It has been a long time since I went and watched any football game, let alone a lower league game, which is quite a shameful thing for a sports writer to admit to.
In the time since my last game I have clearly been disillusioned by the bright lights of Premier League and Champions League football being beamed through the television set on an almost daily basis. I had been removed from the real world of football. The banging of drums, the chants of songs, the thousands of coaches and managers sitting in the stands, the beer and pie atmosphere and loose touches and missed chances. Even in the stands of an Old Trafford or Emirates Stadium you still do not experience the personal and community feel that lower league grounds can provide.
Me and a friend decided to take a trip to watch Colchester United, as they took on Stevenage in a League One game at the Weston Homes Community Stadium. Admittedly it’s not the most hardcore of football league grounds. It’s a new stadium, built on land outside of Colchester in the sticks of North Essex. Not exactly Fratton Park filled with football crazy Pompey fans, but a decent atmosphere and a competitive team nonetheless.
The club creates an atmosphere surrounded with community spirit. From the half-time raffle to the pies and pasties. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe I had got used to the relative detachment that comes with watching from the sofa, where a half-time advert break has more importance than joining your mates for a brew, bacon roll and some banter.
Even though the stands we’re less than half filled and the result seemed predictable for a team that had failed to win at home so far this season, the home support was ever-present. And maybe it was exactly that that turned the form books on their head.
The U’s had a bucket load of chances and former Arsenal youngster Sanchez Watt slotted one away to grab a home win.
In these days, it’s almost impossible to get tickets for the top Premier League teams. And if you do manage it you would have had to register, become a member, pick seats up in the gods after the season tickets and corporate seats have been dolled out, and paid inflated prices (that’s without the £5 burger and £3 cup of tea). None of this happened to me on my recent trip. I called the box office on the morning of the game, purchased under 21 tickets and we were on our way.
This is how football should be. Cheap, easy, with a feel of community, fuelled by passion and loyalty. I invite everybody to go and visit your local clubs and take in the joys of real football. Don’t get stuck in the monotony of sofa soccer, watching the same format week in, week out. But take your hat and gloves, it can get cold on those terraces.