It’s taken me eight months to get this done. Having started and stopped many, many times over that time it felt like it just needed to get written so here we go. As my silence on here probably indicated, this will officially be my last blog here. I’ve tried to keep up in a world of busy family life but having found a new outlet for my Cobblers ramblings and given the circumstances it’s absolutely the right time.

So here goes…

It’s 24 May 1997 and John Frain has just changed everything. With one swing of his left foot (at the second attempt) he’d created a moment that will last forever under the twin towers of Wembley. Within the 32,000+ strong Northampton Town support was a man lifting a 12 year old boy into the air in a moment of unbridled joy that only moments like this can create. The boy’s football watching life changed that day and the man’s pride at sharing the moment with his two sons was evident on his beaming face.

The man was my Dad. The boys present were my brother and me. As Dad lifted us into the Wembley air, a bond was sealed. Having been taken to the County Ground and having caught the claret bug through Dad’s passion for the Cobblers this was a culminating moment and one where I knew there was never going to be a moment to turn back or to join the other kids at school who donned their Premier League shirts on mufti day, taking the piss at my haggard Cobblers effort.

As many others will have bonded with a parent through their football passion, we bonded with Dad over the Cobblers and when I went away to university in Southampton there was never a weekend that I didn’t call home to chat through the game with him. Saturday phone calls after a win, Sunday phone calls if I wanted to wait for him to calm down after a defeat or poor performance. Plenty of Sunday phone calls, I’m sure you can imagine!

For fifteen years or so, as I moved around the south of England, this tradition continued and it was a treat every time I got to come back and re-join Dad in the stands of Sixfields or on the terraces of an away day. Sharing moments like the incredible double away day at Mansfield, promotion at home to Chester, the Anfield win and the title winning season was special but there were, of course, times when the ‘big manly hugs’ were of consolation rather than joy.

As I grew away from the weekend result being the most important thing in life, these times together became more and more special. Even a simple thing as a pre match pint was something to really look forward to because I saw the joy it gave Dad to be able to go and support the club he loved and his happiness at being able to share it with us, and later with his grandsons. It became more about the fact that I was getting to spend that time with him and while we both had a good old moan when things went wrong I hope it was the same for him.

In early 2018, Dad found out that he had stomach cancer and would attend what would be his final game in April last year at home to Oldham Athletic on the final day of the season. Though there was nothing to play for barring a miracle score line that would have been needed to keep us up, that joy amidst what must have been physical and emotion pain was clear on his face.

This is what football does. It gives a space for us to escape, for ninety minutes at least, whatever else is going on. It gives us special moments with loved ones and a bond like no other.

Dad passed away in late August last year and he couldn’t have been more surrounded by those he loved. The pain of those months have been the main reason why I haven’t been able to bring myself to write this but I hope that one day someone will read it who needs to see it and it brings them an ounce of comfort.

Because what I’ve learnt in these months is that it’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to be OK. It’s OK to laugh. It’s OK to go to matches again and feel the same happiness when your team scores. It’s OK to feel sad and angry after a defeat or get emotional thanks to a last minute winner. It’s OK to escape into the world of football for a while. It’s all OK. Because the bond you have with a club is often more than a two way thing and there will always be that attachment filling up within you when you go to matches.

There won’t be a moment when I don’t think of Dad whenever I make that walk down to Sixfields or get on a coach for a big game. This was always our shared passion and that will never go away.

I thank you all for reading these blogs over the last ten years. You have no idea how much every single comment has helped me.

Huge thanks go to Northampton Town Football Club for everything including the way that you were so accommodating and thoughtful to us all last year.

I also thank my brother, Chris, his boy Harry and my son Isaac who have been with me in the West Stand all season, an emotional season despite nothing much happening on the pitch.

I thank Charles and Neil, who I’ve been working with on the ‘It’s All Cobblers to me’ podcast over the last seven months – venting and laughing about the Cobblers every week with you guys has become my new tradition.

I thank my incredible Mum for being there for everyone in her worst times and for constantly encouraging my work.

And of course, I thank my wife, Martha, who not only encouraged me to buy a season ticket this season knowing what a tough year it was going to be but who stands by my side through all of life’s struggles and happiness. We’ll be welcoming the latest member of the Brothers family into our lives in August and I sign off from this blog with prayers that her safe arrival will be a rainbow of hope for the family.

With this turning into an Oscars speech, I best go into the internet wilderness now.

Up the Cobblers, and Dad, this one, and all the other ones on this blog, are all for you.

Danny x

Leaving on a jet plane…

On Thursday morning at around 8:40am I departed the fine shores of England to make the mammoth sixteen hour journey to Lima, Peru, to spend some quality time with some of my wife’s side of the family and to encounter where she comes from for the first time. Surviving the flight with an excitable two year old was a challenge in itself but the madness that was trying to keep Faith entertained was, and I’m sure will continue to be, well worth it.

