As some of you may know, I have spent the last year running two sites with football at their heart and soul. This one, a celebration of all things pie and a sister site titled ‘Leading The Line’ where I would muse over many of footballs little foibles that are not solely encased in pastry. As the season comes to a close and plans get set in motion for next year I have decided to amalgamate the two sites into a one stop shop for all things sporting and pie. Do not be afraid that pies will be off the menu for there is another two reviews working their way to you in the next few days but now I want to take this site and to the next stage. This may work, this may not, but either way I will still be your number one friend in pie. So without much further ado, let me welcome you to Meat Filled Pastries first non-pie piece, Relegation: It’s Not All Bad, Is It?.
When I was a much younger lad I had a t-shirt that read, ‘Football is life…the rest is just a game’. At the time I believed it to be true but as I have grown older with life continuing to throw its many curve balls, both good and bad, I know that the slogan sprawled across my chest in those most innocent of days was nothing but a clever play on words that only helped to serve as just another subtle enabler to my burgeoning football addiction. As I travelled back in the deathly silence of the supporters bus, the realisation dawning on the dozen or so of us on board that this was the season that relegation had finally come after what has felt like years of constant struggle, that t-shirt came screaming to the forefront of my mind and the question I asked myself as I looked around was ‘Why are we all so sad?’. ‘How can something that is in reality so fundamentally irrelevant when compared with matters of life and death cause a group of men to look so down trodden and broken?’
I could analyse what caused this communal depression but instead of staring down the pit of despair that relegation is meant to bring, and quite frankly to try and cheer me up a bit as much as anything else, let us try and put a positive spin on what without a shadow of a doubt is the most soul destroying aspect of the game we all love.
1. At Least it’s Over.
Relegation is not something that happens in an instant, it’s the culmination of a season or in some cases many seasons woes and struggles. There is no more false hope to cling to, no mathematical equation that can save you and no desperate voice in the back of your head screaming ‘Please, please, please just put me out of my misery!’. When that final goal that seals you’re fate goes in the misery finally comes and the grieving can begin. Now some people deal with this grief in different ways, some get misty eyed giving knowing nods and gentle applause to the players who have just not been quite good enough whilst some get angry, unable to contain the raw emotion that the ultimate in footballing failure causes to coarse through their veins. For me I go into quiet contemplation mode, dissect every single tactical decision made, every substitution, every player signed and sold, wonder what will happen next and where it all went wrong this. Three very different ways of coping but all of them finally end with taking solace in the fact that at least it’s all over.
2. A Fresh Start.
A summer of fine tuning and removing the perceived dead wood has you starting the season, albeit at a lower level, as one of the title favourites and not the easy three points that your rivals eyed on a Saturday afternoon. The grieving is over and the wave upon wave of new hope and optimism is near impossible to repress even for the most cynical of fans. There is always that one new signing that scores 3 hat-tricks in pre-season and who you pin your hopes on for the year ahead. If a player doesn’t look up to the task early on they get the benefit of the doubt that a new season brings and you convince yourself he’s bound to come good soon. Sometimes the manager changes, sometimes it doesn’t but who cares as long as we keep winning and the crowds come flooding back.The dread of Saturday is replaced by the excitement of another potential day of glory. The dark days are over, by the end of the year your team will be champions!
3. Road Trip, Baby!
Get the satnav out as your geographical knowledge of the great footballing beyond is about to increase exponentially. All of a sudden places you’ve never heard of become your desired destination on a Saturday afternoon. The roads less trodden become the roads you and your fellow footballing army tread upon with new hope and expectation. You get to meet new people, drink pints in new pubs, stand on new terraces and set your taste buds alight with a smorgasbord of new pies and pastries all season long. For any football fan even the familiarity of a fierce rivalry can still breed contempt and the chance to go somewhere new is often what piques the interest of even the most casual of fans.
4. You Still Have Each Other.
Whatever joys or miseries a new season may bring you can carry on supporting the team you love safe in the knowledge that those fans that were there with you at the bitter end of a previously fruitless season will be standing side be side with you when hope springs anew once again. The slightly un-PC pensioners, the people you can’t remember how or why you stand with but you continue to do so with ever willing acceptance and the generations of family both young and old that are usually the ones responsible for you finding yourself in this mess in the first place.
I had spent 28 years on this earth without suffering relegation. I hope to go at least another 28 more before it happens again but until then I’ll do my best to remember that no matter how big a part of my life this wonderful game is, when the final whistle blows, it’s all still just a game.
If this is the first time you have read a non pie piece from me, I hope you enjoyed it and an archive of my previous work will remain on the internet until the end of time at http://www.leadingtheline.wordpress.com. But do not fear I have a programme deadline to meet so a new pie review will be with you imminently.
As always though, until next time, go forth and eat pie!