There has, for some time now, been a dull sense of shame present within my gut whenever I admit to someone who has no interest in the game that I follow football and until recently, I was unable to place the source of this unnecessary and unwelcome niggle. Perhaps it stems from the fact that I essentially gave up on the game as a teenager because girls and music seemed like far more interesting prospects and seeing as I could never see these domains meeting easily, I have ever since seen football as a possible turn-off where the ladies are concerned – something that is by default a bit of a macho cliché and as such, kept my fancy for the game quiet depending on who I’m with. If this is not the cause of my slight embarrassment however then maybe (as some of my Liverpool and Manchester United supporting chums suggest) it is simply a natural result of my heritage? See, I am, by birth-right a supporter of Chesterfield FC, one of the oldest teams in the football league, who, after a fairly nondescript recent history now rather excitingly occupy the top spot of the league 2 table. In addition, we only this season moved to a fantastic new stadium which is surprisingly brimming with personality, especially for a new build, and is also handily situated in the midst of human-friendly institutions such as pubs and houses and the like rather than the centre of an industrial wilderness like some other grounds, grounds which thanks to their location do on occasion imply that you are watching football in a post Chernobyl wasteland. So, all things considered you would think that I’d be pretty proud to admit my fancy for the game of football at the minute wouldn’t you?
Well, a couple of weekends ago the cause of this subtle shame made itself very apparent as I followed the Spireites into deepest Shropshire in order to enjoy what had the promise of being a bit of a goal-fest against a Shrewsbury Town side (our previous meeting ended in a 4-3 victory) who are themselves looking to claim a play-off spot at the very least. Arriving at the Greenhous Meadow (we’ll move swiftly on, the B2Net Stadium is hardly a superior moniker after all) was a challenge in itself as this relatively new arena sits comfortably in the midst of sod all, although there is a ‘Toys ‘R’ Us’ down the road – a perk which should never be overlooked. The game ended in a classically electrifying 0-0. Thrilling.
Still, the lack of goals or indeed any entertainment on the pitch whatsoever is not something which I have been forced to endure for a very long time now and as such, perhaps, I’ve become a little spoiled. Anyway, a miserable goalless draw in the rain was not by any means the most depressing thing which assaulted my senses that day. The true origin of my football-flavoured guilt was all around me. Thanks to a pleasantly slack seating arrangement, my father and I made our way to the back of the away stand on the advice of a chirpy fellow whose backside had already claimed the seat which my ticket had allocated. There was room to spare, despite a good turn out from the Chesterfield fans and so we took it upon ourselves to get the best view possible. However, sitting at the back of an away stand can be likened on occasion to sitting at the back of the school bus and seeing as we were, without realising at the time, now sat as close to the home fans as was possible (still half a stand away I must add), we swiftly found ourselves encased in the midst of what can best be described as the ‘class’ of Chesterfield; a potent mixture of fifty year old men in hoodies and spotty teenagers, each of whom was filled with an odd sense of bravado considering that they were well out of harms way and had more chance of scoring the winner than actually getting into a fight with any members of the home faithful.
Now, I must point out that I fully appreciate banter, in the majority of forms because there is nothing quite as dull as sitting through a nil-nil draw in silence. Plus, by removing this noisy and obnoxious element from the terraces, you would reduce the passion and this is not something which could or should be attempted. Still, when you are stood, slap-bang in the middle of a clamorous crew of wannabe nut-jobs, characters whose songs have little or nothing to do with supporting their team, you may well find an over-whelming sense of embarrassment soon takes hold of your mind, as I myself discovered at the Greenhous Meadow. Not content with repeatedly knocking the town of Shrewsbury and dismissing it as a ‘shit-hole’, an ironic chant considering that the ground was surrounded by fields and toy-stores, miles from the town itself, the ‘class’ soon began trying to cause as big a ruck as possible, demanding that the Shrewsbury fans waited for them at the end of the game. Then, mid-way through a second half, which could have been played in fog it was that memorable, the pimply Herbert to my left, a Burberry laced munchkin with a clear and desperate desire to please his elders came out with what can only be described as the pinnacle of all moronic comments, the greatest illustration of retardation that I have ever witnessed at any football ground (and I’ve been to Hillsborough three times). With one saliva soaked outburst, this jumped-up little git defined the stereotypical football-following imbecile, the creature I fear becoming so much that it leads to my pre-mentioned shame. As a bird flew above our position, uncontrollably, and fuelled with vitriol, the young swine growled the following quote, “f*cking seagull….c*nt”!
How do you react to such a fantastic blow-up? It’s hard to put it into words in truth, but safe to say that something within me died in that moment, or at the very least had an embolism. Though every single team has its share of idiots who follow them across the land, looking for the smell of a scrap which will never materialise, when there is naught but one empty seat between yourself and the perpetrator of such mindless genius, then it hurts. Still, if anything I owe this lad a great service. The shame which I endured has, as a result, been removed or at least dulled because however many away trips I make, however many Saturday afternoons are spent in the rain watching nil-nil draws I can safely say that at no point, ever, have I called a seagull a c*nt. We are top of the league, and we don’t like salt-water birds! I bet Brighton fans are absolutely shitting themselves.