Please welcome Ian Plenderleith to the blog, author of ‘Rock n Roll Soccer’ and ‘For Whom the Ball Rolls’. He’s giving us his assessment of the iFollow app
On Friday I wrestled with my inner accountant on whether or not to subscribe to the iFollow app. The downside: it would cost me €130 for a year’s subscription. The upside: I can watch Lincoln City live, wherever I am. Which is mostly Frankfurt, where I live.
Another downside: I’m mostly coaching or refereeing on Saturday afternoons, and taking training on Tuesday nights. The upside: when I’m not, I can watch Lincoln City live, wherever I am. I know I’ve said that already, but as upsides go it was high enough to bear repeating, and so it went on to win the debate. No more praying that Eurosport will show our FA Cup ties (last season they waited until the Arsenal game). No more squinting at a corner of my computer screen on a betting web site – even though I did cash in €50 last season by backing us to come back and win at Gateshead, making Nathan Arnold’s injury-time winner something of a twofold celebration.
I couldn’t really look forward to the opening game last Saturday, however, because I was on a first-aid course from 2pm until 9.30. But when the instructor announced an hour’s break at 4.50 I took my phone rather nifty down to a nearby Thai restaurant to catch the second half. My fork poised over a plate of sweet and sour chicken (the signature dish for football fans – I alternate between sweet and sour on my team several dozen times over 90 minutes), I plugged in my headphones and clicked on the iFollow app.
I have a history of misfortune with new technology, and was fully expecting the App to blank on me, self-delete, or take me to the Forest Green-Barnet game, all the while flashing the crying-with-laughter emoji in the middle of the screen. Yet within seconds, there was the feed from bucolic Adams Park filling up my phone. A few subs casually warming up. Some crap music in the background. This was the ultimate virtually realistic match day experience as I ate bad food and became really quite bored while waiting and waiting for the two teams to come back out.
When the game finally resumed at ten past the hour, a few things became clear. There was no commentary, just crowd noise, which I don’t normally mind (especially as the Imps fans were in fine voice), but on an iPhone screen it’s not easy to make out the individual players. Second, there were no replays – you really are seeing this live and uncut. And while I get tired of watching TV slow motion recaps from six different angles, I couldn’t afford to reach for the soy sauce unless I wanted to risk missing something important.
That something important soon followed – City’s equaliser. I resisted the temptation to jump up from my seat and convey my joy to the rest of the restaurant. Why? Because if someone else did that, my first thought would be: “What a tosser.” I contented myself instead with a clenched fist and a whispered, “Yes!” Then I tried to work out who’d scored. It looked like a Woodyard pass, but I’d no clue who finished.
Still, three minutes into iFollow and I had my first goal. Of course now I wanted the winner, but one of the downsides to downloading the App now became clear. Wycombe were playing an awful lot of high balls. And over the coming nine months, I’m going to be seeing a lot more. In Frankfurt I watch Eintracht, who play in the Bundesliga, and don’t get me wrong – I’d always rather watch Lincoln than any team in the world. It’s just that I’ve been out of the country a long time and have got used to seeing teams generally try to pass the ball accurately on the ground, not aimlessly via the clouds.
The App crashed once, but re-loaded no problem. The next downside was a message from my provider after half an hour that I’d used up 80% of my data for the month. Note to self: next time, watch where there’s wifi. It was now time to get back to my course, so with ten minutes to go I pocketed the phone (rather than be the kind of person no one likes to be – someone who stares at it while walking down the street, causing everyone else to dance out of his way) and left. I wasn’t happy about missing the end of the game, but on the other hand I wouldn’t have to risk seeing Wycombe score a winner that would sour that sweet equaliser.
The future has arrived. I can now pretty much watch Lincoln wherever I am in the world, at whatever time. There were many times over the past few years where I might not have thought that was a particularly good thing. Now, though, I’m on board at a very reasonable rate of around €2.50 per game. And I’m shot of the feeling that plagued me for so much of the last magnificent season – that I was heavily missing out on history.
You can pre-order Ian’s next book, The Quiet Fan (including several chapters about supporting Lincoln in the 70s and 80s) from the crowd-funding publisher Unbound Books. Readers who pledge to buy in advance will have their names printed in the book. Lincoln City fans can get a 15% discount by typing in the code Lincoln15 at checkout.