I’m here for a month so in terms of this blog and the end of the Cobblers’ season it’s going to be a tough time to keep up to date. I’ll do my best to keep my thoughts on events back home up to date but with a five hour time difference I’ll have to be catching up with the scores over breakfast rather than the usual fare of a Saturday afternoon!

The blogs will likely feature some of the fun we’re having over here as well as my take on the Cobblers’ own adventures as we head full tilt into the defining final furlong of the season. I’ll be back with two games to go and hope to catch the Barnet home game a week after we get back.

Exciting times on both fronts and from either side of the world!

(New) Home comforts

So the reason for no report and reaction to the weekend disaster at Chesterfield is nothing to do with the result and performance that went with it (honest!) but more because of another house move for yours truly. It’s becoming a theme of this blog to include a house move once every eighteen months or so and to be honest I’m getting used to it.

As a brief explanation, a bigger house suddenly became available in our great village here in Peasedown St. John. For many years, my wife and I have been dreaming of opening up a house to the local community. Up until this point, the right place never came along but this one felt right and will be one that can cope with whatever the local area might need in terms of a space for groups or a place to chill out and meet neighbours. It’s a massive challenge but one that we’re really happy to be facing.

Anyway, to try and tie this in with the theme of this blog and so that it doesn’t become a self-promotional piece, the move had me thinking of all the other places I’ve hung my hat over the years and how a house can form the backdrop for some memorable moments whilst following Northampton Town. Yes, this is a distraction piece so that I forget all about Saturday’s result!

Whether it be a joyful promotion after arriving back to a student house in Southampton in 2006 to find my best mate Jamie, celebrating his own team’s (Chelsea) Premier League clincher on the same day and subsequently painting the town claret (and blue), a relegation night spent in the company of my Dad or high fiving a poster of Neil Grayson on my first bedroom wall after victory at Wembley in 1997 these dwellings are always a part of the memories.

So what now? Every time I move I wonder, quite sadly and very over analytically, whether this will be the home the welcomes me back after another promotion or whether I’ll be trudging back up this path after relegation. Will I be looking back in years to come at a high point in the life of Northampton Town Football Club with this house and its many quirks as the background image that will forever be etched in that memory? Will I be sat in this very living room when I sweat out a last day of the season commentary because I can’t make the match? Will I be dancing around this garden during a month of May or will I be crying into my summer tea at this kitchen table?

This is the mind of a football fan (well, this one anyway!). Being an avid supporter does this to a person. I sit here in my newest bedroom typing away in the depth of night and I know that this particular season will definitely end with me in this house and could theoretically go either way. The Cobblers are still a point off the playoffs after Saturday and I’ve been trying to stay positive that we’re in with a chance.

Home comforts are keeping us in the top half of the table and if we are to go anywhere near the playoffs then it’s the away form that needs to really pick up. Ironically, whether I will be celebrating a huge moment of the Cobblers’ history in this home is likely to be heavily influenced by my team’s ability away from theirs!

A new outlook for the new season

On Wednesday I was fortunate enough to attend the Olympic football in Cardiff where Mexico saw off Switzerland and Team GB battled to a hard earned win over one of the pre-tournament favourites Uruguay.

Yet its not the results of these games that will stick with me when I look back on the experience. It’s not even the fact that Roy Hodgson and Trevor Brooking took their seats just a stone’s throw away from us or the fact that Luis Suarez had a shocker of a game and didn’t help himself to endear to us Brits once again. It was the sheer atmosphere of it all that will be on my mind for a long, long time.

From the moment I stepped out of Cardiff station around lunch time I had a feeling that this was going to be something special. Usually following the Cobblers away from home I’m used to nervously checking my surroundings when stepping onto a platform but this was a joyful change. Mexicans were streaming out of the station in traditional gear, sombreros, ponchos and all, the Swiss though less in number were cooly going about their business, South Americans were boisterous as they joined the party and the Brits, well, were just proud to be hosting this party.

I had the sense that this was a once in a lifetime event and that, to be honest, makes me a little sad.

In the past I admit to being tribal in my following of the Cobblers. A mere mention of Peterborough in a pub quiz, lecture or kick around would have me twitching. Now, coming away from what was a perfect setting for football, I feel I’ve changed.

Maybe it’s starting a family, maybe it’s having more than one person to protect and having that responsibility, but I’m starting to recognise that my outlook on football is changing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as passionate as any Cobblers fan, I still get into ‘the zone’ on Saturday afternoons whether I’m at the game or not, but I’m also starting to develop a much better empathy for other supporters and teams.

The Olympic football event was what how I now see myself wanting my football experience to be like. It may be frowned upon by many people who read this but I feel a need to blog about it so I hope it makes a bit of sense!

When I say I would like to see this atmosphere in the Football League I would still draw the line at segregation on the terraces. Whilst on this occasion it was nice to mingle with other countries’ supporters there really is nothing like celebrating like crazy with your own set of fans when a big goal goes in. I couldn’t imagine the special moments of the Cobblers’ recent history like the Wembley win, promotions and Anfield being celebrated next to opposition supporters. One of the great things about a big moment like that is that you get to embrace the moment with people who are feeling exactly the same as you and that shouldn’t change.

