Let's enjoy the positives
PUBLISHED: 13:45 24 September 2009 | UPDATED: 16:32 10 September 2010
Every cloud has a silver lining or so they say. I must say as I stood on the terraces at the Valley on the last day of last season, surveying the wreckage of my football club, I would have taken some convincing.
Every cloud has a silver lining or so they say. I must say as I stood on the terraces at the Valley on the last day of last season, surveying the wreckage of my football club, I would have taken some convincing. But now the initial shock, anger and heartache has dissipated I have to say I am finding some plusses in the lower leagues. There seems to be a whole new world down here. Real football fans with a genuine love for the game and mutual respect for other clubs and their supporters. I'm not sure if this is to do with lowered expectations, but I cant help noticing that unless you are Leeds or Charlton, winning doesn't seem quite so important at this level.
I had already had a taste of how different clubs and supporters are in the lower reaches of the league. Several seasons ago City were drawn away to Torquay in the league cup in one of its many guises, and I made the long trip down. When we arrived we were invited to use the Torquay supporters club bar at the club. We all had our colours on but there was no aggravation, no unpleasantness, just a mild bit of leg pulling that's all. Ordinary football fans mixing together putting the world to rights. I remember thinking to myself how refreshing this was after some questionable experiences at some of the bigger clubs recently. On another occasion I went to Bournemouth with my friend Keith Roads who is in a wheel chair. At the time there was no dedicated disabled section at the ground, and fans in wheelchairs had to sit around the perimeter track. This was all very well unless it rained, in which case you got very wet as the roof didnt protrude out far enough to cover you. And it did rain. Heavily. So, completely unsolicited, off went a steward, and not only fetched an umbrella, but a hot pie and a cup of tea into the bargain for both of us. And there was no charge. Would this happen at Old Trafford? I dont think so.
But all of this pales in to insignificance compared with my experience at Hartlepool recently. A couple of weeks before the game I had a letter from 'The West Hartlepool Rovers Quoits Club' offering a small number of fans the use of their social club and free parking for the afternoon. With the correspondence were printed AA routefinder instructions, a Google map, and two photocopied references from Leeds and Derby fans who had accepted previous invitations from them to use their facilities. I rang the chap up and said 'Yes please' and off we set up the A1. We found the club with the aid of the instructions and went inside. We were greeted by our very congenial host who proceeded to point us in the direction of some freshly made rolls, as they thought we would be hungry. We spent the next hour watching Sky Sports on their big screen and putting the world to rights with the Hartlepool fans. They just wanted to talk about the game in general, their own club, our club and amazingly, they knew all about our team and the players, some feat with NCFC these days.
And all of this washed down with beer at £1.60 a pint!
Of course I want to quickly get back to the championship and ultimately the Premiership as much as anybody, but while we down here having to mix it with children of a lesser god, lets enjoy the positives. There are a lot of rough diamonds to be found.