The Championship Play-off race goes Clockwise
I had been stood there for about fifteen minutes. It was a sunny day and the road was full of cars. Different colours, different shapes. But all crawling along, windows wound down, radios blaring. The nine to five leaving the city at a snail’s pace. This was before I passed my driving test. Bus days.
I don’t miss those days. The absence of freedom and enforced co-habitation with strangers could be incredibly aggravating. Travelling by car is very different. Post-test, suddenly I gained control of my immediate destiny when attempting to get from one place to another. That sweet, sweet freedom. The entire highway network at my beck and call.
But that hadn’t happened yet. I hadn’t yet taken my test, I hadn’t yet passed and I hadn’t yet got down on one knee in the test centre car park next to my instructor’s Rover 25 and clenched my fist as though I’d just scored a Wembley winner. Not that I did that. Obviously.
Either way, it hadn’t happened. At that point, I was reliant on the humble bus. And I’ll tell you something for free – that well-worn cliche about waiting ages for a bus and then two coming along at once? It’s rubbish. Complete nonsense. Well, I never experienced it anyway. I just felt an intense rush of relief if one of the bloody things deigned to turn up at any stage.
On this occasion, one eventually came along. I reached for my wallet in anticipation, began filtering out coppers.
And watched in total disbelief as the bus sailed past.
How was this happening? Why was this happening? I was the only one at the bus stop, but the traffic was so heavy. The driver must have seen me. The bus was half-empty. It wasn’t dark. How could he have missed me? I wasn’t camouflaged. It wasn’t a bad part of town. Misery.
But then hope. It had stopped. Glory be! Oh, sweet double-decker saviour! I began a brisk walk towards the newly-installed object of my affections. Then a trot. Then a canter. Then a whole-hearted sprint. The infernal thing had pulled away again and was now effectively goading me in full view of the gathered rush hour participants.
Swear words. Plenty of them.
But what was this? It had stopped again! Beautiful, beautiful day! Rejoice! I began to jog thankfully in its direction again.
You’re way ahead of me here, aren’t you? Yep, off it went again.
This is what it is like to support a team in the second quartile of the Championship at the moment. The constant dance of hope and disappointment. Just end it now. I want it to end. Let’s get on the beach and forget about it all.
There’s a famous quote that summarises it perfectly, and which is probably getting an airing up and down the country on a regular basis at the moment. It comes from the 1986 film “Clockwise”.
“It’s not the despair… I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand”
Yep, that sums it up for me. Once the play-offs are a distant dream, we can relax again and enjoy the football.
For now, though, that lingering hope remains. Infernal, godforsaken hope.
Win one, draw one, lose one. Play like Barcelona. Play like Bolton. Play like Telford Washing Machines. All we ask is for a bit of consistency. Don’t demonstrate that you have any talent if you’re not going to do it every week! Don’t chase lost causes for the duration of one game and then not bother the following Saturday! Don’t alternate between firing unerringly accurate thunderbolts into the bottom corner of the opposition net and launching them into a different postcode from one game to the next!
You would think, after over twenty years, I would have accepted the frustrating, inconsistent, tantalising reality of football by now.
Maybe next season.