The rational part of me thinks that football is only a game and it’s ridiculous that the result of a game can lead to elation or despair. But that rational part is not in control while I’m watching Birmingham City play. As I was watched the game at Bolton I oscillated between despair and elation, between fear and hope. Afterwards I just felt tired; emotional roller coasters are exhausting.
So I’d be lying if I said I’d enjoyed the game but, even at the lowest point when we were 2-0 down, I was glad I was there, surrounded by fans who cared as much as I did. There were times during the season when it felt that the fans had given up and surrendered to apathy. The incredible support at home to Wigan and away at Bolton reassured me that wasn’t the case.
Our fans were magnificent, turning up with smiles and fancy dress to what we feared would be a relegation party. I liked the way the Peaky Blinder theme was so adaptable; some went the whole hog with collarless shirts and waistcoats and others just added a cap to their usual outfits. Others came as super heroes, lucky leprechauns, convicts and clergy; there were two nuns sitting behind me. Towards the end it felt as though the crowd was transfusing its energy and desire into the players as we chanted, “We’re Birmingham City, we’ll fight to the end” and we made clear what response we wanted, “One goal, we only need one goal!”
The soon-to-be dismantled team gave us that goal and another season in the Championship. Our survival meant sorrow for Doncaster fans and I take no joy from that. I’d like to express my condolences to the family of the 42-year-old fan who died after he collapsed while watching his team lose at Leicester. That’s far too young to die. Now that the game is over, the rational part of me is regaining control and I know that Bill Shankly was wrong; football is not more important than life and death.