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.)
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