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A night in the life of football fan

Wednesday 26 August 2009 by
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There is generally one thing you can be sure of on a busy night of sport. Contrasting emotions. Yesterday was no different.

Come with me if you will through an evening in the muddled mind of yours truly…

Time: 5:25 Emotion: Disappointment.
The radio reports that England ladies have gone 2-1 down in their Euro 2009 curtain raiser. They are also down to 10 after a dodgy dive in the 1st half from the Italian striker. Who says the ladies aren’t as good as the men? They can con the refs with the best of them…England go on to l0se the game.

I think it is also worth noting the flippant way in which this game was covered. Tired cliche’s about the women’s game were lamely trotted out and the piece descended into pathetic laddish jokes. Having said that, I guess I get what I deserve if I listen to talkSPORT.

Time: 6:10pm Emotion: Excitement.
I’m home, I see my 8 month old daughter for the first time since 7:30am and Watford are playing tonight. I know I am supposed to be all grown up and sensible, but nothing can replace the sense of anticipation that rumbles and grows in your belly ahead of your team kicking off. What will the team be? Who will score? What will happen? No-one ruddy knows and it’s brilliant! Even guessing the attendance is a cause for child-like excitement…

Time: 7:14 Emotion: Bewilderment.
BBC 3 Counties Radio draw my attention to the fact that Watford have accepted a bid for Tommy Smith from Portsmouth. Just when this saga looked like reaching a conclusion, there is yet another twist, and for Tommy all roads lead to the south coast and another tilt at the Premiership.

I have to confess, this news put a broad grin on my face. I have nothing against Reading fans, in fact I feel hugely sorry for them – this episode must have been annoying for them as it has been us, but I still have minor issues with their boss.

If I’m honest, the thought of the assembled local press watching on whilst Brendan Rodgers smile slowly slips from his face as he hears the news “Tommy Smith is having a medical at Portsmouth…” fills me with mischievous delight.

Time: 7:20 Emotion: Sadness.
News filters through about “large scale unrest” ahead of the West Ham United v Millwall cup tie. Not entirely unexpected, but saddening nonetheless. I have a daughter that I want to take to football soon. We don’t need this.

Time 8:30 Emotion: Cautious Optimism.
Half time at Elland Road and Watford are behind. 1-0. The commentary suggests we are playing well though, and for once, I am not completely resigned to defeat. You see, for all my excitement before a game, once it gets under way I am the most frightful pessimist. Those who have read Adrian Chiles book will know what I mean – I’m just like him. I think it was the great Graham Taylor who once summed up our plight so perfectly – “For a football fan, there is nothing so dangerous as hope…”

Time: 9:27 Emotion: Pure unadulterated delight.
Watford youngster Marvin Sordell equalises for the mighty Hornets. Anyone watching at this time would have been treated to the sight of me dancing round the living room and kitchen in an excited style that can only be described as a cross between punk and breakdancing. One of these days I’ll put my back out. It will be worth it though.

The game goes to extra time and my long-suffering girlfriend just about manages to conceal her annoyance that she now has to endure another 30 minutes of me prowling around like a cat on a hot tin roof.

Time: 10:00 Emotion: Disgust.
Footage from the West Ham game starts to appear on the TV. Deeply unpleasant both inside and outside the ground. My mind starts to wander as to how the media will portray this. The obvious link will be to any harm done to our 2018 bid.

In many ways the media coverage of events like this are as unsavoury as the unrest itself, but we really can’t avoid the fact that what was unfolding was pretty ugly and totally inexcusable. Have these people no shame?

On the plus side, there seems to be some pretty clear footage, so tracking down many of the protagonists should be fairly straightforward.

Time: 10:10 Emotion: Despondency.
Leeds United grab a second goal in extra time, and there is no way back for Watford. Leeds 2 Watford 1, and we are out of the Carling Cup. A competition we were unlikely to win, but a loss is a loss, and every one hurts. The excitement of earlier in the evening is a dim and distant memory.

So, my evening  started with disappointment and ended with despondency. Looking at it that way, it may be hard to see why so many of us devote so many of our emotional and financial resources to following sport.  However, as we all know, if someone has to ask the question  “why do you do it? What’s the attraction?” then they are unlikely to ever fully understand the answer.

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