It’s a cliché question.
Why do you love the game?
But it’s a good one.
We all have a reason why we love the game. We may not love the game right now but there’s a reason why we all fell in love with a ball being kicked around by 22 players for 90 minutes with the aim to stick it through a few posts.
For some, last season finalised a deal – they wouldn’t be renewing their season ticket or handing another pound over to the football club.
Last season saw players who Norwich City were fortunate to have, fail to mould into one to achieve success – only glimpses were given before loan players said their farewells, a legend waved farewell and a starlet all but indicated farewell. It said ‘promotion-challenging’ on the drawing board, but it never translated on the pitch.
Norwich City, known for their bounce-back-ability, never settling for Championship football and always wanted to escape (even if that meant League One in 2009), settled.
Time was a word we all heard too much. And soon time and patience ran out.
It was a season of working things out, when it reality things should have been worked out and put into practice so much earlier.
Fans claimed to have fallen out of love with the game or at least with Norwich City.
So did I.
By the second half of the season, I wasn’t sparked in the same way many would know me to be.
Third year of University took priority, as it should, and I gained an interest in the Non-Leagues of whom I was writing my dissertation on, but as a City fan it wasn’t the end of the world if I missed the odd radio commentary.
City had nothing to fight for, there was no need to wear my “lucky” shirt anymore.
It got to the extent that by the end of the season, I had to ask people who finished where in the play-off spots, whilst Sunderland’s relegation didn’t register until a week later.
Having truly fallen in love with the game during an era of relegations, promotions and being on the cusp of either, it had muted.
Being a long-distance fan has its downfalls; you disconnect easily, your views may be a tad off at times.
But for me, being a long-distance fan means I never fall out of love with the game for too long.
When the fixture lists are released, and the season begins, it all starts again.
It means that when a fixture is “local”, I get to have “that” feeling again, whether that be a goal going in or just being part of a crowd rather than sitting and staring longingly at my speakers.
Whilst my favourite feeling is an odd one, but one which Wembley made evident to me. It probably sums up my love of being part of something, the feeling of “being here” or when I’m in Norwich “being home” even when home is nearly 200 miles away. For me, it’s that feeling you get when you’re at the turnstiles or walking up the stairs and you can see a hint of daylight, a hint of the ground, a sneak peek and then it opens up to you – it fascinates me, for a reason I don’t even know.
And then if you’re part of my family, being one of the first there and watching the stadium fill, to then being the last one there and watching the stadium empty (whatever the result – trust me, my dad refuses to duck out early). It makes the “did that just happen” moment last a little longer and makes you long for another and when you probably will not see another game for few more months, as and when that day arrives, the excitement builds, even when we’re going to be lucky to get a draw.
Last season, the games I saw weren’t anything special. A cup win, two wins, a draw and a loss. Yet even after that loss, I yearned for more. Even after that draw, I wanted to see more.
Even the Play-Off finals turned from watching to longing to be there. It was the jealousy of the fans there but also the annoyance of seeing the empty seats and remembering the Red and Yellow divide, the sea of Yellow making its way down Wembley Way, driving up the motorway and seeing a scarf in the back of the car and seeing a “neighbour” from the South West.
But then again, watching the Play-Offs leaves that question of whether promotion will ever feel as good as that day, and potentially more crucially, would I want to risk that Wembley memory in favour of another?
That’s possibly the thrill of football – the risk – the would you, or wouldn’t you? Even I can’t answer that question. But did watching the Play-Off’s spur another piece of excitement and what ifs, possibly.
And even as we settle into pre-season, I’ve already mentioned away grounds I could tick off. I guess there’s just something special about going to a football match, it makes me feel like a kid again and maybe I’ll grow out of it, but for now, it’s staying.
I don’t speak for all. I don’t and can’t speak for the minority and that’s what makes this piece a ramble – it’s a view irrelevant to your own.
Your circumstances will alter your opinion. Clicking your fingers and saying “get over last season” may not do anything for some.
People use their petrol travelling up and down the country (but mainly up), they spend their well-earned cash to watch 90 minutes of a game that could go either way and they still don’t know when to throw in the towel as the turnaround may be on.
Football is a team sport. It’s all about a team v team scenario, the fans are the 12th man, the atmosphere is everything. We all hear the same words. And it fascinates millions of people worldwide.
It means something different for everyone.
It may be a memory from last season or a game from decades ago.
It may be that seat you’ve sat in for so many years that you’ve lost count or those who you sit with.
It may be a feeling of when a goal is scored or pulling on your “lucky” shirt and socks that you refuse to change.
It may be waiting in line for your tickets and managing to secure them for the “big game”.
It may be ticking off new grounds, meeting new people, seeing new places, hearing new accents or my favourite, finding a way to get lost at every away ground ever visited (it’s possible, even when we’ve visited it several times before).
It may be a childhood renewed.
It may be that joy of bringing your kids along for their first game and telling them why a player got yellow not a red, why the goal was disallowed and why you certainly do not celebrate when a ball ends up in “that” net’.
Or maybe it’s just the joy of listening to that discussion behind you.
Or it may just be 90 minutes to vent.
We’ll all keep those reasons dear to us. But we all have our reasons.
And hopefully some-time this season, for each one of us who may have lost faith on the way, who may be on the edge of throwing the towel in but wanting to hold off just a little longer, who refuse to be the fan you criticise for all the empty seats, or who have decided to sit and stare longingly at the radio or Twitter for the upcoming season, we’ll figure out why we love to hate but also hate to love those 11 players kicking around a football for 90 minutes at Carrow Road.