The Pre-Match Rituals of a Football Fan
Football fans can be odd creatures. I'm a football fan and although I think I'm perfectly normal, my missus would tell you otherwise! I have been obsessed with the game since I was a little boy, and although the game has changed in many ways over the last couple of decades, I will always be hooked.
There's something quite special about match days especially. As a nipper, I remember waking up at the crack of dawn in a state of excitement - I used to drive my Dad mad! I would have laid out my football clothing the night before, so I wouldn't have to rush about in the morning. Every time I pulled on my shirt, put on my hat and wrapped my scarf around my neck, I would get this immense sense of pride for my team - sad I know! I would then head downstairs for breakfast- usually boiled eggs, soldiers and a bacon butty - and then we would hit the road.
The car journey to the train station would normally involve a game of eye spy or me quizzing my Dad on the 'good old days' as he would call it, which to you and I means when football was played in black and white. I would also drive him round the bend by asking him about football clothing in those days and he would always reply 'only the posh kids had the replica jerseys, I had a red and white scarf knitted for me by Nanny Edith'.
I always knew he wasn't telling me the whole truth as I have seen photos of him wearing a silky flat hat lined with pin badges, but for some strange reason he would never actually tell me about that. He's a funny man my dad!
I used to love arriving at the train station and spotting fans of rival teams. And then when arriving at the ground, walking down from the station, that buzz of anticipation as you stepped out was, and still is amazing.
Then you would set eyes on the hordes of fans, some in football clothing, others in casual get up - a sea of red and white roaming through the streets. I would always have to buy my match day programme from the same programme seller. He was an old boy with bright silver hair and he used to reek of tobacco.
Dad would insist on going for a quick pint before we went in the stadium, and he would always order a pint of London Pride and a packet of dry roasted peanuts. I would have a lemonade until I got a bit older, when the old man would treat me to a pint of lager, whispering the immortal words: 'don't tell your mother!'
On entering the ground I would always have butterflies in my stomach, although I've since grown out of this. I would click through the turnstiles and then rush to get to my spot on the terrace in time to watch the players warm up.
Once on the terrace, that was it. I remember the first couple of games I went to I would just stand there in awe just taking in the atmosphere, the colours, the smells. Then the game would kick off and we would get battered, and on the journey home you would wish you supported a decent team. And then the following week you'd do it all again. We're not that odd are we?