A few years ago a friend of mind, a keen Arsenal supporter, attended a meeting sponsored by keen religious types where those attending were invited to give examples of community. I suspect the one overseeing the session expected answers like one’s church, the neighbourhood in which we live or even the local pub. I don’t think she expected my friends suggestion that it could be supporters of a football club. I understand my friend was told this was the wrong answer and was made to stand in the corner!
But over the years I have become aware that supporting one or other football club plays an important part in the lives of several of my friends, who often find an automatic bond with those sharing that same passion. I suppose I have missed out all this time as any support I did give to a team, was half hearted at best. While in my younger years I dabbled with supporting one or other of the big named clubs, typically those that were close to where I lived, like Spurs and West Ham, the best I could come up with, although it has been for life, is Southend United, who have generally languished in one of the lower divisions. But I can claim to be an Archers fan. That is the closest I have come to bonding with like minded strangers.
While my interest in professional football is lukewarm and that due to the amount of commercialization I see and too many less than savoury shenanigans I have observed on and off the pitch, I still look out for the scores and catch up with football highlights when I can. I have to admit it has been a few years since I have watched a live game and that is because those closest to me haven’t been all that interested. But I have always been drawn to the beautiful game, both at the prospect of seeing the best playing the best at their best and, at the other end, grass roots triers playing the best they can and in a sporting spirit and in the past being an active participant. Dropping my son off at his school this morning and seeing a number of impromptu kick abouts by the boys on the playing field reminded me when I did much the same, and it continued well into adult life whenever there was an opportunity. I also did a fair bit of refereeing.
I was reminded today the last league game was played last night, resulting in a Manchester United victory, meaning they get to play in Europe next season. The highlight and what kept many on tender hooks right to the end of the season was Leicester winning the Premiership title against the odds and being chased toward the end, until their challenge faltered, by Spurs. The fortunes of the big named clubs have been mixed. Arsenal should feel pleased with their second place finish but lesser placed Chelsea and Liverpool will likely feel disappointed. When it comes to going down, Sunderland produced a last minute escape. There are still the play-offs for teams near the top of their league not automatically promoted. Noting Sheffield Wednesday managed to beat Brighton, who finished 15 points above them, reminded me nothing can be taken for granted and why people are attracted by the suspense. As for Southend, they were in the hunt for promotion but run out of steam at the end.
Football will continue to fascinate and while there will be a bit of a lull until next season’s leagues start up again, there is still things to look forward to for the fans (unlike in my day when the football season gave way to the cricket season, it seems these days it is an all the year round undertaking). There is this coming weekend’s FA Cup Final to look forward to although I suspect the magic that once engendered is no longer there. After that there is the European Championships and England are in it. No doubt I will follow the games but not with the relish I once did, although Internationals are for me still the pinnacle of the game. European football is still an attraction with Liverpool in the Europa Cup Final, but it has been overall disappointing for fancied English clubs. Then there is next seasons league to look forward to, with all the speculation leading up to what might happen and anticipation of drama to come. Will Leicester retain their title and what about Southend? We will see!