Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The end of a love affair?

I’ve devoted an insane proportion of my life, and I dread to think how much of my income, to following a lower league football team. There have been some highs – the occasional promotion - but lots of lows. Relegation is far from being a new phenomenon for fans of Northampton Town Football. I have afflicted my eldest son with this ridiculous affection for a bunch of perennial non achievers. He was at Leeds on Saturday and confessed to coming away from there in tears – even though he had placed £20 on us going down. As I have found out myself this weekend – winning money on something you really didn’t want to happen doesn’t actually make one feel that much better.

Since this happened it has been like all fight has gone out of my team. Our record since then, at which time we were comfortably placed and even discussing our chances of reaching the play offs (ha ha) has been simply atrocious. We have sold our two best players at a profit, and we haven’t replaced them with permanent signings, instead dipping in and out of the loan market and producing an ever lengthening list of no-hopers. At the last count we had used 17 loan players this season– some of them stayed less than a week. They probably didn’t know their team mates names let alone their talents (or otherwise) on the football pitch. We threw a rookie goalkeeper in at the deep end having got good money for his predecessor, and wondered why he struggled (not his fault).

My friend works at the club. She has consistently complained about a lack of discipline and how the senior players have been providing poor examples for the younger ones; strolling in for training an hour late for example, and not being fined for that. Or how about this one? Leading strikers announcing they don’t fancy playing the next match??? She says there has been no application either in training or to recuperation following injury. I quote from the text she sent me on Saturday at 17.14. ‘The thing that makes me so angry is that too many players couldn’t give a shit and tossed it off all season’. No – she didn’t mince her words did she?

There was a time when I would have argued that supporters of small clubs like mine are quite privileged in that we do hear the inside story, do bump into the players at our local Sainsburys, and do feel a connection in the way that supporters of Premiership teams never could. Now I am not so sure – has hearing the stuff about the players who couldn’t care less affected the way I have watched my football this season? Or actually – would I have seen quite clearly enough as it was that they were not putting in the effort at all?

Whatever – the fact is that whilst I have seen us relegated on more occasions than I care to remember, this is the first time I would say we have done so without putting up a fight, and it has left me feeling cold. Whereas at one time I like my son would have been in tears when the relegation was confirmed, this time I just felt angry and short changed for all the time and money I have given to watch them go through the motions, throw matches away, and pick up their over inflated salaries regardless. For the first time since I became a season ticket holder I have not renewed it – and nor do I intend to. I don’t even know that I would have done if we had stayed up, because where I once felt an emotional attachment to the side, this season I have felt at times as disinterested as the majority of the players have been. (I give honourable exceptions to Danny Jackman, Jason Crowe, Mark Hughes and Andy Holt – no one else.)

Reidski might question some of what I have said – in particular the bit about having lost the emotional attachment as he was the one who got the unenviable task of cheering me up this weekend. Maybe, if we start beating the likes of Aldershot, Dagenham and Redbridge, Burton Albion, Accrington Bloody Stanley (that lot makes Chesterfield sound like a glamour tie in comparison) I will snap out of this and my passion for the team will be renewed. But right now it is lower than rock bottom.

Life is indeed All Cobblers.

Or rather – no it isn’t.

(This not being a fan will take a bit of getting used to I suppose.)


trousers said...

What I've said on your previous post.

I'd hope in Northampton's case it might shake things up in a more positive way than that which they've endured (and by the sounds of it, perpetuated in some respects) recently.

If nothing else they're still in League football, and you'd hope that they want to stay in League football: might that be motivation enough to get their act together?

(I'm not sure whether I'm intending this as a rhetorical question)ststiv

trousers said...

Oh and scuse that strange outburst - that was me putting the word verification in the wrong place.

naldo said...

Hey JJ, i can empathise with your plight. I supported Hearts for 40 years on the strength of nothing more than the fact that their ground was closest to where i grew up and my dad took me there when i was a bairn.

