The Fulham game reminded me of why I first fell in love with football. When my dad first took me to St Andrew’s it was like going to a different world: a world of noise and excitement. As J B Priestly said, going to a football match “turned you into a member of a new community, all brothers together for an hour and half … having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid life.” (See longer quote below.)
I nearly didn’t go to Fulham as I’d had a busy week. I’m moving to a new home this week and helping to arrange an AGM the following week. I’m so glad that I did go because the break from ordinary life was just what I needed. I like Craven Cottage and walking along the river from Putney Bridge to the ground has to be one of the most scenic approaches to a football ground in this country. It was a good game and entertaining to the end. I like to take a picture of the scoreboard showing the final score so took a picture of it displaying 1-4 during the four minutes of time added on. I was irritated that I had to take another one showing 2-4 but delighted to see Viv Solomon Otabor’s first Blues goal that necessitated a picture showing the final score 2-5. The happy, bouncing Birmingham City fans made the stand vibrate and I belonged to that community although I wasn’t bouncing or inebriated. I belonged there just as much as I belong in my church and in the reading groups I attend.
Being at a game is a totally different experience to watching on TV. I enjoyed watching Salford City play Notts County on TV but my enjoyment was meagre compared to the elation of the Salford fans who saw their team win a place in the second round of the FA Cup. I was an observer but the fans at the game were participants and their presence there was as essential as the players being on the pitch.
Brian Lomax, a man who championed supporters’ involvement in the game, died a week ago. David Conn quoted him as saying,
“I believe there are certain very important values in life and that football support embodies them,” he said then. “There is a sense of pilgrimage, of going to a sacred place; there is loyalty, sticking with something through good and bad times … It’s about emotion, about sharing and comradeship, about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. These are very deeply rooted human needs and I believe that that is at the root of people’s love for football and loyalty for their clubs.”
I first found the quote from The Good Companions by J B Priestly at the National Football Museum (well worth a visit if you are in Manchester) and the following longer quote on The Educated Left Foot.
“To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink. For a shilling the Bruddersford United AFC offered you Conflict and Art; it turned you into a critic, happy in your judgement of fine points, ready in a second to estimate the worth of a well-judged pass, a run down the touch line, a lightning shot, a clearance kick by back or goalkeeper; it turned you into a partisan, holding your breath when the ball came sailing into your own goalmouth, ecstatic when your forwards raced away towards the opposite goal, elated, downcast, bitter, triumphant by turn at the fortunes of your side, watching a ball shape Iliads and Odysseys for you; and what is more, it turned you into a member of a new community, all brothers together for an hour and a half, for not only had you escaped from the clanking machinery of this lesser life, from work, wages, rent, doles, sick pay, insurance cards, nagging wives, ailing children, bad bosses, idle workmen, but you had escaped with most of your neighbours, with half the town, and there you were cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swopping judgements like lords of the earth, having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life, hurtling with Conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its Art. Moreover it offered you more than a shilling’s worth of material for talk during the rest of the week. A man who had missed the last home match of “t’United” had to enter social life on a tiptoe in Bruddersford.”