We welcome all contributions to
the T-Ender. Send by e-mail to the address above.
40 Away games a season.
I am beginning to understand how Newport fans felt. Not the bit about living in a crappy little town, unwanted by both Wales and England, and having the rhythmic ability of a Eurovision entry. No, the bit where for many seasons Newport fans traveled to Moreton and Gloucester to watch their team play at 'home'.
Looking at the City bulletin board over the past few years it is apparent that people are travelling from far flung parts of the UK to watch City, and rightly so. For these people, one of the highlights of scanning the fixture list at the beginning of the season is trying to find where the closest 'away' match is to the place of exile. Prayers will go up that City is in the same league as a club near Oxford or Cardiff. Or there will be much rejoicing at a cup draw in the South East or near Doncaster... wherever that is.
So why make huge round trips to home matches? And what can the exiled fan experience as he goes about his exiled life?
WARNING. Fans who are not used to travelling a minimum of an hour to every football match may find some of the following experiences disturbing.
Why still go?
This is the question that many an exile will ask themselves, and other people of them. For some, the reason is the childhood association with the club and the city. The first pint of GL cider drunk (legally of course) in the City bar. The view of the Cathedral (the venue of historical school trips) from the T-end. For others it is just that their first club will stay always stay with them. It may be that City provides a clear identity from the Man Utd and Liverpool fans that reside wherever you are. It could be a clear warning to your new associates where you are exiled, as if to say, ‘Not only do I come from Gloucester, I support Gloucester City… so there!’
There are many other reasons why Gloucester is ultimately God's chosen City (some of which are detailed elsewhere on this site) which may have an influence.
These elements of Gloucester, proudly imprinted on the psyche are impossible to shake off, even with expensive and lengthy therapy from top London specialists. And what better way to continue to be in touch with your organic roots, your 'ur-self', than by continuing to watch City, even after you have been forcibly exiled through a quest for financial or cerebral improvement?
The Exile Experience
Even in our information age, getting non-league information (even just a final score) has been difficult. Although the Citizen and local radio stations are often berated, at least they exist. What does the poor fan in exile do? When in the top flight of the Southern League, at least we appeared on teletext. Now though, we are not even afforded that luxury. The advent of web sites such as T-Ender, itself born and uploaded for the world to see from exile, have improved information for exiles to unprecedented levels. Then there is that paper on a Sunday. And, if you are towards the higher end of the non-league pyramid there is even a chance to see find out the latest (I use the term loosely) on SKY.
The best way to find out the score, though, is to go to the game. So how does the matchday go for those who do not live within a bus ride of Hempstead? Perhaps if you live in Gloucester you might want to see if you can incorporate some of these experiences into your own prematch ritual for a bit of variation.
- The abuse
On the day of the game or the Friday before, the exiled fan will get the questions and derision from Other People at their Place of Work Study (from here on known as OPPWS). The perfect pre-match conversation should go a little like this:
OPPWS: ‘Where you off to today?’
Exiled Fan: ‘To watch City’
OPPWS: ‘What, x City?’ (For x, insert the name of the nearest big club to your place of exile that is suffixed by City: e.g. Swansea, Norwich or Birmingham)
Exiled Fan: ‘No, Gloucester City’
OPPWS: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA/ Where? / Have Gloucester got a football club? / That’s a long way to travel for a club that size/ Are they in a league? / Have you sought help?’ (Delete as applicable)
Exiled fan: ‘F£CK *)F’ it’s not funny don’t you know anything of course there’s a football club and no it’s not that far (not as far as Old Trafford anyway you plastic Manc) and yes we are in a league and you’re the one that needs help aaaaaarrrrggggghhhhh!!!!!’
- The (mis) information
Even by having information available, it takes a bit of pro-active effort to find it. There is no way that the exile will stumble upon a local radio station, or someone in the street wearing a City shirt, telling you that the game is off today because of a waterlogged pitch. No, in your lonely exiled existence there are none of these fountains of knowledge.