What I’m looking for is more interaction between fans before, during and after matches. The whole deal with some clubs, Town included as far as I know, that see ‘home pubs’ and ‘away pubs’ being abolished would be a start. If you set out before a ball is kicked with an attitude of ‘us v them’ then you set yourself up badly. Who is to say that given a chance, no sets of supporters can rub shoulders with each other before games? I’ve seen it work first hand at places like Torquay, Brighton, Cheltenham and AFC Wimbledon where I’ve always felt really welcome as a visiting supporter. What we need is for more clubs to at least try it out and get behind the mutual love of this game rather than head out with a blunt ‘no’ to letting visiting fans into ‘our’ establishments. If fans from Uruguay, the UK, Switzerland and Mexico can all have a ball in one place then I see no reason why fans from Rochdale, Carlisle, Bury, Yeovil, Exeter etc, can’t do the same week in week out.

One thing that’s working for me is Twitter. As a football fan, I’ve gained more and more followers over the last two years and the strange thing with it is that I feel like I know some people pretty well simply by following them and talking to them online of a Saturday. The basic tool to talk to fans of other football clubs immediately gives you a greater empathy for them. Whereas it used to all be about teams turning up and you not knowing much about them, social media means that it’s highly likely that we know at least one fan of each club and straight away the barriers are broken down because we’re less likely to feel like having a go at their manager, team or fans. It’s not for everyone but it’s definitely working.

So how can we move forward? What I feel is needed is for us to share the feelings of joy, despair, heartache and love that comes with this game that we enjoy. We shouldn’t be afraid to be the ones to actually welcome opposition fans to our grounds, to go out of our way to talk to them rather than create mental segregations in the times when balls aren’t being kicked.

This latest chapter in my football watching life has (as you can see) left me mightily ponderous and I hope I’ve written this in a way that makes. Bit of sense and speaks to some people. I know I might be dreaming in a very hippy-like way that we can all get along, all laugh, marvel, debate and, most importantly, enjoy, the beautiful game together as fans but if one person reading this gets something from it then I’ll be happy.

Enjoy the build up to your seasons and maybe I’ll even meet some of you in the months to come!

Match of the Day…

For the first time since November 27th 2010 I just didn‘t care. I didn’t care a jot when my best friend and honorary Cobbler Jamie crept up to me at dinner and whispered “1-0 Oxford” before confirming our defeat later on in the day. For those of you who follow my twitterings and the like you know exactly why I didn’t care. It wasn’t that my loyalty had temporarily left or that I was fed up and given up on our season but simply because the dinner table on which I was sat was facing eighty of our friends and family. Because those friends and family had worked minor miracles in helping to bring together a meal for each other and for us. And because, most importantly, I had just married the love of my life.

I must warn those of a nervous disposition when it comes to all that mushy, lovey dovey stuff that this latest blog probably isn’t for you. I’ll see you in the Burton preview later this week!

I used to wonder when I was growing up whether I would get married and if so would the bride in question be tolerant of my fascination with a little football club. When I first started dating Martha I got my answer, sooner than I thought. She started asking me how ‘we’ were doing, following results and generally showing interest in something that I thought wholly disinteresting and unfathomable to an outsider who never really followed football let alone trying to grasp a passion for League Two.

She also fancied Danny Jackman, which helped.

Fast forward to last Saturday and back to the said whisper in my ear. I felt exactly how I had done on that day in November 2010 when I found out late in the evening that the Cobblers had been knocked out of the FA Cup by Sheffield Wednesday. Back then the football went completely back into my subconscious mind because my daughter had been born that afternoon. It was the same here…it might sound harsh but I couldn’t care less how Northampton Town were doing.

I was having a ‘moment’ and as a man that’s hard to admit. We’ve only been in Bath for just over a year yet our church family, friends and own families had created a monumental atmosphere that I will never, ever forget. An entire church had been cleared of pews (harder than it sounds!), decorated and been set up for a meal in time to host our wedding reception. Looking around I was completely overwhelmed at the work that had been done and so excited at a life ahead with my new wife.

With Martha sat next to me it truly felt like I was on top of the world and could do anything and that’s what it’s all about. Even my speech, the notes of which I had left in my jeans earlier that day, was conquered with ease. Public speaking is not my strong point by a long way but having had the day I’d had and having Martha next to me I felt, and still feel, like I could do anything I wanted without feeling the need to be nervous.

This all sounds a bit self-indulging now and I apologise for that and will wrap it up. I just felt that as a blogger that has captured every moment of the life of Northampton Town for the last five and a half years it was only right that I tried to capture what was the happiest day of my life and on a par with Faith’s birth.  Further down that list go Anfield, Wembley and promotions.

Because sometimes life is just far too important!