While it is true I spend most of my matches screaming and shouting, singing and chanting, hopping and bouncing, there is still time to observe. Observe not only what is happening out on the pitch, but also the mentality and dynamic of the football crowd. You have to be a special breed of person to religiously follow a football team the length and breadth of the country, especially at non-league level, but within this there are any number of sub-species. Here are a few of them:
- The Hardcorer (ultrarius loonarius raverium): found reliably at the back of terrace, usually with mouth gaping wide screaming invective at the unfortunate left-back. Has not missed a game since 1994. Was there on that freezing Tuesday night in December at Radcliffe Borough when no other fucker bothered. Heart beats in sync with the drum. Usually devoid of his River Island, Hackett or Aqua shirt, which has probably been lost or if they are wearing it, stained in Stella, sweat, gravy and other anonymous fluids. Has an account with Barmy flags. Will be there no matter what. “You goin’ to Whitby for the weekender next week, then?”
- The civilised regular (loyalis intellectum): found elsewhere in the terrace, usually with friends or family. Has also been going for years on the season ticket and makes the local aways. Will probably wear the replica shirt bought without fail every season. Optional flat cap. Good banter, occasional moan when the striker boots it over from six yards. Referee the usually target of abuse - “We’ve had ‘im before, fackin‘ rubbish.” Follows what’s happening in the league. Actually knows a bit about the opposition.
- The Sit-down fan (moanus groanus): habitat is the seated stand surrounded by familiar faces. In fact, it’s been the same seat since 1985. Probably getting on a bit. Big sense of entitlement to opinion. Spends the game complaining about everything as though Boston should play like Brazil 1970, even when they’re 5-0 up. Never satisfied. Doesn’t travel away - “not wasting my bleeding money on that rubbish.”
- The Part-timer (loud mouthus inbecillium): dips in and out. Checks the result on the vidiprinter and reads about it in the paper but never actually goes to the match, except for once a season which inevitably coincides with the worst performance. Moans incessantly to anyone who is willing to listen about how depressingly awful the experience was and vows never to waste his time or money again. Until the same point the following season when the whole experience is repeated.
I was annoyed by someone in the latter category yesterday, which probably explains why I’ve decided to do some kind of category thing. Standing in the Spayne Road terrace for the Mansfield game, I had the misfortune to be standing behind the very epitome of the part-time fan. I don’t know why he boiled my blood so much, but he has and that’s why it’s taken my nearly 500 words to get to mentioning the game itself.
Admittedly, United were outplayed by Mansfield and the 4-1 result was an accurate reflection. While the two goals scored by Adam Murray for the Conference side would have graced any game, and one of their goals was a penalty, this was a team flexing their muscles and reasserting precisely why they are considered one of the favourites to return to the Football League this season. There was nothing you could say, United’s slightly experimental side were no match for the Stags and the regulars around me accepted that and instead chose to remember the many positives that could be taken from last week’s win over Wigan and the easy midweek success at Lincoln United. After all, it is best to get these blips out of the system in pre-season, before the real business begins, and other, associated, football maxims.
Not this bloke. From about the time Murray slammed in his second on 81 minutes, through the remainder of the match and then on his walk out of the ground down the entire length of the Spayne Road terrace, out into the car park and doubtless through the remainder of this weekend in his sad little life, he would not cease to loudly criticise every aspect of United’s performance. The stream of abuse was especially blue and nobody was spared. I must have counted the f-word over one hundred times during his enraged walk from the ground. “F-ing rubbish, was an f-ing waste of my f-ing time. Not going to waste any more f-ing money on this f-ing crap this season. Not going to do any f-ing good.” You get the picture.
I’m not making a high and mighty moralistic stand against swearing at football matches because I’m equally as guilty but the point is this man, who had clearly not been at any of the previous friendlies and seen any of the good performances, believes that on the evidence of one afternoon’s football the season has already been condemned. No doubt he will tell everyone he meets over the next week that: “I went to York Street on Saturday and it was f-ing rubbish. You don’t want to waste your f-ing time going down there. They’re no f-ing good.” And no doubt his mates will be gullible enough to believe him and, indeed, not bother.
I have a few words for him, and his kind, and I’m pretty sure they’ll understand them - f**k off then!
Next Match: More Lincolnshire Senior Shield action and another night on JB’s comfortable sofa - Gainsborough Trinity at the Northolme on Tuesday night.