Apologies for the lack of blog posts coming from both Forfar and East Fife for a few months but it’s been a truly sad soul-sapping season of football. I notice that I had a few paragraphs written about Torquay’s 3-0 (and we were luck to get nil) defeat at Hartlepool in draft but I guess it was hard to find the motivation to complete a nice blog post about a capitulation to an average side boasting a tubby Marlon Harewood who charged us £25 (hipster prices) to get in. The only plus points were the Chesterfield challenging Fish and Chips plus the some rather dubious man company for the 540 mile round trip.
Ultimately the 2013-2014 season is going to be one that I’ll consign to a very dark place to be forgotten about. Torquay United had one of those seasons where we were more or less relegated in February but still managed to maintain a rather tiresome survival interest until the penultimate game of the season. It sounds churlish of me but I found myself willing my own club to lose and just put me out of my extended misery. It’s the false hope factor that will be my eternal nemesis. All we had at Torquay was the club’s chief media knobber posting endless shameless snippets of spin on the official site and a few equally awful clubs above us tripping up over themselves to avoid the relegation trap door to the Conference Prem.
I tried to immerse myself in other football related trips to Antwerp, Duisburg, Gillingham Town (Dorset), Taunton, Stafford Rangers, West Auckland, Marlow, Essen and then the Holy Grail. A work trip to German with all expenses paid and access to German Football. But the trip to Offenbach was marred by a fairly soulless concrete experience at the Stadion am “Justin” Biebererberg and the trip to Mainz was numbed by jobsworth stewards who confiscated my beloved Fuji camera and were being deliberately awkward to everyone until some old German fan bellowed at them whilst shaking his walking stick. They relented and stop telling people not to sit in section B after deciding that it wasn’t a great idea in closing off the entry to section C and getting people (including the elderly) to climb over barriers to get into section C. I felt fully justified both cheering Kaiserslautern II’s last minute winner and telling a group of home fans to “fuck off” when they didn’t appreciate me sharing the opposition team’s joy. The moral of the story here is that it’s not all utopia when watching football in Germany. Some of it isn’t that inspiring. I think I had more enjoyment photographing a lad’s game on typical Sportplatz in the shadow of both the Bundesbank and the Europaturm.
None of it really worked though. Even a couple of feisty end of season play off games at Altrincham and Bangor failed to make me feel better. Both home teams won. Both team’s supporters ran onto the pitch with unscripted and unbridled joy. I felt a tinge of jealousy at their joy and then a deep feeling of sadness that, in a little under 2 years, Torquay have transformed themselves from a promotion play off final challenging team to a club who have lived permanently in the bottom few places of League Two under the stewardship of a bumbling chairman. I could write pages upon pages about how strongly I feel about this season’s demise but in short we’ve managed to get ourselves in a right old pickle both on and off the pitch. Not quite as much as dear old Bristol Rovers mind you.
I was also immensely proud of both Wealdstone deservedly winning the Ryman Premier League with games to spare and 1.FC Koln holding their nerve to clinch promotion to the Bundesliga 1. Wealdstone in particular have been splendid to watch this season with old pros Scott McGleish and Glen Little showing the way to Tom Pett, Jerome Okimo and Sean Cronin. There are some top people at that club behind the scenes who go about their business in a manner which certain league clubs (and Torquay) could learn from.
So as soon as the season ended it felt good to look forward to life in the Conference again. On one hand it seems like a crying shame to be back there after how hard we worked to get back into the league but at the very least it’ll be great to go back to Blundell Park, Sincil Bank, Aggborough and Moss Rose, as well as first visits to Alfreton, Nuneaton, Braintree and Halifax. At least we’ll be a slightly bigger fish in a slightly smaller pond.
As I’ve got older and even more cynical I think that schadenfreude (or should that be Schadenlosfreude) has taken over from extra curricular domestic and foreign ground trips in making me feel better about my own team’s limitations. I was more interested in trying to work out who was coming down with the Torquay rather than caring so much about if they would avoid the drop into the Chip League. At one point there were several candidates from Northampton, Wycombe and Brizzle Rovers, even our near neighbours in Exeter were starting to look shaky. Northampton have never been popular with us as they’ve always come across cocky bastards with dellusions of grandeur. Personally speaking though I wanted them to stay up for Alan Knill’s sake as he was sacked by Torquay in January rather unfairly and promptly rocked up at Sixfields as Chris Wilder’s number two. In the end of course it was dear old Brizzle Rovers who came down with us and made absolute helmets of themselves in the process. This made me laugh and happy for at least a week.
As a firm believer in Premiership clubs developing young English talent I should be giving my full backing to both Brendan Rogers and Liverpool but I can’t bring myself to. I spent most of the 1980s despising Liverpool and I can’t stand Roger’s cringeworthy soundbites about “unleashing the power of the kop”. It was looking very much like a Premiership title for them though but thankfully they shanked it up.I got sick of this #doingitforthe96 and that Stevie Gerrard somehow “deserved” a premiership winner’s gong.
So onto the World Cup. So far, and I write this after England’s 1-2 to Italy, it’s been a wonderful exhibition of top class football with a couple of shock results. Shamless joy unconfined in watching the Spanish get pumped by the Dutch. It’s not wholly Spain’s fault but I don’t like their brand of football or the way that the media (a lot in the UK) lauds them as the zenith of football style. All I’ve found it to be is a nemesis of pure attacking football and extension of Spain’s other national sport, bullfighting. All about teasing the opposition rather than really put them to the sword. So I really enjoyed the dutch really sticking it up them even if Arjan Robben’s celebrations grated a little bit.