Imagine the scene. It’s the first day of the new season, we’re away and there’s a sense of keen anticipation. I am at the station to catch an early train heading to Brighton before taking another north. The train rattling towards me is full of people looking forward to a day of excess, many already tucking in to beers even though it’s just about breakfast time. Off to Leeds?
Sadly not. This is Brighton But Only At Home remember. With me on this early train are my two children, a pushchair, three rucksacks and a carriage full of drunk queens, some in drag, heading to Brighton for Pride. Or at least the drunk queens are. I’m taking the kids to sightsee round London then stay up there at my mum’s. It’s the only weekend we could both make it and neither of us registered it was Pride, The Prudential Cycle London weekend and, most importantly, the first day of the football season. Bugger.
“Why are all the people painted?” The Boy had asked me as we got on the train to Brighton.
“Because they’re going to a party.”
“Why are they having a party?”
Eventually we extricate ourselves from the party people and get on the Express to London Victoria. In between handing out crayons and colouring books and explaining that, no, we were not there yet, my mind was wandering. Who would start? Would we definitely be 4-3-3? Would Leeds have a player sent off again? Could we nick three points, get off to a flyer? Would we be hammered, starting the first Oscar out thread on NSC? How could I listen to the game when potentially I could be anywhere from the Science Museum to a Finchley drawing room?
We get to London and The Boy wants to go and see Big Ben and go for burgers. So far so good. No football fans around and I have to concentrate on finding it and answering his questions. We meet my mum and go sightseeing but then she decides we’ll go back to Victoria for the burgers. We bump in to some QPR fans in shirts. Over the road some Arsenal fans are drinking in Weatherspoons. In fact there are Arsenal shirts everywhere, 90% of them being worn by tour groups. I’ve never seen so many football tourists in all my days.
We take on a couple more sites then decide to head to my mum’s. It’s a half hour before kick off and I am going to have to pray for 3G signal on the bus and follow the game by twitter.
Amazingly I check in after 13 minutes just as the tweet comes through that Ulloa has put us 1-0 up. I send a virtual goal celebration tweet and switch accounts and back again. By the time I have it’s 1-1. And so it stays. We get back to my mum’s and The Ashes goes on while I remain glued to the smartphone. We seem to be taking a battering. Or competing and trying to win it. Playing well. Or not. Following football this way is impossible and frustrating and yet somehow compelling. With 5 minutes left I switch to Final Score. I think we’ve held on. Oh wait a minute. “Here’s Harry Gration with an important goal from Elland Road.”
Please let it be us.
It isn’t. Bollocks. I let out a yell of frustration and my mum stares at me sternly before she puts two and two together. I go back to the children and join in a game of snap. “Just like last season” I think. Snap indeed.