The match-day rituals of a lower league fan
Every football fan has a match day ritual, whether they mean to or not. Sometimes match day rituals can be so trivial that you can barely notice that you do the same things week in week out in preparation for the 3pm on a Saturday (or whenever your team plays).
Now, as you might have figured out from my previous columns, I support Rochdale and I've been going to games for as long as I can remember. I remember being over the moon when I got my first season ticket when I was about nine and can remember pretty much every game if prompted. However, what I've realised is that the match day ritual is exactly the same every week, and it's something I think football fans everywhere could maybe draw similarities from. So, without further ado, here is a typical Saturday in the life of me, your average lower league football fan:
7am: My weekday alarm that I forgot to switch off screams at me from my bedside table. Pretty sure I'm still a bit half cut from the night before at this point. So I shut it up and turn over again.
9am...ish: The sound of my fitness-freak parents leaving the house wakes me up again. No point in getting back to sleep now. I go downstairs to find a note on the kitchen table:
"Matt, gone for a bike ride. Will stop off at the pie shop on the way back. Mum and Dad."
I usually indulge in a bacon sarnie, a massive glass of water and a couple of Ibuprofen to shake off the hangover from Friday night. Radio gets turned on, copy of The Times gets opened.
12pm: After some high-level lazing about, I finally get round to jumping in the shower. After throwing on the match day attire (scraggy jeans and a Rochdale shirt) it's downstairs to watch Soccer Saturday for a bit. The folks return from their bike ride armed with delights from the local pie shop. Fully awake and stomach filled, it's off to the match . . .
1:30pm: The designated driver (which, ever since I passed my driving test, is always me) sets off to collect the gang. First pick-up is my Uncle Gary, then my grandad Nev (or "Captain" as he is known). Nev always has a very long, and usually very crap joke to tell on the journey to the last pick up, which is young Adam, my footballing protege.
About 2ish: We park up the car and walk the short distance to the ground, stopping to buy a programme from my mate Aaron, who has become known as Icebath for his drunken plunge into an ice bath at a pre-season friendly, before heading to the Dale Bar, which is our traditional pre and post-match haunt. Pint of lager for Gary and Nev, orange J2O for me and Adam. Our pals from away matches have already grabbed us a table, so we join them to watch the midday game and engage in some healthy banter, usually on the subject of our friend Will's dodgy haircut!
2:40: I agree to meet the rest of the gang in the pub after the match and head off to the Sandy Lane Terrace for kick-off. I'm joined in there by a load of other mates who are also usually still suffering from the previous night. Everyone, that is, apart from non-drinker Rob (one bad night on Guinness was enough to finish him off!) All in, and we are ready for kick-off . . .
3:05: I have a friend at Rochdale called Jack Kesterton, Kester for short, and it's become pretty obvious to the rest of us that the "think/say barrier" in his brain has long since eroded away. So it's at this point on the dot, about five minutes into the game, when it's time for "Kester's stupid statement of the week" which is pretty much what it says on the tin. If Dale haven't got off to the best of starts, he will usually say something along the lines of "oh we're s**t, we ain't winning this game", to the mass bemusement of everyone within earshot!
3:45: Half-time and a chance to glance at the match programme, in which I have a column now, and reflect on the first half. Gary usually rings to discuss the first-half, but I can never hear him as he is usually in the bar situated beneath the stand he sits in.
4:45ish: Full-time and I make my way back to Dale Bar to join the guys. Usually just after a game emotions are running high and things can be seen irrationally, so some of the opinions are quite raw. It's a swift pint/orange juice before heading back to the car and heading for home.
10:30: Curry ordered, DVD watched, it's time for the usual Saturday night routine of Match of the Day and The Football League Show ( I never go out on a Saturday as I usually have work on Sundays). On a good day, when things are going your way, the curry will turn up when the lottery numbers are being red out before MOTD. Unfortunately, due to a lack of sleep the night before, I've usually fallen asleep by the time Rochdale come on the Football League Show and it's often been that I wake up just as Manish Bhasin is running through the league tables. At this point, I'll call it a day and go to bed. The excitement of match day is over for another week.
So there you have it, my match day routine pretty much to the letter. Does it get boring? Nah, just adds to the fun in my opinion!