PRAISE FOR ARLEN PETTITT
Arlen Pettitt’s article struck a chord with me, having also made a drastic leap that makes supporting my hometown club a compromised affair. In my case I moved from Gillingham to Shetland, thus even ridding myself of the option of a long and expensive train ride down of a Saturday.
That enforced absence has probably given me a more nuanced, cynical view of Gillingham, but going somewhere where even league football is completely inaccessible has, counter-intuitively, brought me closer to the actual sport. Being in an unfamiliar place without knowing many people, I’ve held onto football as my anchor, the thing that gives me meaning and helps me form connections. I can quite honestly say it’s made football even more real to, even more integral.
So, the things I’ve learned that I would say have helped me:- investing fully in the local scene, attending as many games as possible, getting to know all the clubs and reading voraciously about the history of football in the region and writing about it as I’ve learned more (handily for Arlen, he’s in as piping hot a hotbed for this as possible and need only look to Harry Pearson’s The Far Corner, the book Fever Pitch could have been.) Plus if you happen to gain a colleague who is one of the most natural goalscorers your region has ever produced, that is handy for generating conversations.
MORE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING
After reading your Christmas Shopping Guide, I have composed a short accompanying list that could perhaps find its way on to the Santa Mail Letters Page (ED’S NOTE: Done!) Without further ado, I present a short list of bargains (excluding delivery, obviously!):
Seasonal diary style books seem two-a-penny now but Tim Parks’s story of a fascinating season with Hellas Verona is the daddy. It is an inside-out-inside-in-again dissection of an Italy beyond that of the picturesque tourist image. An Italy with all the politically stability of Bambi on ice. 15 years old now, Park proves that some subject matter is timeless when it is written this well.
Classicfootballshirts.co.uk’s clearance section is every five-aside footballing hipster’s wet dream. Plug your size in, limit your search to 10 quid and go and have an absolute ball. You’d certainly look the coolest cat in town if you roll up to training in a 2010-11 Ivory Coast Woolie Beanie or a training sweat top from everyone’s favourite Dutch side Willem II (6 and 8 pounds respectively). Most stuff is BNWT but there are also some used items if you don’t mind basking in the sweat of another bloke.
You probably remember when the FA turned 150 in 2013 it bought out a pretty cool Tube-map focusing on the great and the good of football in England. The map is available from numerous online outlets for, bizarrely, numerous prices. Availability does seem a bit on the low side so get in there quick by picking up this splendid graphical representation of England and its football.
Yours in Christmas Cheer,
A DIFFERENT SUPPORTING STORY
I’m Cornish born and bred and lived in my home town of Falmouth until I was 24. I grew up a Chelsea fan, despite my dad being a Tottenham fan and the majority of my friends Liverpool and Man Utd fans. Cornwall is miles from any team (you could argue Plymouth but that’s Devon, I know maybe 3 Argyle fans from Falmouth) so Cornish football lovers chose their team(usually a high flying one) or used family roots and stuck with it. I chose Chelsea for the oddest of reasons, I was travelling home from a local league game with my dad aged 6 or 7 and the 5 Live commentator said Chelsea fans would be really proud of their team. I told my dad I was a Chelsea fan and I was really proud of my team – who subsequently lost the match 4-2! I remember my dad, a lifelong Spurs fan, not being as heartbroken as some parents might be in this situation and encouraged me to be fan, buying me shirts and even a birthday trip to London to see my team a year later. Maybe he was glad I wasn’t a glory hunter like my mates (Chelsea were a mid table team at the time with the likes of Marc Stein, John Spencer and Gavin Peacock).
Anyway the difference here was that while I had friends who shared a love of the game, we all supported different teams. There was no travelling together and singing together on the terraces, just going to school and showing off our programme from the occasional weekend trip to stay with your uncle and watch a game – which was a once in a blue moon treat. The rest of our football experience was on TV, meeting at friends houses and later pubs to watch games together where many of us would often be neutrals. We were very much children of the Sky Sports generation.
Fast forward to now and work and relationships took me to Wandsworth, London – about 2 miles from Stamford Bridge. As a football fan this felt great – I would meet fellow Chelsea fans and travel to games with them, debate big issues in the pub and live the dream. In reality though, with the lonely existence that comes with living in London sometimes, this meant either dragging my Mrs, persuading my neutral mates also in London to watch (which they’re more reluctant to do with today’s ticket prices) or go on my own watch the game and go home again, occasionally talking to other fans but because there’s no chance of me getting a season ticket, it’s just polite conversation and I probably won’t see them again because they’re visiting from elsewhere like I used to do. While being at the game was the ultimate for the likes of Arlen because of the camaraderie, for me it’s something I rarely experience so watching the game is the ultimate for me, something I can do from my flat 2 miles away for a lot less money.
Things have changed slightly as I found a Cornish Supporters club through mates back home! I tend to be their last minute guy if there are drop outs so slowly but surely I’m getting to know them and getting the camaraderie I’ve read about. Though they’re on an away-day – weekend in the big smoke and a lash up – whereas I’ve got to take the bins out and go to work the next day – so it’s hard to get as stuck in.
I hope I haven’t painted this as a depressing situation, through the supporters club I go to 5-6 games a season and I’m quite happy watching at home and debating football with my mates as I always have. But reading the Neutral article I felt how different my life is as a football fan and how where you grew up can make such a difference beyond just who you support.
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