So for once, in your cavalier way, you don't check teletext, you don't look on the web site, and guess what? You’ll travel for a few hours, arrive at Havant for an FA Cup tie on a wet autumn day and the bleedin’ game is off due to a waterlogged pitch. The exiled fan will get over this though… so people tell me.
- The timing
Directions to an away ground are based on the premise that the exile is travelling from their hometown, or if you look in a reputable football directory, from London (which is OK if you are exiled in London).
For a ‘home’ game, the exile that still has local connections, with accommodation available, has the choice to go to Gloucester on match day or the night before. This is important, as timing can be crucial. The exiled fan will know roughly how long the trip to their ‘home game’ will take, but the journey to an away fixture is different.
To arrive too early at an away ground is foolish as the exiled fan is invariably driving, and therefore cannot get lashed in the bar. The other end of the scale is for the exile to arrive midway through the second half as the journey from your place of exile to Blakenall or Minehead has been misjudged.
Late arrival can result in fiscal benefits or penalties. Sometimes, free entry will greet you as all the people on the turnstile have buggered off to the bar for a pint of London Pride. A nice person on the gate may let you in for a quid, a token gesture maybe, taking into account the suffering involved in getting to the ground. Alternatively, some money grabbing git will charge you the full price, even in our consumer driven age, and although you have missed all the goals, and the remaining spectacle will be City 2-0 down with the opposition getting 15 men behind the ball and it’s pissing down with rain and all the food has sold out and there are no programmes left. Not that I'm bitter, oh no!
- Post match
The chat in the bar afterwards with the familiar faces will be pleasant. But in the back of the mind of the exiled fan mind there is the knowledge that the next hour or four they will be a party to the longest journey that any City fan faces that day.
While everyone else will be watching ‘The Premiership’ with their dial-a-curry and a beer, the exile will be listening to Radio 5 live with Premiership fans prattle on about wasting £20m on a Scandinavian utility player. Sure, all fans that travel away have endured years of Mellor, Littlejohn et al. But for the exiled fan every game is like this.
- Monday morning
Occasionally someone may ask the exiled fan how the weekend went. The exiled fan may stand proudly by City’s thumping of a huge force in Non league football from the West Midlands, or brush over their disastrous cup exit from an underrated team from south of Bristol. Either way, neither the person asking (OPPWS) will know, appreciate nor care what the Exiled fan has been through or what it means.
OPPWS will then tell you about Arsenal’s great triumph at home. OPPWS may well be an exile themselves. They will of course not have traveled to their architecturally award winning super-stadium, with heated seats and a score-board that would not be out of place in Time Square. No, they will have watched this ‘home’ game in the Steelman’s/ Miner’s/ Woodcutter’s/ Farmer’s Arms (delete as applicable for the appropriate local industry).
It’ll be interesting to see how the strength of the exile holds up as the pressures of work, family, insanity, drug and alcohol addiction take a toll on the amount of matches that can be reasonably be watched during a season.
There are other evil temptations to pull the exile away from the moral high ground of watching City. Perhaps, when a City game is off due to Meadow Park being on the bottom of the riverbed again, a fellow footy fan at work may invite you down to watch ‘Their Club’.
You go to watch the Boro’ or the Rovers and at first you feel unfaithful. But the new exciting world of BIG CLUBS can be as alluring as Sirens on a rock. The queues – you haven’t seen the likes of this since Slough. The high prices on the gate – well you get what you pay for. A couple of thousand people having a singsong – this reminds of the wins over the Scum.
You realise that this is on your doorstep, and can be yours every week for the same cost when you take into account petrol money. You start looking out for the result of your geographically local club; you may be going to a few matches a season. Before you know it…Well it’s not worth contemplating.
But before you start thinking that being an exiled City fan, is one step away from supporting another club, there are always a few things each year that will keep the exile from straying too far. Starting in the summer time the following things may just make you say; ‘I must travel a few hundred miles to watch City today’.
Counting blessings. You wake up one morning and remember that you don’t watch Newport County. A pilgrimage to Meadow Park is required as a show of appreciation.