Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Thursday August 7 2008
We football fans can be a perplexing breed at times. Just what does possess somebody to take half a day off work to go to Huddersfield away for a pre season friendly? Especially when you know you have to go to work the next morning with little or no sleep to show for your sacrifice? Well that`s the position me and two good friends find ourselves in today. Why did we do it? Why did I do it? I`m not quite sure. I erstwhilely decided to sack off pre season friendlies a few years ago, in my student days when I spent hundreds of pounds travelling to Glasgow for a match against Rangers. But when Huddersfield popped up in the pre season calendar we each made an informed decision to make the journey. But why? Was it because football was an itch that needed scratching after three months without a fix? Possibly. But I didn`t go to Barnet or the Emirates Cup which would have been much more viable/ sensible alternatives for our footballing methadone. The reason each of us gave was that Huddersfield was a ground we had yet to visit and who knows when we would get the chance to put that particular x in the 92 box again. (Watch on as we draw Huddersfield away in the Third Round of the Carling Cup).
But I think there`s a more subtle reason at work here. I think we did it just so we could say that we had. I cannot deny sitting back and waiting for the exasperated expressions as I proudly announce to my colleagues, "I went to Huddersfield away on a Wednesday night for a pre season friendly." It`s interesting that this article follows on from Amos` piece about one upmanship between football supporters because this is currency in the bragging bank. Somehow, travelling over land and sea for every game in the last six and a half years isn`t quite enough, I need that extra edge. "What`s that? Blackburn away on a Wednesday night for an F.A. Cup replay? Hmmm, that`s pretty committed I suppose? But what about those games that mean absolutely jack shit?" Well now I have renewed armoury to counter this imagined opponent. "Huddersfield away on a Wednesday night for a friendly? Jesus, you are mad!" Why we are so enthralled with going to extraordinary lengths to prove our devotion/ insanity I`ve no idea. I guess it comes down to Real Madrid at home being that little bit too easy. But surely this thinking shouldn`t be allowed? I don`t pursue any of my obsessions in this jaundiced manner. I wouldn`t go to West Yorkshire on a week night to see a mate`s band; I wouldn`t journey to the North East for a particularly decent Fender Telecaster. I did go to Brick Lane last week to listen to a debate about modern folk music, which is a bit sad I suppose, but not in the same ballpark as this. In any other area of interest would I even be proud of such dementia? If I were to announce to my friends, "no thanks lads, can`t go to the pub tonight, I`m staying in with my mum to review my stamp collection." I would be ostracised as a socially defunct nerd. So why is it o.k. to sack off half a day`s work for something as stupid and piffling as this? I knew the game would be rubbish, the atmosphere moribund and the end result unsatisfying. It was just so I could say I`d done it, reassuring myself and informing all others that I am top Arsenal dog, as if they didn`t already know. My whole life I`ve been led to believe that pretty much everything men do is a gargled attempt at impressing the opposite sex, but I can`t imagine scoring at my staff`s summer party tonight with the intro line, "guess what I did last night?" It is not only insanity, but revelling in and glorying in that insanity, that the more illogical about it all you are the better.
I was once dumped by a girlfriend for refusing to renege on plans to travel to Munich to watch Arsenal on the day of her birthday. Sulk as she might, she could not out sulk me on matters Arsenal. So she chucked me. I went to Munich. It was -14 degrees. We played awfully. We lost 3-1. Yet I recant this story with a really uncomfortable sense of pride. Had we gone to Bavaria and whooped Bayern 5-0, it somehow would not have had the same significance. "Oh, that`s o.k. then. The fact that you`ve made yourself lonely and miserable is understandable under those circumstances." But the appalling weather, the dire performance and accompanying score line, surely this was karmic retribution? So why do I take this as an even firmer conviction of commitment to the cause? What right minded human being acts this way? "My girlfriend chucked me because I had tickets for Led Zep on the night of her birthday, but it was o.k. because Robert Plant was trashed and couldn`t sing properly and Jimmy Page was out of tune all night and it pissed with rain the whole way home." Nobody would meet that anecdote with the same sense of bewildering approval you would get from the average football fan.
So anyway, there we found ourselves, driving through the sloping hills and standard Yorkshire cobblestone walls, through the amusingly named town of Penistone, which led to the Fannay Bridge (I promise I`m not making that up. Our stand was also called the Pink Link). As suspected the game was pretty dire, the sole entertainment coming from the stadium announcer with the broadest Yorkshire accent on earth. I had to look carefully to assure myself he wasn`t cloth capped and clutching a loaf of hovis. Whilst Peter Hill Wood reminded us all of his embarrassing PR skills by presenting the Huddersfield chairman with a Chapman bust like the one that "sits in the Marble Halls at Highbury," in his amusingly contrastingly Etonian clipped tones. Who said he was behind the times? Walcott and Vela made a few chances but couldn`t finish, Town had some good opportunities but the chance of scoring against Arsenal sometimes got the better of players who should have been looking at better placed team mates. With 0-0 looking likely, Huddersfield scored a hugely deflected goal (lamentably, I don`t even care enough who it was to look up the guy`s name). Arsenal countered with an even more ricocheted effort from Sanchez Watt that would have had Frank Lampard blushing. In the last minute, Nacer Barazite outdid both of them with a deflected curler which the keeper pushed agonisingly into the net when he really should have saved. Let`s save that sort of serendipity for when the real thing kicks off, eh boys? The final whistle went, and we didn`t even stick around for the fireworks or presentation of the prestigious Herbert Chapman trophy. Why did we bother again?LD.
Date:Thursday August 7 2008
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