Forest vs Boro 16/09/21 the solo match experience

Game tonight, Forest away. My first Boro match in over two years, since the covid bollocks kicked off. I ate my dinner, then got my Boro shirt on, jeans, boots. It was a beautiful evening, a good one to be in a hyper-aware state, you might say. I could see the orange bleeding into the blue through my skylight and only good things could happen. 

I set off and walked down by the Trent with the Forest fans. Now I’ve been watching my liver and am taking a break from the beer, but this was when I thought, get a drink, for the love of Christ, it’s football. And what’s football without beer? the devil so often asks. The Weatherspoons right next to the ground do pints of Robin Hood ale for £1.50, he told me. 

Now I’d like to say I took the advice of the angel, which was to just enjoy the bloody game in the knowledge that I displayed the mental strength to pursue my best interests, and for that, the Almighty will be grateful.

But I only didn’t stop for one because the place was rammed. 

I walked down toward the ground, and then realised I was the only Boro fan in sight, my shirt on display of course. As I got to the corner of the stadium I reached a blockade, and then I had to turn back, weaving in and out of the hundreds of forest fans heading in the other direction. I decided not to look at them and it was fine. I walked all the way round the other side, and saw an old man stood by the river bank, just looking at the swans. And I thought, why do I have to even go to the bloody football? I could just be looking at the swans. For free. 

That’s the thing with football, I forgot how many people go to it. Most of them are decent, working class folk of course, so it’s not a problem. It’s intense, there’s a lot going on. But still, that’s one of the benefits of going to the football alone, no obligations to speak to anyone, no distractions, you get full observation-powers, but you can sing your ‘eart out for the lads as well. 

Some lads were handing out freebies, sticks with a chocolate dip in plastic tubs. I passed about three of these stalls before getting in. Those guys probably had to deal with loads of miserable looking folk like me ignoring them. They were really thrusting those snacks on people, and by the bucketload. I wondered how much they were getting paid. 

You don’t really know you’re at a game until you get past the turnstiles, and you see all the fans pottering about, forming great queues up to the bar or drinking overpriced shit beer and singing in front of Sky Sports news on the hanging TV. I got to the front of the bar and the bloke could barely hear me through the completely unnecessary perspex barrier, what with the racket as well. Got there in the end: a Sprite and a Coke, one for each half. Lovely. 

We were hidden away in a little corner of the ground, underneath a great big shelf of forest fans, with a net extending out on top of us in case some whoppers start lobbing all manner of projectiles from above. Which thankfully only really happens in places like Turkey or Argentina.

I found somewhere probably near my seat, in an empty spot. There were a couple of oldies to my left, young’ns to my right. The young’ns were the ones starting all the chants. I like that. It’s like how it would be in a tribe, the young have to earn their stripes out in the jungle, let them lead the killing patrols, the adults have shown them how it’s done and they’re ready for it. 

There was a solo fan in front of me, in a 2016 Boro shirt, presumably he wasn’t like me and was living on Teeside, and had decided to give up four hours of the day on a Wednesday driving up and down the country to see one of the least impressive football teams in the division on his own. It’s what the beautiful game does to people, and we love it. 

A scene on the row before me struck me as very odd. A bald man was with his teenage son, they both were carrying beers. When I turned up, a security lad was talking to them, presumably telling them they weren’t allowed the beers in the stands. They refused to give it up though, and were ardent that they had a right to have those beers, repeating themselves. The security disappeared. Boro fans were singing all the classics. Ten minutes later another one came over, a senior member of the team. They ignored him completely so the senior decided to try and wrench the beer out of the dad’s hand, which he responded to with rage. That’s the thing, if they were both having a laugh about it, if they were drunk or something, then I might understand. But they were not. They were just blank faced the whole time. Anyway, the man led them away from their seats. And they returned shortly after, without their beers. 

???

Early in the game, Lumley (Boro GK) spilled a shot and a forest player managed to fail to score from a metre away. Then shortly after, up the other end, Boro’s Slovenian masterclass, Andraz Sporar, got played in wide-right in the 18 yard box on the counter. He thumped it in the top right and we all went bonkers. Scoring goals is something you never get used to as a Boro fan. I tried to do the ee-i-oo dance but couldn’t find a natural rhythm. 

“We’re winning away, we’re winning away, 

How shit must you be? We’re winning away.”

“Is this a library?

Is this a library? 

Is this a library? 

Is this a library?”

It quite clearly wasn’t a library. 

Then in the second half, when the Green shirts of Boro were attacking our end, a player passed back to the keeper, in a moment of incompetence, he took a heavy touch. A spritely Onel Hernandez was ready to capitalize, and dribbled into the open goal, then promptly took off his shirt, swung it around over his head and all-but dived into the away end, the crowd bursting over the advertising boards. 

“Sacked in the morning, 

You’re getting sacked in the morning,

Sacked in the morning,

You’re getting sacked in the morning.”

This is a commonly sung chant, it’s a nasty one, but never has it been so pertinent, when sang at a floundering Forest, once European heavyweights, now losing 2-0 at home to the most typical of typical Boros. The next day I was to discover that this was to become true, with Hughton getting axed before lunch time on Thursday.

I feel like there was almost an irony in my joining in of the following-

“I wanna go home,

I wanna go home, 

Nottingham’s a shithole

I wanna go home.”

when I didn’t want to go home (yet), and home for me is just down the road. And Nottingham is all right, there’s just a lot of stabbing goes in which you hear about in the news is all. 

“Warny, give us a wave, 

warny , warny give us a wave.”

And he always waited to build the suspense, but he always gave the wave as well, which the fans loved. This is an interesting chant, it shows how highly esteemed the manager is that the fans are so desperate to solicit any form of communication from them, It would be awkward if he just never did. But they always do. 

Then finally, in and amongst the classics, was the simple, yet effective

“We can see you, 

We can see you, 

We can see you sneaking out,

We can see you sneaking out.”

And as you look around, you can see the individuals, slowly leaving their seats and disappearing down the stairs, trying to maximise a bad evening by getting home ten minutes earlier. It must have been awful for them all. 

Then another one doing the rounds was a bit much for my taste, taking us backto the barborous days when it was acceptable to have people incinerated whom we do not like

“Build a bonfire,

Build a bonfire,

put the geordies in the top,

put the mackems in the middle,

and burn the fucking lot”

Forest didn’t deserve to lose like that, they had plenty of chances, they just couldn’t find the net. Boro on the other hand had a few, the second goal didn’t really count. Boro always seem scared when it comes to the crucial moment in the final third. It’s like we’ve had too much trauma at this stage to play a clear-headed, adventurous pass, and instead we panic and throw it away. This is why you need a Gaston Ramirez, someone who isn’t afraid, someone with attitude. Someone who expects himself to perform magic game-in game-out. The only trouble is they are often mercenaries. 

The two centre halves were commanding at the back. Our finest asset, the young Fry, will be looking to leave if things don’t work out this season, and we are a couple of players away from becoming the next Ipswich of the Championship. But also two more astute signings from reaching the top. That’s just the state of affairs in the best league in Europe.

After nights like Wednesday, the glass is always half-full. Even if it’s got no beer in it. 

Up the Boro.

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