So after a World Cup that made it ok to want England to win again, the pre-season friendlies have come around again, the fixtures are out and it is time to start getting excited again for months of heartache, frustration, disappointment and maybe a bit of cheer along the way!
The World Cup was undoubtedly a huge success and Gareth Southgate is rightly being lauded about as a national hero. It was not the football on the pitch that made it so special, yes we got to a World Cup semi-final, only the second time in my lifetime, and the football was so much more enjoyable to watch than the dismal displays of recent years, but at the end of the day we played seven, won three, drew one and lost three. The wins coming against Panama, Tunisia and Sweden – Not exactly a record to get overly excited about.
However, the most pleasing thing was the way it was no longer embarrassing to support England, for too long watching games have been spoilt by a nagging thought at the back of the mind that said “To be honest, I’d quite like it if these egotistical stars failed, and as for the manager…“. But the attitude, the way the players conducted themselves and the way they genuinely appeared to be proud to be wearing the shirt, empathising with the fans; it was heart-warming, and hopefully English football can kick on from this point.
So what for Chesham United this year? A good question, and one I don’t think anyone can really answer!
I’ve managed to get myself along to two of the pre-season friendlies so far and there is reason to be hopeful. The first game at Berkhamsted was more about my son and I taking a walk along the canal from home in Boxmoor to the ground in Berko – I would have been quite happy to get fish & chips and then get the train home, but Ben wanted to watch the game, which finished 2-2. An enjoyable evening in the sun.
Ben also accompanied me to the 1-2 defeat v Wycombe Wanderers the other night. A very entertaining game in front of a superb crowd of 762 (that will help the coffers at this stage of the season!). In fact when Dave Pearce equalised in the second-half the reaction from the crowd and the players was more like a crucial cup goal than a strike in a pre-season friendly – Perhaps a bit of the Gareth Southgate feel good factor spreading down to grassroots?
With a win over Amersham Town and fairly heavy defeats against Oxford City and Luton Town there is no logic in being optimistic, but pre-season doesn’t really mean a lot and there is plenty of time still before the season starts…or is there? Not really, it just feels that way because the fixtures came out so late!
Now I know there is a lot of sympathy for the league about this because of the re-shuffling and appeals around the pyramid restructuring, but I still seem to be in the minority in thinking that it is just ludicrous, and unnecessary, how late the fixtures are released. It is just not fair on the clubs, or the supporters.
Maybe I still hold an out of date opinion of the league administration, maybe I am still haunted by my experiences of attending AGM’s at Torquay and witnessing some of the quite frankly mind-blowing activities that went on. Maybe that gives me a biased opinion. Maybe the original decision regarding the whole Redditch debacle also made me question some of the administrative decisions. Or the regional meetings attended (because if you don’t you get fined). I don’t know, it may be just me, but with technology and all the software out there nowadays, is it really that hard to draft up the fixtures, even taking into account (or not as the case often is) certain requests and requirements from clubs?
But, does it really make that much difference? Well actually I think it does, even if it is just the little things. Earlier today I read through and published another three weeks worth of my Travels at 40 blog, and it made me realise how important we used to think it was as a club to try and engage supporters, make them feel important and wanted. Little things, like sending out a copy of the fixture list with season tickets. A nice touch, not all of our supporters use the internet as easily as those of us reading this will. Presumably the club could not do that this year because the first pre-season game, that is included in the season ticket, was played before the fixtures were published!
Then there is the other annoying thing where I accept I won’t get much sympathy, but equally I am sure I will not be the only one in this predicament. I admit I am no longer as loyal a fan as I once was and going to every game is not anything I would even pretend to do, but I still like to get to as many as I can, particularly with the restructuring throwing out some grounds I have not been to before, and others that I have not been to for many years. So I’m going to be picking and choosing.
The Saracens fixtures came out long before the Chesham fixtures. There were a couple of away games that I contemplated, but ideally wanted to wait and see who Chesham played that day. Then the tickets went on sale, my son started bugging, friends were booking there tickets…So sod it, we done it. We booked our tickets for Newcastle and Northampton away, and will just miss the games whatever they turned out to be. As I say, not expecting sympathy on that one, but would guess I am not the only one who had to make decisions over other arrangements and therefore opted not to go to footy on a particular day…or maybe not.
Then there is the third thing…As I get older, I really am aware that I have the potential to become a proper, moaning, groaning grumpy old man – A classic non-league supporter!