A cold afternoon, warmed by the tension of watching my team. My team - a strange phrase. They’re clearly not just mine - on this occasion I’m sharing them with the 700 other people who’ve decided to travel to the less than glamorous Abbey Stadium in Cambridge and pay £15 to sit in the away end (another 2000 or so locals are spread around the rest of the patchwork ground).
I’m always in the away end, that’s how I started watching them, with my dad at small grounds in the late 80’s and early 90’s. When football wasn’t an all pervasive fashion item that politicians and Hollywood a-listers were required to ‘like’. Not that this game is touched by much glamour. The Blue Square Premier League is a long way from the banal MOTD platitudes and millionaire showboating.
I don’t go and watch my team very often. For lots of reasons: money, family, geography, time. But one of the main reasons is that I don’t enjoy it. I can watch and enjoy most sport (except motor sport) and I enjoy watching football. But watching my team play is a long way from being a pleasurable experience.
It’s the tension, the stress.
The stress of getting to a ground in a town you don’t know. Arriving, taking a glance at the programme and with the dawning realisation that there isn’t a single player on the team who was playing for the club last time I watched a game. That strange superstition of not sitting down until the referee blows his whistle (I have no idea where that comes from). As the game progresses it gets worse. A knot in the stomach, voice growing hoarse, willing a good result. Those nearly moments - an almost great pass or the ball striking the bar. The collective frustration that pours out of the stands when a basic error is made.
Suddenly the end of the game approaches, nervous glances at my watch. The board held up for a few minutes of added time. Which drains away like the belief in fading light. Perhaps one last change and then the final whistle.
No win today. No end to the run of games without seeing them win. My team. Next time they’ll win. Next time I’ll enjoy it.