Fans, fantasies and febrile frustrations

Cod Almighty | Article

by Alistair Wilkinson

30 August 2010

Football fans have rituals and habits that they perform: a certain top, lucky pants, the right pub to drink in, the right bus to use, the right turnstile to pass through; the list is probably endless. Most of us have experienced the jinx from one side or the other. I knew a man who hadn't seen Town for 25 years and one day back in 1997 he listened to the talk of promise and new dawns from the few believers and went to Blundell Park. It was a season to remember for everyone but him. After a quarter-century absence he went to the home fixture against York and saw an insipid 0-0 and vowed never to return. As far as I know, he never did - good thing too in that season, the bloody jinx.

There's no reason you're in or out of a jinx but just like a thirsty striker in the middle of a drought most of us have seen at least one terrible run while everyone else smells the roses. I feel like if I'd missed the Hayes & Yeading game we'd have won 5-0, Beckham would've signed on for a tenner a week, Mendonca would be drawing the half-time bonanza and Buckley would do Something Nice.

Instead Hayes & Yeading gave me my rude awakening with a scarily efficient win at Blundell Park. For much of the game it felt like we hadn't moved: a slight, energetic side buzzes against a large, organised eleven who don't give any ground. What were we worried about for those long seasons of relegation fights? It's just the same down here in the Conference. Just the same plus a wonder strike and a very tidy breakaway, that is. Just the same plus Town actually created more than enough chances to win comfortably. Just the same plus the opposition looked heavy-legged and leaden-footed, not quite like pros, not quite good enough. Check out Ewan McGregor's footwork in The Phantom Menace; looks like a Jedi, sounds like a Jedi, moves like a non-League footballer. And sadly it was just the same in midfield: two fellas ethereal in their efforts to block and build.

Am I still glad I got my season ticket? Yes. Win, lose, it doesn't really matter. Well, it matters but it's not the most important thing. Yes, the defeat turns a good start into a mediocre one but the team looks interesting out wide with an effective winger in Eagle and for full-backs we have the workmanlike Ridley and the clear potential of Samuels. Sad to say that Watt looks like a back-up (why bother releasing Linwood?), but Kempson looks promising (although his defensive-monster look may have swayed my opinion).

And it was up front that I was really impressed. I've long had a suspicion that Coulson is another Till, lots of energy but often lacking in quality - but he had a couple of good shots blocked. And his partner Connell looks like he's going to have a great season, with a good workrate and a cracking goal. Corner came on and looked lively and, of course, Ademeno is already a crowd favourite. He played the game with enthusiasm, drive and passion. He looked like he knew what to do at this level and like he could progress beyond it; I couldn't help but wonder why he's here.

Because we're the Wolves/Wednesday/Toon of the Conference, of course. That nagging little voice hasn't stopped despite the defeat and I'm staying optimistic. Keeping in that vein I'll let the players off with a bout of naivetè rather than complacency for the first-half performance especially after the result against Darlington. Another away three points buries a few ghosts and our start to the season looks good again, especially with the glowing reports of Gobern - can't wait to see him in the flesh.

Then we lose to Rushden, the manager questions the players' desire and it's dèjá  vu. Add that to his comments after Hayes & Yeading that he was "disappointed with the reaction of the players. One or two went hiding." Woods' interview after the Rushden match was either a tub-thumping rallying cry to fans and players alike or another desperate outburst from a man out of ideas and almost out of time. Newell said that this club had a loser's attitude - not the team: the club - and it may prove the only statement he made that holds any veracity.

The crowd have been quick to grumble, with Woods' interview after Hayes & Yeading including an assessment of our performance: "Bar about four or five games, we are expected to win them all, and if we don't the fans aren't going to be happy." Which of course we weren't. Panic sets in quickly for a club in decline and unless we win, win and win again the lethargy will only give way to yet more frustration. The players are doing their bit for the Diary by giving the Telegraph plenty of we'll-be-better-honest interviews, but it looks like the club is already nervous and it's going to take steady heads to steer our course. Let's hope they've got a few of those in the building.

Do you agree with Al, or are you a messageboard nesbit who trembles and spits with rage at the suggestion that sacking the manager every eight minutes might not be the best way forward for the club? Use the Cod Almighty feedback form to share your views.