I decided to renew my solitary quest to ‘do things’ at the weekend and this time I went to the first football match of the season. Naturally as any football fan will tell you, it’s a time of hope, new players in, youngsters brought through to the squad and all is good. It’s a time of confidence where a positive spin can be put on most things and thoughts of a good season seem realistic, in short it’s a window in which to hope before the inevitable disappointments.
The Saturday weather was glorious helping make it the perfect way to kick off he season and coupled with the sexy new passing style that we have adopted gave the day an added anticipation, I savoured that group feeling like the smell of freshly cut grass or the scent of the first barbecue of the summer. I started making copious notes on my phone as I have forgotten my notebook and I sadly found that I had lost everything between the stadium and home, another reason why books are better, strangely all my poor attempts at photography came back home unscathed.
Topically for this post, it was announced last week that Field Mill (to give the stadium its proper name not the name of a sponsor One Call we now have) is the oldest professional football ground in the world, being used since 1861 and is second only to Sandy Gate Road (in Sheffield) as the oldest football ground on the planet by a year. With such heritage coupled with the traditional feeling of hope, it would have been rude not to come and experience the atmosphere again, something I haven’t done for a few years.
Arriving at the compact stadium and purchasing my ticket, there was an air of expectation and excitement, a party atmosphere – with plenty of families in attendance – which is refreshing after last year’s torrid campaign. It was nice to see the programme (of which I used to hoard as many as I could get my hands on) feeling more professional, almost like a taller Reader’s Digest but with more colour and adverts for local businesses and a Medium. I quickly headed inside the ground, which is in fact outside and took my seat to see everybody arriving and to feel myself raised on a tide of expectation tinged with trepidation.
As the fans slowly dribbled in, everything was relatively sedate, lots of chatter, groups of people having a laugh or like me reading the programme. The 722 Carlisle finally fans announced themselves with plenty of chanting but with a 340 mile round trip on the first day of the season, they probably need anything to keep the spirits up. In fact we are the fifth closest teams to Carlisle. The home reaction came back at them as the teams came out and being situated close to the pitch, I felt the chants cascading down from the tier above and swirling around the ground.
There is something wonderful about the whole experience, the heart in mouth moments as their number 14 Jabo Ibehre came at us (a good solid player with technique and strength and one to watch this season) and the equally tense attacks our lads had. It says something that when we scored, it was perhaps inevitable that we let one in, that was when the usual attack of pessimism kicked in and some of that excitement was replaced by the feeling that perhaps this season may be one of a more rollercoaster style. Still its a satisfactory result with plenty of positives to take away from it, I did come away with a few more grey hairs though.
With both teams having established that the referee doesn’t know what he doing, the realisation that there are only 45 league matches left and hopefully a good cup run as well (or not as we were hammered 4-1 by Sheffield Wednesday the day after I drafted this) will keep that honeymoon period going for a while.
Highlighting the need for small clubs to make money and stave off the ever-present threat of bankruptcy I was amused to note that even the stoppage time is now announced with a local sponsor attached, it’s this mercenary innovation that keeps a great entertainment going for the town and . As afternoons out go, it was well worth it and I hope to go to a few more matches this season, if you have a few spare minutes, I hope you’ll look up our league position and perhaps share in the highs and lows (we excel in the latter usually) of the unfolding madness and obsession that is the world’s most popular sport.
(my normal blog visiting routine will shortly be resuming, I know I have missed out on lots of cracking posts but I will be around soon, thanks for sticking with me)