Drunken ebullience is rarely rewarded. Oh, a headache? My, what a prize! In this case I won something even worse. ‘Ooh, a ticket in with the Huddersfield fans? I’m spoiled!’
I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself. Floating somewhere above the streets of Leeds after the 4-0 trouncing of Birmingham, I sent a speculative text to my unfortunate friend – unfortunate, because he lives and works in Huddersfield. The away allocation was sold out, but could we find a way in among the dog botherers? The process of securing tickets took several days, and I had several opportunities to back out, but I fluffed them all like Luke Murphy fluffed that chance from six yards.
If Murph had scored that it might have changed the whole game, but a game that you lead after less than two minutes shouldn’t need changing all that much. Despite being in Huddersfield, I’d fair bounced from the pub to another pub to the ground to my seat, to be greeted by the sight of Smith rising majestically – well, of Smith heading a goal. From then on every bounce just embedded more gravel in my rubber ball, until it was too gnarled and laden with grit to bounce any more. Blackstock’s equaliser raised a hidden smile, but after the hope and happiness of Brum, this was too much like typical Leeds.
Being among the home fans made it a curiously passionless experience, though. Not for them, of course; I don’t think I’ve ever seen as tense a face as that worn by a woman who couldn’t bring herself to look as McCormack lined up a last minute free kick. The cheers around her encouraged her to take a fresh look when he missed; but she had to turn her face away again when the ball was returned from the clearance, back into the box. The only thing to do when you encounter somebody who cares that much about something, and when you don’t want to let on that you also care too, is to affect an attitude of studied nonchalance. So that’s what I did. Even now she probably tells people about the Town fan a couple of rows behind her at the Leeds game, who looked like he didn’t even care. “He even,” she’ll say, warming to her theme, “Had the right number o’ fingers on ‘is ‘ands.”
The only other discovery of note was the replays of the first half’s action in the bars along the concourse. Town might act all sophisticated with their faux anime styled dog for a mascot nodding to Japanese comic book culture, but to watch, on a portable TV bolted to the wall, as someone fast-forwarded through the first half, then rewound a bit, then pressed play to show a goal, then started fast forwarding again to the next one, like a kid looking for the sex scenes on his dad’s VHS tapes, added a surreal edge to my half time pint. And when you add surreality to drunken ebullience, you get trouble, which I think is where I came in.
From The Square Ball Magazine, 2013/14 issue 04