Ranking the 12 Most Loyal Soccer Fanbases

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2012

Ranking the 12 Most Loyal Soccer Fanbases

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    Loyalty.

    It inspires unyielding belief in the ability of a football club to win a single game, it binds the fans to the colours of their team for a lifetime and has players openly weeping at such a show of impassioned, reverential strength.

    Well, sometimes.

    Not even that often, in fact.

    Loyalty actually comes in many forms, and not just the way that supporters expect off their club's staff; in other words, that they declare their eternal love and gratitude to the organisation who signs their paychecks, promising never to run off into the sunset with a new, fancier, more higher-paying love.

    Fans show their loyalty to a club in a multitude of ways—here are some of the best of them.

     

    Caveat: Not every team on the planet is, or can be, represented in this slideshow. If your team is not present, consider it a replication of "loyalty", if you must, of one of the other teams on this list. The list is intentionally predominantly English-based, with a smattering of notable others included.

Manchester City

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    Though over the past couple of seasons they have seemingly been spoiled with big money signings and trophy wins to the point where a home draw against good-standard opposition warrants booing the team and the manager from the pitch, Manchester City have historically shown tremendous support to their team.

    It was only in 1999 that City managed to haul themselves out of League One, the third tier of English football, by way of the playoffs.

    Buried in the bowels of the football pyramid they might have been—well, the lower intestine at least—but City still packed an average of more than 28,000 fans into their old ground, Main Road, during that season.

    Remarkably, that was actually a higher average than the last time they were in the top flight—where they were a shade under the 28,000 mark.

St. Pauli

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    St. Pauli are a somewhat iconic German team who ply their trade in 2. Bundesliga.

    In 2010, they sprang into the consciousness of the general football-watching public outside of the country after reaching the top flight, but they lasted only a single season at the highest level this time around before being relegated again.

    The fans, though, are part of what makes the club unique; they are seen as an unconventional and free-spirited group of supporters who have inhabited the stadium since the late 1980s, and since the decade after they have regularly seen attendances around the 20,000 mark.

    A left-wing collection of supporters with a somewhat radical approach to following their team, St. Pauli are known for an open-minded fanbase with tolerance levels to all backgrounds and choices.

AFC Wimbledon

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    Imagine your local team deciding that they were better off closing their doors and re-opening in a new stadium—around 60 miles away.

    That's the fate which befell supporters of Wimbledon FC back in the early part of the millennium, as the decision was made to move the club from London up to Milton Keynes.

    Needless to say, this did not sit too well with long time fans of the club who saw it as not remaining the same club at all. So, they did the only thing they thought was right—formed their own new team.

    Wimbledon became MK Dons, and a new team arose in the ninth tier of English football, AFC Wimbledon.

    It took the new team just nine seasons to rise through the divisions to attain professional league status in League Two.

Liverpool

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    Famed for travelling to all corners of the earth to follow their team, Liverpool supporters can be counted upon to turn up at every away game in droves.

    Regularly, the travelling Kop will out-sing their home-based counterparts in league matches, while European nights—in the European Cup/Champions League, at least—have been amongst the noisiest, most intimidating atmospheres that many an established player has experienced.

    League-wise, Anfield perhaps doesn't sound anywhere near as fearsome these days as it has done in the past, but it is sold out every fixture without fail in the Premier League and managers are always given the backing of those in the stands, where progress and hard work are evident.

Portsmouth

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    Not too many fans have had to put up with as much rubbish from the hierarchy of their football club as Portsmouth have had to in the past decade.

    In 1999 the club was close to administration because of financial difficulties before they were saved.

    Most organisations would have hoped to learn from their mistakes. Portsmouth instead seemed only to learn how to perfect those errors, and repeat them upon request.

    The club was bought out again in 2006 and won the FA Cup in 2008—but since then has seemingly lurched from one disaster to another.

    Countless new buy-outs, bail-outs and owners have wrested control of the club since 2009, while two spells in administration have also cost Portsmouth a double relegation.

    This past summer saw every single professional player on the club's books sold and the team re-built from scratch on minimal funds, while manager Michael Appleton has also just recently been lured away.

    At the time of writing, the ownership situation has still not been fully resolved, and the club lie 17th in League One—but the fans keep coming, keep singing and supporting, and hoping that all will finally be resolved soon.

Norwich City

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    Like Manchester City, Norwich City are a relatively big-sized football team who attract the crowds in their thousands—despite having spent a good portion of the recent past below Premier League level.

    Norwich have never been a club to be amongst the trophies but they have a catchment area for fans which has precious little competition around, and the supporters regularly fill the ground to near capacity.

Leeds United

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    Now a team who have managed to mix the relegation worries of Manchester City with the financial travails of Portsmouth over the past few years.

    In 2007 as a long-term result of financial mismanagement, Leeds were relegated down to the third tier, League One.

    They have managed to propel themselves back into the Championship but are currently on the verge of yet another ownership change, and are not looking particularly close at present to challenging their way back into the Premier League.

    Nonetheless, Leeds hold the fifth-highest average attendance in the Championship this season, a bigger crowd than three Premier League sides have managed to draw in.

Rangers

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    Where do we go with Rangers?

    The club has been relegated from the Scottish Premier League to the Third Division and the fans are packing out the stadium for attendances never before seen at that level.

    It's a long road back to the top of Scottish football for the Glasgow club but the fans certainly seem up for the challenge and are backing their team.

    They are currently two points clear at the top of the league after nine matches, with an average attendance of 47,600.

    Second place Elgin City have an average crowd of 780.

West Ham United

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    West Ham United's fans have a belief that they gave forth much of what is right about football in England through the players they've nurtured, trophies their players have contributed to winning and the perceived way they like to play the game.

    Obviously, not much of the latter is happening just recently under the present management—but they are winning games and are back in the top flight, which is more than can be said for the rest of the reign of the Hammers' current owners.

    West Ham haven't had much success recently but they have always had tremendous support from the stands.

Newcastle United

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    It's been said that a Newcastle United fan is one of the easiest to recognise—because they'll be the one without a shirt on.

    Newcastle don't have a particularly global fanbase like Arsenal or Manchester United, but the local support they have is passionate and intense.

    Game after game, season after season, their St. James' Park stadium is full and noisy and full-blooded, which is far more than can be said for neighbours Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

    The Geordies keep singing—even after almost 60 years without winning a decent trophy.

Atletico Madrid

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    Away from England now, and into Spain.

    Atletico Madrid have long lived in the shadow of their larger city rival, Real, whose wealth and success surpasses the dreams of most Atleti fans.

    The long-suffering side endured more than a decade without silverware following their league and cup double success of 1995-96 before they were reacquainted with that winning feeling through two Europa League victories in the past few seasons.

    Atleti fans have always valued hard work and feverish support, and have never wavered in the latter despite the enormous success at times of Real Madrid.

Newell's Old Boys

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    Put visit a top flight football match in Argentina on your bucket list. Do it now.

    The feverish atmosphere at Newell's Old Boys is largely due to the Hinchada who sing, beat drums and chant their way through every league game.

    A colourful and noisy hoard of fans, the Newell's supporters treat every match the same way and back their team vociferously and without end.

    Their derby matches, played against Rosario Central, are above all else a fantastic spectacle through the sheer energy and anticipation that the fans create an atmosphere in.