Most fitba fans in Scotland dislike Hearts almost as much as they despise Rangers so it's never been that easy - particularly as there's this ridiculous notion that all hibs fans are heroic poet warriors (aye right! - the kickings, gobbings and general abuse i've had from a minority of that mob have always been wonderfully poetic).

But i digress, i had to give up going to watch Hearts when we were bought over by a very wealthy Russian megalomaniac who wouldn't let the manager pick the team then sold our best players to other clubs - 2 of them (including the captain) to fuckin Celtic for fuck sake.

It's been hard but i've adapted to doing other stuff at the weekends. I still look out for Hearts scores and i still go to the pub to watch them when they're on the telly. But i won't hand over another penny to see them in the flesh til that owner clown's out the picture.

The worst part is missing some pals before, during and after the games. Bue hey, i still see them the odd time.

Fitba really is changing. I reckon the number of professional clubs will shrink dramatically while the wages of the very few players right at the top and the price of a ticket to watch a game both spiral even further beyond reason.

As with most shitty aspects of modern life, i blame it all on Ruper Murdoch. Well, most of it.

Oh, and what's wrong with the Spireites? They're very glamourous if you were brought up in Mansfield (so i'm told).

Yorkshire Pudding said...

If Reidski got a chainsaw and cut you in half, they would find the words Northampton Town there like "Blackpool" in a stick of rock. It is impossible to ditch them now. League Two ain't so bad. I've been there with The Tigers when we were shit. That experience has made the good times all the sweeter. Hang in there.

Karen said...

Carlisle have been there many times and we managed to claw our way back. I don't know if we will ever have as good a season as we did in 07/08 when we reached the playoffs to go into the Championship but we can hope. And this comes from me, and I only class myself as a football follower rather than a supporter. I feel an attachment to Carlisle as they are my local team, but also to Liverpool as I went to university with a load of blokes who supported them so I tended to go down the pub with them for matches. But there are other teams I have soft spots for, either for good quality players or ones that have great names. I'm sure the commentators aren't so fond of these...

Grumpy Old Ken said...

I really feel for you. I've followed derby c for many, many years and have we had some rough times. Yet 30,000 of us go every home game, not just when we are doing well. Hope you have better times. By the way, we have let Toddy go, He could still be ok again for you I think, but NOT on a long contract. Good luck.

J.J said...

Trousers - thanks - and I honestly don't know how you cope when your side goes out the league. I wouldn't wish it on anyside - except MK Dons!

And your 'ststiv' made me laugh!

Naldo - christ that's awful too. never having the slightest chance of any Russia meglomaniac taking over my side I had never really thought about what it would mean if they did. so have you given up on all football since? (I've been to Chesterfield so speak with experience of the ladies loo - in fact I still have nightmares about their ladies loo!)

YP - I fear you may be right. These clubs don't deserve us - but it seems they are stuck with us anyway.

Karen - Carlisle are a yo yo team like we are. A boring mid table finish is not for the likes of us.

Ken - Todd was ace for us. Would love the chance to bring him back. But with the curse of Sixfields I fear he would be crocked for the season within a fortnight of his arrival.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

on the up side: more money in your pocket, but I feel greatly for you because severing such a long link should feel like cutting off a limb. As it is, in these circumstances, what may hurt most is that it DOESN'T feel like that because they have so shoddily repaid your attention and affection.

Empathies regardless and may you take some comfort from whatever successes do come in the new year - without the pain of this season and those past.

Kevin Williamson said...

Dont do it JJ! I admire people like yerself and Naldo who stick with smaller less glamurous clubs, good times and bad. Youse are the real supporters not the Rupert Murdoch-fuelled armchair bods who wear Man U tor Chelski tops.

J.J said...

Oh Lisa - considering another bet on us going up as Champions next season :-)

Aye Kev- real fans indeed. Also manic depressives. Old before our time. Alcoholics. And so on and on.....

I was never any good at supporting top teams.Long ago when I first watched football I did select a top team based on where my dad's family were from. They weren't from Manchester, or Liverpool or London. (Though if they had been they would of course knowing my luck have supported Bury, Tranmere or Brentford.)

They were from Stoke :-(