Firstly, a disclaimer. I know that form is fleeting. A temporary thing, based on myriad affecting factors and subject, at any point, to change. Catastrophic change. And a happy ship on a calm sea of good form with the wind behind it can be casually tossed into the air and sunk by a Moby Dick of a referee giving a bad penalty decision, or the iceberg of another good football team who happen to have a bit more luck on the day. In short, I understand that the following words are based on a run of 7 straight competitive wins, plus a pre-season programme that verged on the remarkable. I understand these things. But, y’know, fuck it. Everything is fucking terrible and I think enjoying moments is important. So here we go.
I’m one of those wimps who looks on social media. Not Facebook, because I’m not keen on knowing the various political beliefs of people I went to primary school with 30 years ago, but the other ones. Instagram. Twitter. I’m forever on the bloody twitter. The twitter I keep mainly for humour and work and Liverpool, but of course I follow various accounts attached to the club and its fans. Where else could I keep abreast of the Harrold family’s resolute trolling of rival clubs, or stay up to date on the benefits of the sponsorship from Arrow Financial Services? Nowhere, that’s where. Also, about a year ago, I set up an account on Instagram as an unofficial TMUFC fan account (not affiliated with any other society, member group or supporting alliance). It was just a way of me exploring how I might spread the word of the club around Tooting itself, mainly, and the other media-savvy businesses therein.
Before long, I came across the accounts of some of our players and staff. Many of their posts are about life at TMUFC- training, match days, behind the scenes. It’s impossible not to feel slightly voyeuristic as you look at pictures of people you know from the match, but would have no idea who you were if you introduced yourself, but equally it’s fascinating to watch. The short video clips of the dressing room before and after a game. The pictures and clips the lads repost of themselves during a game, or in training. All these images tell a story.
The story they seem to be telling at the moment, is of a team. A unit of men, united, with shared goals, shared interests, shared experiences. How they interact with each other on social media must be a reflection with how they interact with each other in real life, right? And so it’s a treat to see, say, Nebay Haile post images of a goal he’s scored and note that a bunch of his team mates have “liked” it, or even commented emojis of fire, or raised hands. Some of these likes are from men for whom Nebay represents competition- Hady, or Danny Bassett. They’re competing for time on the pitch in stripes, but these lads are rooting for each other. And Nebay’s only been at the club a matter of months. Kyrique Garvey-Williams, another lad who’s relatively new to the club, posts a picture of himself turning out for Tooting and again, his team mates publicly show their support for the young man. Heart emojis, fist bumps. Some of the most affirming footage of the team looking out for each other has been seeing the posts from captain Sol in the last month or so. I don’t think a single player at the club hasn’t bought, or at the very least streamed, the single he released this month. Seeing an entire dressing room of players post-match singing “SummerTime” is further evidence, to me, that these boys have each other’s backs. To me, these things are all signs of a group forming bonds.
Does online support equal on-field support, perhaps, is the question. But that one’s easy to answer. Look at the results. Look at the spirit being fostered in the side. Another late winner against Northwood and the whole team goes nuts- for the goal scorer, Razzaq, for themselves, for the fans. I don’t know if it’s a policy engendered by the management, the senior players, or if it’s just the group expressing their appreciation, but it’s worth noting that the team head straight for the Bog End if that’s where they’ve scored or, if not, they go there straight after the final whistle. I have messaged a number of the players on social media in response to things they’ve posted, congratulating them on performances or goals, or- in one particular case- wishing them well for the future. Replies from them have been really interesting, each one mentioning their appreciation for the support they get from the stands. Again, I understand that these things are absolutely affected by the fact that results have been utterly, utterly brilliant- but we must hope and expect that the spirit currently around the team and its support can stand up to any alteration in our current habit of collecting wins.
At the time of writing, another Fans’ Forum is scheduled for this evening. James Shaw, our new number 1, mentioned on Twitter he was looking forward to it. A rare idea, perhaps, that a player might actually be excited at the prospect of coming face to face with a room full of famously demanding fans. But what a time to have it, on the back of these results, at a time when the team on the pitch and the team in the stands all seem so cohesive. And, news just in- the groundsman is staying! Rich the Pitch obviously feels the good vibes too.
Good vibes and positivity can be fleeting. Spirit is unbottleable*, so it seems to me that when it’s free-flowing, we should drink freely and enjoy it. Tarnishing good times in football with a spectre of what may be to come seems mad, to me, with all the *actual* problems of the real world. So while the team is playing well, winning games and fighting for each other, I am determined to watch and enjoy that, as it seems the lads on the pitch are.
Come on the Stripes.