Last Home Game!
For football fans, the beginning of May can bring hopes & tears. It is nearing the end of the season & for some it can bring movement up or down leagues. The last home game it an opportunity for fans & team to affirm their commitment to each other whatever the months since August have brought & to vow to return to the same arena next season.
So we arrive for our last home game. It is critical that the team win – they could be relegated so we take our seats with some trepidation. All around is a sea of blue with a huge variety of styles of shirts, caps, scarves & some banners. Looking towards the opposite end of the stadium is an equivalent sea but that one is red.There are occasional flashes of yellow signifying stewards, the stalwarts of the club. It is they who are expected to keep the peace if war should break out.
The teams arrive, the game starts & the roar begins. Shouting, singing, ruining old shanties like Molly Malone. Suddenly –GOAL – & all around me rise as one. There’s screamimg, waving & the shouts of ‘We are staying up!’ Thankfully, the whistle for half time brings some respite for all concerned. Before long the smells of hot-dogs, burgers & pies waft around. Coffee, hot chocolate & bovril help to build the reserves needed for the next 45 minutes.
Another home goal goes in soon after the restart & hysteria breaks out. I can feel the vibrations through my feet of all those bodies jumping up & down. For the old timers who have watched the team as man & boy, the next half hour is likely to be full of nervousness & anxiety. Will they have the physical reserves to maintain what was a very impressive first half? Will they understand that the lead they have has to be fought for.
Suddenly, the mood changes – a goal is scored at the other end. Groans from the die hards who can see the game slipping by. The voices from the sea of red move up an octave & their clapping creates a mirage effect. Even the rain which is steadily drenching them cannot quell the rising party atmosphere. For the home fans, it seems that we are back in the misty dank days of November. Even the floodlights have had to be turned on increasing the expenditure & therefore the debt.
There are now at least 6,000 referees all knowing far more than the man in black in the middle. The expletives being yelled are now more violent & desperate. For the ten on the park in the blue strips, legs are refusing to carry bodies quickly & feet feel like lead. I have a small lad next to me. He is 11 yrs old & knows all the songs. He has been copying ‘the Lads’ around him joining in their chanting. He is now standing & throwing his fist into the air in a punch as the verbal abuse continues towards the referee. The lad does not shout but I fear it won’t be long before he is a fully fledged member of the FMG (Foul Mouthed Gang). My head teacher hat goes firmly on my head. For years I have questioned whose responsibility it is at football grounds to stop this verbal diatribe that is spewed out when the score is tight. There are signs & posters all around saying ‘Please watch your language’ & at the beginning of the match while the teams are doing that line passing to shake hands there is a tannoy message from a child requesting that people are polite. So, who should make sure it happens? One of those yellow-jacketed folk mentioned earlier? What should clubs be doing or is it not important enough?
Thankfully, those extra four minutes which seemed like an hour have passed & the whistle is blown. A positive roar hits the air & we are three more points nearer safety. We still have one more match though. It is away & we are useless when we do not have the support of this home crowd. Will our nerves stand it? We think not so we will be staying at home watching the scores pop up but fingers (& everything else!) will be firmly crossed!