In John King’s debut novel The Football Factory there is a chapter I relate to more than any other. Much of it is about serious fighting. Other bits a side story about the development of the Southall area by its immigrants. These bits I don’t relate to. But there is a chapter where Tommy Johnson (the Danny Dyer character in the film) describes watching Chelsea when you are sick with a heavy cold. About how it restricts you not just from fighting (which I wouldn’t know about) but from going to the pub, getting in to the game’s atmosphere or basically doing anything at all other than feeling like shit. Yesterday I had a cold that was starting to knock me out. I also had a 6 year old in tow with impressionable ears. Which is a shame because we endured a typical game of two halves and the second half of it was possibly the most frustrating passage of play in what is becoming a very frustrating experience. Ok, so Bolton at home last season was worse but I was feeling fine and had no small person in tow then. I was therefore able to vocalise my frustration. Yesterday I physically and morally couldn’t.
Other things change too when you bring your little ‘un. We get to the ground early to avoid the worst of the train crushes. Does he want to see the team coach arrive? No. Go to the club shop? No. Find Gully? No. He wants a burger. So despite being warned off them on twitter earlier that day, a burger he shall have. He knows the hot dogs are “disgraceful”. For me that’s a pretty apt description of the burger too (they have changed beyond all recognition from season 1) but he enjoys his. In fact he wolfs it down and then wants to go to our seat while I am still halfway down the only pint I have allowed myself. I manage to finish it but we are still in our seats 45 minutes before kick off, making us some of the only people to spend the equivalent of three halves in our seats.
He then starts on a list of at least 100 questions. Most I can answer. Some I struggle with. Such as ‘why do some of the players wear yellow vests when they warm up and others don’t’? No idea son. Answers on a postcode please. Or in the comments box. ‘What happens if a Seagulls fan sits with the Forest fans by accident’ was another good one. Maybe something a bit like something out of The Football Factory. By kick off I have no voice left. He has to sing Sussex by the Sea for me.
We have the better of the first half though. Forest give the ball away too much and don’t look to have the cutting edge up front I thought they would. Lua Lua torments them constantly and Buckley does occasionally. We carve out a couple of early chances. Even better we score when Crofts bravely gets on the end of some flair ping pong in the box. The Boy jumps up. “We scored Daddy”. WE. Then it’s back to the incessant questions.
Unfortunately none of the questions are these:
Who sent our centre backs out after half time with their brains switched off?
How can Nottingham Forest, with smaller home crowds than us, be complying with Financial Fair Play when they’ve spent all that money?
Why have we wasted our own budget on average midfielders leaving us with a strike force of Barnes and Barker?
Why is Craig Pawson such an annoying referee?
Why hasn’t Rohan Ince played at all since being man of the match v Bolton?
How does Lua Lua put up with being kicked SO much?
All of these answers could explain a car crash of a second half in which we watch Forest clinically taking their chances while we waste ours. We go 3-1 down from 1-0 up. Then a passage of play that basically saw our players getting fouled every time we got nearer than 40 years to the goal eventually ends with Chalobah getting a second yellow. Can we get two goals in half an hour against 10 men to save a point? No we can’t. Forest effectively stick players behind the ball and foul less often. By the end our attack is as penetrating as a knife made with jelly – that a toddler’s eaten half of
In the train queue the boy asks why we didn’t score when the fans were cheering so loud for them. I can’t answer. Yes, I have a sore throat but I also don’t know what to say.
*Brighton But Only At Home apologises for the lack of accurate and specific match information as it was being distracted by a small child. Chris Kamara never has to put up with this.