Hope Floats Remotely
My Saturday match day for a game at Imperial Fields usually pans out thus;
10am- get up. Shower, bit of a tidy-up. Put a wash on. That kind of thing. The domestic tasks one slightly ignores during the week, yknow? I cut my own hair, or what’s left of it, on a Saturday morning as well. All that takes about an hour.
11am- cooked breakfast. Between my wife and I, we’ll come up with a bacon sandwich, or some eggs or, if she’s feeling extravagant, a bit of kedgeree. After that, hang the washing out, teeth brush, then out.
12 noon- allotment. A bit of digging, planting, maintenance, general pottering about.
1.30pm- Ramble Inn. A pint, maybe meet a pal if I’ve got one coming along. Cast an eye at the lunchtime kick off.
2pm- bus to Imperial Fields
2.30pm- arrive. Get a pint, plus one in the hand for the first half.
2.45pm- through the turnstile. Shake hands with the usual suspects. Take my seat. Check the line up. Settle in.
We know the rest.
When the team are away, however, it’s different. As it stands, I don’t do away games. As a newbie season ticket holder, I don’t feel I have graduated into the die-hard category yet, and need to serve my apprenticeship as a rookie before I get involved with the ultras. Also, what with being a London club, the travelling involved to get to away games is ridiculous, both in terms of time spent to cover small distances, and the money it costs. Those die hards travelling today, who have my absolute respect, will spend two hours travelling about 20 miles as the crow flies, and spend about £15 for the privilege.
Unfortunately, until Sky Sports has a non-league red button (wouldn’t rule it out), coverage for football at our level is pretty poor. We rely on apps like Football Webpages for updates, which in turn relies on the efficiency of the match secretary to submit goals, scorers, substitutions etc. Sometimes, depending on the club, these match secretaries aren’t that fast and you hear about a goal for a sub before you knew he was on the pitch. Of course, these people are all volunteers, so the fact that they’re doing it at all makes them worthy of our thanks and praise.
So, my away day routine starts off much like the home match routine. Only from 2.30, instead of being at the ground, I’ve my face in my phone. Refreshing twitter for line-ups, checking the WhatsApp group for news from those who have made the journey to the game. As I write, I have just seen the club twitter account post the team line up graphic, which I immediately copy and post to the WhatsApp group. Not because they wouldn’t have seen it anyway, but because the act of doing so makes me feel in some way connected to what’s happening. I pose a question about the line up, one of lads responds and so the conversation I’d have had at the ground flies between my sofa and Uxbridge, thanks to 4G and shared enthusiasm.
The official club twitter account has come on leaps and bounds this season, with marketing man Harvey at the helm. His updates are far more regular, with 20 second video highlights and emojis that speak of incredulity, delight, rage and heartbreak. The full match day experience.
And thus, my next 105 minutes or thereabouts consist of getting on with my Saturday, relying on the mobile signals of my match-going mates to keep me abreast of what’s happening. And I won’t be the only one either. I know of folk who’ll be celebrating in Sainsbury’s as their phone buzzes, or lamenting at their in-laws. Maybe even if the team wins, in the latter example.
Speaking of lamentations, I’ve already seen my final home game of the season, as work takes me out of London between now and the end of the season. So successive Saturdays will be spent with the life being drained from my battery, and from me, sitting in the dull comfort of a living room or pub, wishing I was at the match. Even after only a season, even knowing my presence probably means little to the outcome, I know I’d much, much rather be wherever the team are.
Postscript- Danny Bassett scored as I typed the final paragraph. Instant WhatsApp update, replied delight. QED.