Life on the Terraces

In his final column as Sports Editor, takes a light-hearted look at experiences on the football terraces

Image: Tom Bullen

Image: Tom Bullen

A matter of days before my time as Nouse Sports Editor is over, I’ve finally gotten round to writing a regular comment piece. Much like a rickety Northern Rail train, it’s a case of ‘better late than never’ I guess.

The inspiration was born out of my former co-editor Tom Fennelly’s suggestion that I write a column called ‘Countyfile’. Whether that’s a reference to my delusional support of Stockport County, or whether he thinks I look like young John Craven, I’m not too sure.

The other day, while nervously flitting between the living room and wearing a groove in the kitchen floor with trips to the fridge every five minutes, the TV gave me the news that Wigan Warriors forward Ben Flower has been slapped with a six-month ban for walloping Lance Hoaia in last week’s Grand Final.

To rub salt into what is probably an already-gaping wound, Wigan lost too. (For southerners: Rugby League is a little bit like Union… but better). It’ll go down as one of those ‘I was there’ moments for the people in the stands.

My good friend and former Nouse columnist Rob Culshaw subsequently recounted the time in last year’s Grand Final that he patted Flower on the head as he bounded his way through the stands. Thankfully, Rob didn’t get twatted on that occasion.

It got me thinking though; regardless of our favoured sport, we’ll do anything to follow our teams across the country for the memories it creates and the right to take the mick out of a mate that couldn’t make it because they were working their afternoon shift at Morrisons.

A win leaves you feeling as high as a kite, or, more appropriately for me at least, a defeat ruins the weekend. And yet, it’s no secret that the cost of following sport – football, in particular – is rising.

The BBC released an excellent report last week that laid bare just how much we’re being fleeced to watch football. Here’s a little fact for you: the cheapest season ticket at Real Madrid is less expensive than the cheapest one at Altrincham FC, in the Conference National. Make of that what you will – but from experience, I’ve been to Altrincham, and I’m not planning on making a habit of it.

There’s a serious point to be made about the price of football here, but for once I’ll leave that to someone else. It does raise the question though – if it’s so bloody expensive, why do we bother?

In a nutshell, it’s just something we do. The weekend wouldn’t be the same without football (or your alternative sport of choice).

It’s like fish & chips at the seaside or having a few too many vodka mixers on Salvo Wednesday – life would be miserable without it. Despite the Sky Sports era, those of us daft committed enough go through the same ritual on football day, usually involving varying amounts of alcohol and train journeys sat next to someone with serious body odour issues.

Each club also has their own unique ‘thing’. At Norwich City, it’s jumping round to terrible music when they score. At Newcastle United, you’ll find a bunch of overweight topless blokes with their man-tits swinginside-to-side, as they get red in the face shouting ‘PARDEW OUT!’ You get the idea.

And then there’s the terrace chants. It’s been a tough decade at Stockport. The fall from Championship to Conference North has been brutal; we couldn’t afford a coat, never mind a sodding parachute. The result is gallows humour from the stands, including the fantastic ‘We’ll win again’ – a witty adaptation of Vera Lynn’s classic.

My all-time favourite was last season; the club’s board was about as popular as a bout of anthrax in a field full of cows. When they released season tickets, they were met with ‘you can shove your season tickets up your arse’. I think somebody took it literally. That ended badly.

Suddenly, I’ve come full-circle back to ticket prices. So, it doesn’t matter what your favourite sport is – Football, Rugby League, competitive kitten huffing – regardless of cost, we ultimately turn up in droves anyway, like a bunch of socially-challenged lemmings hopping off the top of a cliff.

I’ll finish on a partially serious note. During the last two years, I’ve met some fantastic people, and some great writers. There’s been the four university tournaments, (three of which, true to form, York lost), the weekends sat in a filthy office smelling of stale takeaway, and the getting soaked on 22 Acres every week. My lasting memory will be criticising a Lancaster hockey player at Roses 2014. Her dad happened to be stood behind me; when I turned round, it also turned out to be my fucking landlord. I nearly died.

So, that’s that; the end. Thanks Nouse, it’s been a blast. I might be back with a column next edition (hint), or the new editor might wield the axe. Who knows? The next editor, probably.

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