The crowd in the Thatch were exactly as I’d pictured them: a gang of hard-faced, cold-eyed, tattooed-knuckled skinheads, projecting a gleefully malicious aura of suppressed violence so thick it made the air As you know, gentle reader, my dedication to the noble craft of sports journalism is unequalled, and when Al proposed that I might visit a soccer game (or “match”) I didn’t immediately dismiss the idea out of hand. As a long-term exponent of local league football, Al has often regaled me with charmingly whimsical tales of eccentric fans, hapless mascots and amusing antics both on and off the pitch, and this particular game – Farnborough vs Chippenham (British Gas Business Football League Southern Premier Division) – happened to feature the two teams of our respective home towns. Since I, to my eternal regret, have never quite managed to grasp the psychological complexities required to pledge my allegiance to a wealthy group of mercenary sportsmen temporarily hired by the highest paying corporate bidder, I decided that this would be the nearest I’d ever get to experiencing any genuine emotional participation in a game of football. More importantly, it would make for an easy column. And so I found myself at the Thatched Cottage, Farnborough, (left) enjoying a relaxed pre-match pint while twenty Robert Carlyles eyed up my jugular, idly calculating exactly how quickly they could smash my fucking face in. As this dovetailed neatly with everything I believed to be true about football and those who watch it, I was quite surprised when Al suggested that this might be an unusual turnout for a Saturday afternoon. As it turned out he was right. Careful eavesdropping revealed that they were Aldershot thugs on a day trip and when, shortly afterwards, the word went out that Exeter fans had been spotted “down the Fontaine” the bristling mob downed their pints with admirable discipline and motored off in search of a vicious ruck. I can only hope they found it.
Happily, when we arrived at the Farnborough ground the supporters were a lot more Nick
Hornby and a lot less Irvine Welsh – a relatively benign bunch of anoraks, weekend fathers
and wizened old men, with home team mascot Farney Rubble (right) on hand to entertain the
youngsters with a cheerful disregard for his flagrant infringement of Hanna-Barbera’s
copyright licence. Reassured that I was unlikely to get a Stanley knife in the eye I finally
relaxed, and settled down to enjoy the game.
Farnborough 2: Chippenham 0. What a heap of shit.
Now, I’m no expert, but I’d say that Chippenham’s two main shortcomings were their apparent inability to get the ball in the opposition’s net, coupled with an evidently weak defensive/goalkeeping strategy that prevented them from keeping said ball out of their own. If they’d tightened up in these two key areas I’m guessing it would have been a very different story, but it’s always easy to realise these things in
I left the ground in a grim mood, making wank gestures to that smug grinning cocksucker Farney as I passed. Al, of course, was graciousness personified. The cunt. But as I made my way towards the station and the evening train
home I realised that I had achieved my goal in a way that Chippenham had singularly failed to. I had
watched a football match, and cared that “we” lost. In a very small way, for a very short space of time,
I knew what it was to be a football supporter. Pointless and dispiriting.
So that was that. I probably won’t bother doing it again.