I had an opportunity to have a socially-distanced meet up with fellow Imps fan, Dan Norton, earlier this week and it reminded me a little of the things I miss the most.
Before I start, isn’t it weird how we seem moved to add the words ‘socially distanced’ to anything we put on social media these days, as if not putting it meant we were hugging like new-age hippies at a summer solstice? My cousin goes out for a walk every day and when exercise was only permitted once a day, she wrote ‘one permitted exercise’ on all the photos she put on, as though going out was a crime. It’s such a shame, that we feel we have to justify everything to other people, when a broad section of society couldn’t give a flip.
Anyway, the article…..
I’ll confess, to a degree, I haven’t missed the actual football. Yes, I miss ‘the football’ as a whole, as a day out, but in terms of actual action, I’m not sure I missed it that much. Watching back over old games, the break has given me a chance to appreciate how far we have come in such a short space of time, without the pressure of who we are signing, who we are releasing, what other teams are doing. It’s been a bit like a pre-season without the pressure. I commented as much to Dan who I think agreed in principle. Maybe we get fed too much football these days and to be able to take stock has been quite nice.
I did flick on to a rerun of Northern Ireland against Ukraine the other night and have a slight yearning for tournament football, but it was only slight. Right now, I should be wasting money I don’t have on Panini stickers I don’t need, watching countries I don’t care about doing better than England, but I’m not. Instead, I’m hammering different series on Netflix and Amazon Prime, beginning to now get restless.
Despite having not been adversely affected by missing the action, I have desperately missed many aspects of my matchday experience. I figure you are all the same, you’ll miss different things about your day, so to get us thinking about the good times, here are the things I miss, in chronological order from start to finish.
This is a pretty obvious one, but perhaps the biggest thing I miss about it all is my Dad. We don’t go to every game together, but we do sit together. I miss arranging with him on a Thursday what we’re going to do, trying to convince him to go for breakfast at the Corn Dolly first or to not bugger off to the pub and leave me on my own. I miss the chatter that inevitably always starts with ‘I don’t know how we’ll get on this week’, as if most weeks we know exactly what will happen. I miss him telling me the latest injury news using the words ‘your man’ instead of the player name, then me having to guess what the hell he is on about. Seriously, he’ll say ‘I see your man’s injured and that other lad might have to come in for him’. Chris Kamara, eat your heart out. I miss entering the ground and him going on about getting in early or giving me a look because someone I know that he isn’t keen on comes over to chat. I miss either getting sat down with him and chatting about the game, or him coming in at five to three after he’s met up with some people on the High Street, beer-glow n tow.
I do not miss his utter misery as we drive home from a defeat though, especially not one we’ve played well in. He can never see that until a few days later and often the silence has been stony until we get out to Greetwell and the post-match interviews seem upbeat. Then he softens, or if we have been guff, I harden. Walking away from the ground, I always want to see the positives and unless we’ve won, dad is the exact opposite. To a dgeree, maybe I do miss that, the jousting as we look to pull each other to our way of thinking.
I do seem to know a lot of people, not all by name, but many who I say hello too. Most I know purely from football, whether it is from them commenting that they read the site, or just coming over for a chat on a match day. I don’t see everyone every week, but I do miss just catching someone’s eye and nodding, or stopping for a chat about the team, the situation at the club or something I’ve written. I think that I’m quite an isolated person, I like my own space and I live well away from society, only really seeing the postman and my neighbour on a daily basis. That’s why the social aspect of the club is so important because I am enriched by other people safe in the knowledge they all want the same thing as me; an Imps’ win. There’s no need to talk politics or any of that stuff because we can talk about Lincoln City. I do know one or two people who I would fall out with spectacularly if we ever talked politics at length, but who I’ll happily converse with on a matchday because we share the same goals.
I miss 2 pm. There is a certain anticipation to knowing who is playing, it is the first real signal of how an afternoon might go. Have we picked up an unlikely injury? Is the opponent’s star striker missing? Can we guess who is playing left-back this week? It’s almost like sitting down in the cinema ahead of the film and watching the trailers; you know everything is about to start but you still have time to prepare and discuss.
I also enjoy chatting to the other experts about the lineup too, arguing over who might play where, debating what options might have been better like we are, in some way, more knowledgable than the manager. The number of times I heard things like ‘I’m surprised Aaron Lewis isn’t starting this week’ is unreal, but it is all part of the fun. Football is all about opinions and 2 pm is a chance to get yours across in real-time.
I especially like this if I’m in the media area because Chris Ashton will hand a teamsheet out and deliver some of his nuggets of wisdom. I’m always up for hearing what Chris has to say because he is Mr Lincoln City himself.
This covers a multitude of things, but I generally miss the stadium. I thought a bit about this last night whilst listening to a song by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry called ‘Money Come Money Go‘. The general theme of the song is you have money, you spend money and yet you are the constant. That’s a bit like Sincil Bank; success comes and goes, players come and go, manager, chairmen, kits, trends, everything changes around the ground. She, as I like to refer to Sincil Bank, she remains. She is the constant, sitting amongst those tightly packed terraced houses, alive with light at night, vibrant with noise on a Saturday afternoon, like a theatre. The play changes, the actors change but before the curtain goes up, it is the same venue.
I miss the walk to the ground from where I park, especially at night as the stadium is lit up and ready to go. I even miss climbing the stairs and getting my first view of the pitch, having to push past people stood I the gangways and ascending to my seat. I miss Sincil Bank, just like I enjoy going there on a non-matchday, for a meeting or something, and looking out across the turf as it awaits another opponent. Yup, I miss the old girl.
Anything after this is subjective, depending on the result or the performance, but the final constant that I really miss is 2.55 pm. The teams come out, the last of the fans settle into their seats and the noise erupts. That is the moment where the individual show begins, and the routine ends. Right up until that point you can rely on constants, the people, the sounds, the experiences, but everything after is in the lap of the gods. Will Brett Huxtable ruin another game? Will we play badly, or will we excel? All possibilities are open and at 2.55 pm it all begins. It’s like a gambler feels as the poker cards are laid face down in front of him (or her). They could be a handful of aces or a complete washout of non-connected suits and numbers, but that adrenalin kicks in and anything can happen. Even when it is Everton or Championship Ipswich running out with the Imps at their side, there is an expectation that it might just be our day.
I miss that, perhaps most of all. I miss that journey into the unknown, the collective anticipation of 8,000 home fans as the famous red and white makes another trip out onto the turf, ready to write their own tiny slice of history. Will it just be an entry in a yearbook, long-forgotten (0-0 v Gillingham this season), or will it be another 5-3 against Ipswich, talked about for years to come. For five minutes every home game, you just don’t know.
I miss the hope, the expectation and the belief that those final five minutes always gives you. It’ll be back, eventually, but I think I miss it most of all.
After Dad, obviously.
I noticed, after publishing this, that it suggests a read of an article I wrote once before in which I spoke of things I’d miss if we got promoted out of the National League. It made me laugh, might be worth reading if you’re bored.