It’s the time of year when it all comes flooding back and little did I know that I would actually remember the intensity of my football bug at the time when the Cobblers were playing in their first pre-season friendly of the summer. Friendlies are usually a smoke screen to the season, something that most optimistic of fans use to predict massive things upon a 3-0 win over non-league minnows and the most pessimistic use to say that we’re doomed after a goalless encounter that saw little promise.
The game at Brackley Town yesterday saw the Cobblers lose by a single goal but that was by far the last thing on my mind. What I learned about myself from yesterday was that, despite a second half of the 2010/11 season that saw me take in minimal games due to the birth our baby girl and lack of funds along with a new location in Bath, the yearning and desire to know exactly what was going on even at a game akin to a kick around on the training pitch was still inside me. I seemingly cared more, in fact, than I did twelve months ago. Perhaps absence really does make the heart grow stronger and all that.
We spent the day in Bristol and wound up passing by a familiar part of town. I only realised on seeing a sign to the Memorial Stadium that the reason why I recognised the area was because it was the route taken to see a previous Gas v Cobblers game. Martha sighed at me as I revealed the recollection. I seem to quietly, most of the time in my head, get excited about football grounds. I guess it’s because seeing one on a day or period of time when matches aren’t going on just reminds my subconscious mind that the game does exist and everything will be ok.
For instance, I was travelling towards Birmingham recently and was poking my head around the motorway wondering if the Bescot Stadium, home of Walsall, was nearby and it was the same when Martha lived in Exeter and I was fascinated that St James’ Park was literally a stone’s throw away from her flat. Football Grounds have the same mellowing effect on me as record shops. Most of the time I’m not buying anything but it’s nice to know that the places still exist.
Anyway, after passing through Bristol and to the pub that would go on to be our home for the afternoon, my mind turned to the Brackley game. Again, this was just a friendly and I thought it was normal for me to be day dreaming about it over a plate of nachos. But it really wasn’t. How has my obsession got this far? Like I mentioned earlier, this was just a kick around in the park and the fact that we lost 1-0 didn’t concern me at all. What I was more interested in finding out was who had played, who had finished ninety minutes and who had shown a little promise.
The answers would have to be discovered later when we got home but I couldn’t help thinking at 5pm if there were any ways of finding out what had happened. It turned out that there wasn’t thanks to dodgy phone signal and a broken Ipod so I had to wait until the evening to get the details. They included rave reviews for Paul Turnbull who appeared to be many of the fans’ pick of the newbies with some slick passing and a nod to Jake Robinson as well.
The ludicrous rule that, because it was the Maunsell Cup Final, six of our players would have to play the entire game (six, in our first run out!) meant that Sam Walker, Lewis Young, Nick McCoy, Byron Webster, Ashley Corker, Arron Davies and Turnbull went the distance. Robinson came closest to a goal for us while trialist Adi Yussuf hardly saw the ball after coming on mid-way through the second half.
Minor details, but details that I could sleep easier knowing. It’s ridiculous what my mind needs to know before resting and if this is how I am during pre-season then I really do sympathise with Martha during the nine months covering August to May when I must be a complete nightmare.
One thing is for sure and that’s that this football bug hasn’t left me and is showing no signs of leaving. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like without it. I would probably be relaxing and enjoying the sights of Bristol. Then again, the Memorial Stadium is probably still one of the highlights, and that’s saying something…