Football fortune, that’s what Danny considers tonight to be. He’s right, win, lose or draw we’ll go home happy.
Okay, get beat 8-1 and I wouldn’t be smiling, but we should be looking forward to this game without trepidation. After all, what does it matter? The win is getting the match on Sky, earning more money and hopefully investing back into the team.
We’ve done it before, the FA Cup run of 2016/17, the EFL Trophy win a year later, our FA Cup tie with the Toffeemen last season. Each year we craft some football fortune and boost the budget a little. Each year we, as fans, get excited about a big game, a ‘day out’ somewhere and a chance to enjoy ourselves without the pressure of failure.
Over the last 24-hours, it’s become increasingly hard to get excited about tonight’s game, or rather it’s become hard to allow myself to become excited. I feel that in glorifying our own success I’m in some way ignoring the death of a 134-year-old football club.
I have no allegiance to Bury. I have a friend, Peter, who is a Bury fanatic but other than that I feel nothing towards them that I don’t feel for other clubs. I’ve booed them, I’ve willed them to lose and last season, for a moment, I was happy they hit money problems as it cleared our way to the title.
I felt immense guilt when I realised how deep those problems ran; guilt that I’d initially felt a little relieved that they had another battle to concentrate on. Given our late-season form, if they’d been clear of financial worry we might have had a fight on our hands for the silverware we ended the season with.
All of that seems a long time ago now. Our stumbling to the title is nothing but a memory fogged by presentations, pitch invasions and joy. For Bury, them finishing second and securing promotion is nothing but a ‘PS’ written at the end of their obituary. Funny, isn’t it? Not ‘haha’ funny, but ironic that those moments in April and May have been quickly consigned to history. All that nice football Bury played, means nothing. That awful 3-0 defeat we suffered on the final day is equally as meaningless.
I can’t begin to imagine the pain Buy fans are feeling. I imagine it’s like the death of a loved one, such is the bond between club and fan. I recall when we almost went bust in the summer of 2002, the same time Bury first had real troubles. I woke up one morning realising we might not have a club to support and I cried. Lincoln City is as much a part of me as anything; it’s like a family member. My partner often asks which I love more, her or Lincoln. Of course it’s her (it is her…. it IS), but Lincoln is up there with the loves of my life.
Losing the club, losing the purpose on a Saturday and the belief things are always going to improve would destroy me. How would I be feeling if I were a Bury fan right now? Inconsolable? Suicidal? Maybe. I wouldn’t go as far as doing anything, but the grief would be as real as losing a parent or loved one.
That’s why I can’t get as excited by tonight because we’ve all lost something this last 24 hours. When was the last time a club actually went out of business like this, mid-season? We’ve always had that feeling that something will come along, that extinction is something that happened in the past. In February 2015, when the Coop Bank looked like sending us over the edge, I had belief we’d survive. It has almost been an age of renewed innocence, brought about by the rich culture of football, Someone always has the money, someone always wants to save the clubs.
Last night, that recently-acquired innocence ended. I’m not naive, I know Workington, Maidstone, Aldershot and Rushden (to name but a few) have gone to the wall in the past, but not recently and few during a season. The signs were ominous when Bury couldn’t kick off this campaign and to be fair, there wasn’t anywhere left for the EFL to go with this. League One has been unfair at the start of this season and a decision had to be made. Sadly, whatever plans people had to save Bury, they’ve come too late. Far too late.
I’ll go to Sincil Bank tonight and I’ll enjoy the game, but I’ll feel like I would on a night out when a mate’s Mum had just passed away. I’ll feel a little guilty at enjoying myself, at cheering on my club during the good times. Sure, it’ll subside and maybe I’m being melodramatic, but that’s just the way I feel. I firmly believe if you’re revelling in this situation, championing their expulsion from the league, then you don’t truly empathise with other football fans.
So what if some of their supporters were arseholes last season? A club isn’t fifteen or twenty angry young men intent on having a fight. It’s the staff member chaining herself to the drainpipe. It’s the 80-year-old who has been going since he was a kid, following his Dad’s footsteps who no longer has a purpose on a Saturday afternoon. It’s the blogger without a subject to write about anymore. It’s the families, the supporters and the members of the community who have their lives intrinsically linked with a club they thought would go on forever.
They’re suffering and to revel in that is, simply put, sickening.
I know one thing; win, lose or draw tonight I’ll be grateful that our club had Bob Dorrian to guide us through our financial turmoil and Clive Nates to usher in the new age. I’m thankful that when fans have said things like ‘get the chequebook out Mr Chairman’, he’s resisted the urge to in order to protect the club’s long term future.
Most of all, I’m just going to be thankful we still have our club, in great shape and hopefully secure in the future.