Championship fans will once again rival Odysseus, Captain Cook and Ranulph Fiennes next season as all those tales of miles clocked up following one’s team will be wheeled out again. Doubtless, arranging the fixture list is a knotty business, unlikely to please all comers, but the sheer stupidity of some of the scheduling, combined with a rail service celebrating twenty odd years or so of ugly privatization will once again bewilder and hamper fans’ enjoyment. Take Blackpool for instance. After the anticipation of an early visit from Newcastle is over, the Tangerines visit Bristol City for a Tuesday night kick off on September 29. With no trains back the same night of the game, Seasiders’ followers will be on a hot line to the B&Bs of Clifton. Prices for the labyrinthine journey there and back are not yet available on thetrainline.com, my screen stuck in a perpetual fug of “CANNOT COMPUTE”.
Simply wishing to support your team is, to most eyes, such an unlikely activity as to be not worth remarking upon. I have never heard the BBC’s Monday Night Club or anyone else on Radio Five Live comment on the journeys people have to make and the way they are laid at the mercy of Britain’s rail operators and hotellers. The pundits stay in hotels of course, or have a steady stream of Sky matches on tap – why care about the loyal followers who take it upon themselves to support their boys in question? Even worse is the sudden rescheduling of games for television and the dreaded, utterly pointless phenomenon of the 5.15, 5.20 and 5.35 kick offs. Just two months ago, Reading’s play-off bid was dampened by an early Saturday evening trip to Burnley, their fans berated for not filling their allocation, despite the match timing being announced at less than a week’s notice. Have any of those critical of the Royals’ support attempted themselves to hit those Lancashire mills at that time of the week?
As for those denizens of Bloomfield Road, they also have to ensure two awkward trans-Pennine expeditions on Tuesday nights in 09-10. The attractive big city trip to Boro will be transformed by a December 8 trek along the M62 and assorted B roads, the wind and rain howling down from the North Yorkshire Moors. Two months later and Ian Holloway’s new worshippers will be tackling the Peak District on a February Tuesday in a bid to get to Hillsborough; the beautiful hills looming unseen in the pitch blackness all around them – and yet the easiest away trips to Preston are both scheduled for Saturdays at 3pm. Thetwounfortunates will be returning to this theme later in the season.