Never too high, never too low.
That’s the mantra we often speak about, and perhaps rightly so. Nobody wants to hear shouts of a play-off push because we’ve won back-to-back games, but nobody wants to sit around pointing out one player who didn’t perform in a week you’ve scored eight and got six points. Balance is the perfect antidote to pessimism and optimism, and whilst I don’t always live by this myself, I do try my hardest.
However, football is also a beautiful game which delivers highs and lows in close proximity, sometimes within minutes of each other, as we saw on Tuesday night. One minute Derby have the ball in the net, and it looks like 1-1, seconds later Ben House scores, it’s 2-0, and we’re delirious with joy. That’s football, and we’re more than happy to enjoy that high and ignore the low a moment before. Believe me, the never too low thing certainly didn’t appeal to me when Ged Garner scored for Fleetwood in the last minute, and I was certainly riding the high when Ted Bishop put us 2-0 up in that game.
They’re examples from single matches, which demonstrate the wild and contrasting emotions of football, but we must be careful not to suck the love of the game out by trying not to get too high after a win. Yesterday, Lincoln City won 6-3 away from home for the first time in 60 years. Yeah, it might have been 6-6 on another day, or it might have been a defeat, but it wasn’t. We won, 6-3, we scored six past a Joey Barton team, and until Saturday (at least), we’re in the top half of the table. Now, I can analyse that all I want in a match report and be as balanced as you’d expect but believe me, I didn’t wake up this morning thinking ‘we could concede a hatful against such and such’. I woke up with a big smile on my face, because we won a game and scored six goals.
The fear of what might happen can suck all the fun out of football. A few weeks ago, I had an exchange with a friend of mine on social media. When we lost to Arsenal and then Boreham Wood, he claimed the FA Cup run would cost us promotion. A year later, after promotion, we drew at Morecambe 0-0 and weren’t good enough to finish top seven, apparently. En route to finishing in the top seven, we won at Wembley in the Checkatrade, and it would allegedly cost us the play-off place. When we drew with Mansfield in 2018/19, we weren’t winning enough of our home games to go up (we won the league). When Danny went, the bubble was going to burst; when we lost at Wembley in the play-off final, we were heading for relegation. None of those things happened, but he truly believed it all of the time. Did he really enjoy the big moments? Do you think he enjoyed us winning League Two, or did he walk out at half time as we as lost 3-0 to Colchester United? I don’t actually know, but you get my drift. Did my friend truly enjoy those seasons with such pessimism, even if he was just trying to ‘tell it as it is’ in his reality?
The fear of what might happen can suck the life out of football if you let it, and briefly, this season, I’ve let it. After the Cambridge game, I felt low, lower than a long while in terms of our prospects. I’d bought into the rhetoric of us needing a striker, I’d seen with my own eyes how we folded against Fleetwood and Forest Green, and I thought it would be a long season, full of defeats. Looking at Derby on the fixture list, I thought we’d be bottom four by the time we faced Bristol Rovers, and they’d not roll over. I fell into the spiral of being too low because I desperately wanted to call it as I saw it, and that’s how I felt.
So, with a view to being balanced, you can bet your last pound coin that I’m going to enjoy us beating Bristol Rovers. For everyone saying we could have conceded six, I say this; we didn’t. For everyone saying they created too many chances, I say this; we scored six goals. For every Bristol fan saying it wasn’t a penalty or that two of the goals had big deflections, I say this; they ended up in the back of the net. That’s what history will remember.
Actually, we showed good character to ride our luck; it should have been 3-2 to Bristol Rovers before Jack Diamond got his second, but did we roll over when they were carving us open? No, we kept attacking in the same manner and whilst it was a bit gung ho, it made for a hell of a spectacle. Dare I say (and here’s my ‘not that again’ moment) that we’ve seen more excitement, drama and goalmouth action in the last 180 minutes of football than we saw in 4140 minutes last season (FYI – that’s 46 games). Ok, it’s not always at the right end, and we’re clamping our bums closed at times when sides attack us, but at least it’s entertaining. If I were Mark Kennedy and I’d read some of the stuff on social media this morning about how badly we defended, I’d be tempted to come out on Tuesday night in full Roman gladiator garb and cry ‘are you not entertained’ in the centre circle, whilst the severed head of Joey Barton
‘s bizarre tactics sits impaled on his sword.
My point is this; by trying to be balanced, by taking off the rose-tinted glasses and by attempting to see things from a neutral’s perspective, don’t forget to enjoy the moment. Football is nothing if not a series of moments, good and bad, there to be enjoyed, or to leave you feeling flat. It’s easy to be too grounded, and you don’t have to scream we’re going to win the league, but never let pragmatism detract from the actual enjoyment of supporting your team. When we win, enjoy it, warts and all; it’s quite addictive if you let your guard down.
Finally, I often quote a good friend of mine (who hates football) when talking about stuff like this. I was going through a really rough time, and I’d been at his house moaning for half an hour when he just looked me in the eye and said, ‘Gaz, you have to have bad days, so you know what a good day is’. He’s right, and by God, we’ve had some bad days as Lincoln City fans, so let’s make sure when a good day comes along, we recognise it, embrace it, and enjoy it. Yesterday was a good day.
Up the Imps.