Tis the season to be weeping
At this time of year the directors at Sky start coming into their own. They flex their editorial muscles, they zoom in on the real action, they bring the armchair fans what they really want.
Overpaid pansies playing football? No. I am talking about what makes this time in the season special; the image of small children and overweight grown men in replica kits alike crying as they realise that their team has once again fucked them over. It must be something to do with the Premier League and all that it offers that has this effect on people. Miss out on the Premier League title? Boohoo. Miss out on a top four place? Wail. Drop into the bottom three with no chance of escape? Gnash of teeth.
Super Sunday? Not for these lads.
Even at the top of the Championship this emotional wave sweeps normally rational human beings up in its frothy grasp. We are only weeks away from watching a heavily tattooed skinhead weep like a child when he realises that Fat Sam has failed to deliver his beloved Hammers to the promised land. The thing is though, with the exception of those vying for the actual Premier League title, they are really only weeping over money. Does anyone really believe that the inevitable tears that will be shed at either White Hart Lane, Stamford Bridge or St. James’ Park will be down to the missed opportunity of entertaining AC Kavkelash at home in November? Will the visceral misery that will be displayed at Molineux and the other clubs at the bottom of the Premier League be due to the fact that those fans will miss their team being arseholed on a weekly basis by the multi-millionaires who are visiting from loftier heights?
Football has been about money ever since Uncle Rupert opened his cheque book and gave Martin Tyler a card with the words “And it’s LIVE!!!!!!” written on it.
If you want REAL misery you need to visit the real Ninth Circle of Football Hell – the bottom of the old fourth division, the optimistically titled “League Two”.
As a Bradford City fan, I have watched my team plummet from the heights of Premier League (well OK, probably mid-table early on in the season) to 89th place in the league pyramid. During that time I have endured the footballing philosophies of such luminaries as Bryan Robson, Chris Hutchings and Peter Taylor.
I have seen players like Benito Carbone and Peter Beagrie replaced by the ghost of Keith Gillespie (he allegedly did actually play for us, but I cannot think of a single meaningful contribution he made) and a succession of players who never have been or never will be quite good enough.
For the clubs at the top of the food chain, THAT is real misery. The soul-crushing inevitability of your club never living up to expectations. Of sitting in the best stadium in the league with another 10,000 or so hopeless optimists listening to opposing fans singing “Your ground’s too big for you!”
And yet, at the bottom of the league we turn up week in week out, season after season. Here the disappointment is not displayed publicly. It is swallowed and accepted as the norm. Welcome to Melancholy FC. In all of the time I have followed City, I have seen only one person cry for football reasons and that was when we were promoted to the Premier League. The tears were of pride and joy, and the lad who wept was laughed at by his friends and called a “soft bugger”.
The difference is not that northerners are tougher than southerners (though obviously they are). It is not that Yorkshiremen are emotionally bereft (I remember the tears shed when Tetley’s reached a pound a pint in the local). It is because money has ceased to matter to us beyond having enough to keep the club afloat.
There is a freedom in that kind of hopelessness.
The eleven years since dropping out of the Premier League have seen the club survive two periods of administration and the very real possibility that Bradford City would drop out of existence altogether. We have no money to spend, we have no expectations and as such we experience none of the peaks and troughs that go with fleeting triumph and phoney disaster.
At the time of writing, there are four games left and we are currently seven points clear of the two sides in the relegation positions. This is not a good place to be in, but I will guarantee you that provided we survive in what is the arse-end of the Football League then the first post-match pint on May 5th will be accompanied by the words “I’m looking forward to next season.”
I would love to see us back and competing at the top level of football, but if that means selling our souls to Mammon and giving our dignity away then actually I would rather just bumble along and win the odd game, avoid relegation and maybe get a promotion or two at some point in the next decade. Sadly for the fans of those clubs chasing the dream of promotion to the top flight, Premier League survival or Champions League football they are already lost.
Their players dream of big bonuses, wages at astronomical levels and making the front page due to being famous enough that a report of them bedding some £500 a night slapper is worth covering. The chairman is planning that new stand, another Bentley and a bed made of £50 notes. The supporters cannot wait for another £60 replica kit, being fleeced for another £500 a year for their season ticket and to reminisce of when the stands were half full of proper fans.
Me? I will watch and smile as the crushing disappointment hits someone I have never met and never will as he lays his soul bare for the viewing masses. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but it will happen.
Dry your eyes son, it’s not really football, it’s only money.