Sam Jones – @samuellejones
The legendary Italian manager Arrigo Saachi once said that “Football is the most important of the least important things in life”. I think the man had a point. In times like these, football can seem irrelevant and only a distraction from the pressing issues of the day. But my God I miss it. So so much.
Football brings a normality, a routine, fixed points that you plan your whole week around. I didn’t realise how much I took it for granted until it was gone. Whether that be travelling to some far flung corner of the country to watch the Yellows in action, or settling down on the sofa to watch two piss poor prem teams battle it out for the privilege of being thumped by the big boys next season, I miss football.
So, now I’ve poured my heart out on the page, here are the things I miss most about football.
That Matchday Morning Feeling
You can’t beat it. Waking up on a Saturday (or Tuesday) knowing that you’re going to watch a live game of football. You plan your day around it. What will I have for breakfast? Where am I drinking before the game? And, crucially if an away game, how on earth do I get to the ground? You check the trains/traffic/buses and work backwards to when you can leave. It is crucial to make sure that you keep your partner or kids or housemates sweet before you leave, as you could be in a right mood when you get home that evening. And lets be honest, the sofa isn’t as comfy as your own bed. You grab your shirt, hat and scarf and head out the door.
Arriving at the Ground
Whether it’s a home or away game, there is something special about seeing the football ground for the first time on match day. Whether that be Plainmoor’s iconic floodflights dominating the Torquay skyline, or some far flung ground in the middle of an industrial site just off a motorway. Knowing that you’re going to see the Yellows play there is something special.
The Pre-Match Pint
You go for a drink, get some grub, meet your mates and you discuss what the 90-minutes has in-store. You reminisce about the last game, dissect about the opposition, make polite small talk about your family and work, trying to hide the fact that the 90 minutes on the Saturday is the highlight of your week. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you end up chatting to a friendly local who gives you the run down of their own team and why the Yellows will win, even though you know they won’t.
Finding out the Line-Up
I think in all my years supporting the Gulls, I’ve never been happy when the line-up has been announced. There’s always that winger who shouldn’t be starting or that dodgy centre-back who you’re still not convinced by who seems to start week-in-week-out. Most of the time, you’re proven right because our manager is crap. That excitement of knowing whose fit, whose starting, what does our bench look like is still a key part of any pre-match routine.
Entering the Ground
You get to the ground, buy a ticket, squeeze through the turnstiles which feel like they were built for ants, and find the stand. Assuming it’s not assigned seating, there is always that debate about where you go. Do you stand right in the middle? Do you slink off to the side? Do you go to the front or the back? Very important questions that have to be answered. But, it really doesn’t matter as you applaud your yellow heroes back into the changing rooms and the nerves kick in.
It all starts with that song. Plainmoor goes quiet, and Robert Miles starts playing over the PA system. The hairs on the back of your neck prick up and the nerves hit you. Its football time. The players come out, the line-ups are announced, the hands are shaken (or elbows bumped) and the game is a go. After the customary photo op of course. The ref blows his whistle, and the game has started. Normally this is when one team tries to be clever and ends up just booting it out of play, but at least the game has started. You try to get a feel in the opening minutes of how the game will unfold, and which opposition player looks like the dangerman/former transfer target/knob head. And then inevitably Torquay concede.
The whistle is blown, and the players trudge off. Some applause and boos ring out and you decide what to do next. Do you really need the loo? Do you fancy a burger? Where did you put the 50/50 tickets again? All very important questions that need answering and quickly. You watch the crossbar challenge, laugh as the old guy steps up but then explodes when he nails the crossbar. The PA announces the half time scores from the other games, yes of course Plymouth are winning, and you settle down for the second half.
The game is coming to an exciting, or forgone, conclusion. One team tries to punt the ball forward while the other have all 11 men and their dogs back, defending for their lives. You can feel the tension of the crowd, the collective breath being held every time the ball goes into the box. And then, relief. The whistle has blown, and the game is over. The crowd applauds their yellow heroes, as they thank the fans and head off down the tunnel.
Everyone needs to talk after a game after they’ve seen it. Whether that be with your friends, family, random strangers on the street or just on your own on Twitter (just me then?). You think about which players impressed you, which ones you would drop, which was your favourite goal, why do you bother coming and so on…You get home and snap back into reality. There’s dinner to be made, washing to be done and family life to return too. But for those few hours on a Saturday, nothing else seems to matter other than the 22 men on the pitch in front of you.
And, crucially, you can’t wait to do it all again next week.
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