Away to Stoke at the Britannia Stadium this week and trying to protect our dodgy unbeaten away record (Played 4: Won 1, Drawn 3). Interestingly, Stoke are the reason I’m writing this blog. I had the mis(fortune) earlier this year to read a book by Stephen Foster called ‘She Stood There Laughing’. It was the reflections by a Stoke City fan of one of their more typical seasons (just escaping relegation). Now the thing that bugged me more than anything was the way the author took every opportunity to make derogatory comments about Colchester United and our stadium. Not just a few comments either, they were in every chapter. By coincidence one of their players at some stage of that successful campaign for Stoke was Chris Iwelumo – yes the very same turncoat who scored well for us last season and was both cheered and jeered within an hour when he returned here a few weeks ago with Charlton Athletic.
The author of the book describes in some detail the efforts he makes to follow his beloved team to all points north, south, east and west, despite becoming a resident of Norwich and being unable to bring himself to follow his adopted home town. His rationale being that any team in yellow shirts can’t play football. Let’s think about that – Norwich? Depends on your point of view in East Anglia (and they are certainly better than the Tractor Boys). Watford? Yes, OK I’d go along with that. Australia? Well, I can’t argue with that either. So where does that leave Brazil then?
While discussing the content of this book with a friend, a Norwich supporter, who just happens to live in Colchester and is secretly proud of our achievements, I said that I wished I had kept a diary of our first championship season (maybe someone else did and I have yet to discover it). So he suggested I do one of this season – the last at Layer Road, and take the opportunity to slag off Stoke City at the same time –just to even the score.
Well, I’d rather the lads did that on the pitch, but it seems that the QPR thrashing has taken most of it out of us and we went down 1-2 today to the Staffs Terriers. I’m not going to dwell on things too much except to say that I heard on the grapevine that the Colchester fans did more to fill the Britannia Stadium (with cheering, singing, chanting, and other vocalising) than the home fans on this occasion were able to muster. Let’s hear it for the Col U faithful …
Another parallel with the book is that my journey over the last two years at Layer Road has also seen the accompaniment of my son, who harbours some feelings for a little premiership outfit in Manchester. He’s a typical Manchester United fan – he doesn’t live in Manchester and still hasn’t seen them at home. In fact it’s worse than that – every time he’s seen them play live they have lost. Now that is true love.
But what is it that makes a football fan? Is it blind faith in your team’s abilities against all reasonable judgement - do Mansfield supporters still sing that old favourite: “….. they’re by far the greatest team, the world have ever seen”? Is it the desire to heap severe criticism on a bunch of inadequate individuals without giving the match officials any chance of arguing back at you? Or is it that we actually relish the opportunity to brag about buying designer clothes (replica shirts, etc.) so we can argue that we employ fashion designers to create our extensive wardrobe – and let’s face it the cost is a significant part of this.
I have to say I do find it galling that after spending a hard earned fortune on season tickets, replica shirt, scarf, matchday programmes, food and drink at the ground, and the occasional flutter on the 50/50 or club lottery, one of the club’s directors can resort to begging for more money from fans before the final home game last season. What is the average wage of the five thousand or so regulars compared to the average wage of the players? What is the average worth of the club directors? And they want more money from us? Are we supposed to be ever so grateful for what we receive each week when we venture out to matches? Do we have to make savings in our budgets during the week so that we can send another few bob home to the club?
Anyway – I recommend the book and you can find it on Amazon : She Stood There Laughing by Stephen Foster. I’d be happy to hear any other suggestions of books or blogs written by footie fans about their time in the Football League. Please don’t recommend premiership stuff – I can’t afford the time to read those, and I don’t speak any other languages.