Next week I shall be away in Zurich. Sadly my enjoyment of that trip has already been compromised by the discovery that SC Young Fellows Juventus are away.
Last week it was my birthday. So here's a short thing I wrote when I was still relatively young about what it means to get older as a fan. The last two paragraphs perhaps explain why us neutrals are so excited about Leicester.
A few years ago a friend of mine took his six-year-old son to his first match. It was at the Stadium of Light during a fractious period for the home side. They conceded early. As all around him fans shook their fists and vented their fury with the players, the manager, the owner, my friend looked across at his son. The boy was weeping uncontrollably. “What’s the matter?” his father asked. “I don’t like it. I don’t like it,” his son sobbed. “Why are the men so angry?” They left at half time.
My friend’s son was a sensitive child, admittedly.Why the men are so angry is a good question, though. Recently a letter in WSC raised the topic of the vengeful faces seen in modern goal celebrations contrasted with the more cheery chops of yesteryear. Looking back on my early days as a supporter in the late-1960s I recall neither rage nor happiness at Ayresome Park, just the smell of fried onions and a sense of seething resentment. But maybe that was just because I was sitting next to my granddad.
Rage is all the rage these days. At least it is in most places.
With the passing of the shortest day we enter the season of renewal. Or not in the case of a friend of mine who yesterday announced that he is to give up his Middlesbrough season ticket. He has been going to watch the Boro since he was seven.
"You know how they talk about 'compassion fatigue'?" he says when I ask him to explain this radical scheme, "well I've got frustration fatigue. I reckon every man is born with a finite reservoir of bitter, teeth-grinding rage and for the past 18 months the pumps have been bringing up mud from mine. There was a time when I could spend 90 minutes seething about Paul Kerr, but these days I can't even get vexed about Fabio Rochemback and he's 10 times as annoying as Nookie ever was. I'm jaded. I just can't raise myself to get angry anymore
My friend says that his Dad gave up going to Ayresome Park when he turned 44 and now he has turned 44 himself he is doing the same. He says when you can't work up a head of steam about a feckless Brazilian get in a headband it is nature's way of telling you it is time to quit.
Part of the problem, my friend says, is the Premiership itself, or rather the new business-like approach to it of many clubs including our own. "Outside the top four nobody actually seems to consider trying to win it," he says. "The ambition of most of them is surviving in the Premiership, so that they can receive all the TV money they need to survive in the Premiership. Keep going to earn money to keep going: that's not sport it's everyday reality for most of us."
I know exactly what he means. When I listen to most Premiership managers and chairmen droning on these days about the need for realism, fiscal constraints, the limited size of their squads and keeping their fingers crossed that, with a bit of luck and freedom from injuries we just might be good for a top ten finish, I am reminded of the Czech writer Jaroslav Hasek's political organisation The Party of Moderate Progress within the Bounds of the Law. The only difference is that Hasek was joking.