Wembley Strife and £4 Pints.
Thought I’d blog my reflections, regarding yesterday’s visit to Wembley. A journey I had conducted out of blind undeviating support for my team, Sheffield United, who were appearing in the League 1 play-off final. As my phone died around 1pm, I was denied the chance to be conceited on Twitter, at the point in time, so I’m using tumblr, ok? It was probably for the best that my ties to social networking had been severed, because many of my Tweets would have been akin to the last guttural wails of a dying wolf. For United had lost their fourth final out of four, and I had been present at all. Anyhow, although these feelings are still raw, like; Eddie Murphy, Monday night Wrestling or War spelt backwards, I guess what I’m trying to say, is I’m not good at similes, who am I, Stuart Hall? Should I use flowery prose for you, fag? No this is my blog! Ahem…what i’m REALLY trying to say, is with a bit of time (and application of sudocrem and paracetamol) I have found some assuagement in the aftermath of what is another psyche bruising disappointment caused exclusively by Sheffield United Football Club (and I suppose women, too, but they smell nice, am I right? Oh fuck off). So as a form of catharsis or the fact I woke up at 8 on a bastarding Sunday, I thought i’d go through my day at Wembley and come to a conclusion of why, despite so many let downs, I simply can’t stop supporting my ‘ole team.
The day started with a McDonald’s breakfast. Now if it would have ended there, then i’d have saved so much money and time and could simply relax in the solace, that i’d eaten half of my daily recommended amount of saturated fat in the form of a Hash Brown. Alas, no the day would continue. Our journey was originally moving at record pace: outside Luton within 2 hours. Here we hit the first bump in the bumpy road which we call being a Sheffield United supporter or “bumpy-roader”*. There had been a crash on the M1 and delays of up to 2 hours were expected. Maybe this was a metaphor for our season. Making great progress up until our destination was in sight and then a lapse of concentration and it ends up in write-off or maybe it was simply a collision at Junction 10, between a coach and car, WHO KNOWS? Either way, thanks to a detour by our Driver we still made Wembley in good time for a ‘piss-up’. However those who had that intention were about to hit another bump. “£4 a fucking pint” howled a imagined 50yo man, sporting a United shirt with his own name on the back. Those predatory Londoners had done it again. “No wonder why they burned their own town down” smirked the man, who I had created to represent a section of United supporters (and deflect from the fact I had made that arsey joke). It made me laugh, I suppose it was a stereotype that Northerners are “tight” but it had a unifying function, it was something to joke about, it makes for a more memorable experience. Looking back it reminds me that these days are about more than just Football, it’s the sense of community that I enjoy about supporting Sheffield United. Probably most fans have this too, but also get to enjoy success, but I’ll talk about what I know, you shallow corporate glory supporting beasts.
Inside Wembley, the sun was beating down on the United support. Which was glorious for a while. However, more than two hours of it was completely unbearable. I joked it wasn’t going to be our day, as we couldn’t even acquire the right side of the ground. Whilst the Huddersfield support, spent the whole game in the shade. Allowing them to focus solely on supporting their team. Whilst I had to go to first aid twice to get everyone water, to avoid heat exhaustion. Suppose it was the pessimist in me to even notice such minor discrepancy. However, pessimism is the defining feature of supporting United. 3 previous play-off finals and 3 semi-finals, I had seen us fail in, without even registering a goal. “Something is inherently wrong, surely no one is this unlucky?” I thought to myself. This is what separates United and Wednesday fans, one is optimistic to the point of delusion, the other pessimistic and grounded to the point we never take off. I’m sure statistics will show Wednesday fans are more likely to cheat on their wives, because they are terrible people (I love some of them, regardless) with ideas above their actual station, whereas a United fan would think “I get enough bollocks at home, chuff that.” But seriously, getting back to the point — it was hot as balls. Whilst singing away-as a complete sweaty mess- trying to get the support going, I thought to myself, I hope they don’t see me on Sky. Lo and behold, the camera focuses on our general direction, I hope the topless man with the back tattoo that read ‘Monsters’ obscured me from live television, because there’s two occasion I wish never to see replayed to me; One being this exact moment the other being when I licked a girl’s bum.
Ultimately, the game ended in defeat via a Penalty shoot-out. I was sick in the pit of my stomach, it felt exactly like when a girlfriend says its over or your Mum tells you your Nan is dead, you know something bad has occurred but it takes a second to settle. Why was Nan paragliding, anyway? Now it was four losses out of four, yet again we had failed to score and those Wednesday fans showing faux-support in an aim to save face, could now revert to type. All these thoughts run through your head, when you support United, but the worst was that I thought maybe it’ll be different. At your lowest point it feels like a sick joke, for you to be strung along in such a way, it endures like the most unjust thing ever. Then you realise the absurdity of your thoughts. The best analogy of being a football supporter, that I can think of, is one of being the parent of a naughty child. They are so much hard work, drain your time and resources and never seem to repay you in any kind. Then they do something that makes you so proud, no matter how humble in nature. Maybe they learn to swim, excel at an activity or they simply manage to behave at a fancy restaurant. Then you realise it’s all worth it. It makes you enjoy those little victories so much more, like Michael Brown’s volley against Wednesday or Unsworth as good as securing promotion against Hull in the last minute or Nick Montgomery scoring in a 4-0 rout at Elland Road. Because life’s not an unmitigated success, so savour what you have. No matter how frustrating the lows are, as clichéd as it is, I would never not want to be a United supporter. They are stitched in to the fabric of my person. There is a statue outside Bramall Lane of a man called Jimmy Hagan, he had retired 30 years before I was born. Yet he means something to me. He was my Grandad’s hero. So much so that Jimmy is my Uncle’s middle name. When you are 3yo your Grandad is your hero, so Jimmy Hagan shall be my hero, too. Football is not more important than life, but it is also more than a sport. Sheffield United is part of my identity, my great-grandfathers supported them and helped build its legacy. Hopefully, I, in some small way, as if an ant to it’s colony, will contribute to it’s future legacy, as well.
So I guess what i’m trying to explain, is that the disappointment I experienced yesterday, as much as it hurts, is simply another day in a lifetime of supporting Sheffield United. Yes, there will be more days like this, of that i’m sure. But there will be better days, too. So when I joke “if we get to another Final at Wembley, I’m not going”, I definitely will, I’ve got to. And I’ll pay £4 a pint!
*No one has ever said this ever.