Oxford United are currently enjoying a great spell of lower-league success.
Ever since the arrival of manager Chris Wilder, or 'Lord Wilder' as he is more commonly known, in 2008, United have experienced an upturn in their fortune.
However, the nine years of support I gave to my beloved team preceding Wilder's reign was mired in repetitive failure.
For years, I have been watching conference football and many questioned why I would choose to put myself through such a depressing gauntlet year after year.
This same question is most likely posed to thousands of fans who adore their favored side as much as others support the more glamourous units—but don't have the millions of pounds invested in transfers to get excited about each transfer window.
When I watch the World Cup, only dreams could enter my mind about certain world-beaters potentially joining my team. If Oxford sign a player, I have to actively look to find out who, from where, and any other details about him.
Sometimes I've never heard of him and need to research!
Those are the negatives of supporting the lower leagues I suppose, but to me they aren't negatives at all.
If they are, then in this writer's opinion, there are far more positives to preoccupy oneself with.
1) Most of us love an excuse to roam the web. So, actively searching for Oxford United, whilst it doesn't bring up huge numbers of results, is far more exciting when stories do come up than being hoarded with thousands of links and too many details, many of which amount to nothing.
2) Playing any kind of football simulation—be that Football Manager or FIFA—is far more challenging, and therefore far more rewarding, when you take the reigns of a lower side. I remember winning the Champions League on Football Manager 2007—a treasured moment! Who doesn't enjoy building something from the ground up?
3) Finances! Nothing is more emotional than teetering on the edge of entering administration and holding your breath to see if your club will still exist!
4) Personal pocket. The cost of watching the big teams these days has become extortionate (as is everything), so it's a nice break to see something that's cheaper!
5) Biased commentary. They try their best, but localised commentary is so much fun to listen to, as they obviously root for their team—and credit to them!
6) Mashin Bhasin. Having been blinded to Oxford's coverage while they were in the conference, it's an absolute blessing to see them in BBC's Football League Show, and a surprisingly uplifting experience to see the Oxford badge sitting proudly behind him.
7) Coverage actually about football! I am so grateful I don't have to sift through all the off-the-field nonsense about lower-league players in pubs, hotels, brothels, etc—or wherever some of the higher-league players happen to be every week. All I want to know is how Oxford Football Club is doing, not the daily social lives of the players. If I wanted that, I'd look on Twitter!
8) Tickets. Not only are they cheaper, but they're available. You can get them on the day and not have to be part of any members group, sponsorship team, or dish out hundreds of pounds on a season ticket if you don't want to!
9) WINNING! Now this last one might seem strange to many, but I'm not focusing on the quantity here but the quality. I've supported Oxford a very long time, and in that time we haven't won much at all. The day we did, however, is one I will remember for the rest of my life!
Being at Wembley was a hugely treasured moment, not an every other-year event that borders on the banal. So seeing 38,000 fans in Yellow and Blue was an absolute joy beyond all joys to behold!
So here are my nine benefits to fit with my nine years of tough, but thoroughly rewarding, support.