrible humanitarian situations in Kosovo, Darfur and Newcastle’ while a BBC documentary in the same year studied the parallel experiences of civil war victims in Rwanda and Newcastle fans confronting another UEFA Cup exit.
Clubs like Tottenham and Manchester City are often associated with long-suffering supporters because they live in the shadow of local rivals who always do better than them and always will.
However, the trifling complaints of Premier League fans are put into perspective when you consider the relentless misery endured by so many lower league fans.
While Spurs fans moan because they are dumped out of the UEFA Cup by Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester City lovers are irate that they didn’t sign Kaka, followers of clubs like Luton Town, Chester City, Oxford United and Cambridge United really have something to complain about.
Fans who have seen their fortunes take a drastic turn for the worse truly deserve sympathy and respect. Only someone who excitedly awaits a new season’s fixture list including Accrington Stanley (A) or worse still Lewes (H) really has the right to be called long suffering.
These are fans so dedicated that they turn up to squalid grounds week in week out to watch players who are barely better at football than they are aimlessly hoof a ball around a boggy playing surface and pay handsomely for the privilege.
A recent study found that Notts County are the worst team to support in England as they continue to wallow in League Two. The worst team to follow in Spain are Real Sociedad, in Italy it's Torino, while Peruvians voted that they would least like to follow Deportivo Wanka.