Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

Friday, 14 May 2010

One Night in Turin

'One Night in Turin', a documentary about England at the 1990 World Cup, was shown for one night only in a few cinemas across the country this week, so we went along, not least because our mate Stuart Hancock had composed the score. It wasn't bad, though I think a sharper, more highbrow film could have emerged - close-ups of Chris Waddle's face as he took his hoofed penalty and the aftermath as West German players celebrated around him, the freeze-frames just before dramatic goals etc were great, but it kept sliding into jingoistic rhapsodies. The slightly grubby, rough-edged play and depiction of the fag-end of English hooliganism seemed a world away from the rainbowish, pan-global glamour of the Premiership, or so I thought: more used to watching 'Looking for Eric' or 'The Damned United' among polite, art-going members of the public, I found myself surrounded by the worst sort of stereotypical fan. Almost all entirely male, oafish, skin the colour of uncooked pastry, aggressively bull-headed, plastic sloshing cup of lager held aloft, they depressingly lived up to the football fan of yore depicted onscreen: jeering whenever someone non-white/male/thin/straight appeared, making derogatory comments about the Minister for Sport for being a bit lispy and ginger, about the girl that the tabloids suggested had spent the night with a few players apparently not looking shaggable enough. They did calm down as the film went on, and as Gary Oldman's ludicrously rapturous narration became loftier, but it was a dispiriting experience. In the age of quid-for-kid days, all-seaters, a female ref and commentator or two, the old order hasn't quite gone away.

Wycombe are, of course, down, but at least did it with serious bloodthirstiness, dragging poor Gillingham down kicking and screaming with them by putting a third goal past them. OUCH; that has to hurt. Unlike the gasping Gills fans, ripped off the fish hook and into the bottom of the boat, it seems WWFC fans had a great time, making our Big Drop into something of a party atmosphere. Ah, the gallows humour. WWFC have always had that 'it was better in the Conference' mentality, at least amongst the 'ole gits I used to stand betwixt; I think a lot of fans are confident we'll do much better at a lower level, and with Gary Waddock given a wee bit of spending money. Roll on, next season.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain*

The last time I walked down Leyton High Road towards the Matchroom Stadium was in November 2004, on my second date with a lovely young rake who, apart from watching England on the telly occasionally, had no interest in the footer. I, on the other hand, being a girl with lower league blue blood bubbling in my veins, noticed how close said date-ee lived to the ground and worked my magic... We sat shivering in the away stand giggling at Leyton Orient's half-ground with two sides of the ground mere rubble. As I recall, the match contained the rather unprecedented event of the ref getting clattered and stretchered off, and that Keith Ryan's boys (YES! Post Tony Adams, my old heartthrob was briefly player-caretaker-manager) eventually won 2-1. Had WWFC lost, who knows what my fate might have entailed: maybe my date might have thought I was a deluded weirdo and galloped hurriedly off in the other direction, possibly into the arms of some cricket-obsessed Sloane or something.

In May 2010, I was back on the high street towards the ground, with the same chap, now my rather smashing husband, who though not affiliated to one team, does keep tabs on Wycombe for me and shares many a happy MOTD-watching evening on the sofa. The ground's changed too, now with a whole FOUR ends, amusingly with new flats poking through at each corner, which can only have been sold to hardened Orient fans gagging for a view of the match from their sofa.

This date had been in my diary all season, as it's one of the few I can make what with me teaching on Saturdays, but I didn't know then how crucial it would be. If we won this and our final game, and the two teams above us lost, we'd be home and dry, escaping relegation by the skin of our rattly teeth.

As it was, we were fair to middling in the first half, piled on ridiculous amounts of pressure in the second (Gareth Ainsworth particularly steaming down the right wing) but didn't possess a single man capable of sticking the darned thing in the net. Then the O's scored a pretty fine goal, the home fans found their Eyjafjallajoekull-like voices, we couldn't recover, and they finished the job with another towards the end. To be honest, I had already, months ago really, resigned myself to our sad fate. Depending on others losing is never helpful. Instead, the weather painted our inexorable path: I watched as the sky deepened to a bruising grey, and the air thickened to mist, then quiet, prickling drizzle, and finally sad, fat raindrops, deluging by the end as the boys stoutly played their way into League Two. It was really rather beautiful.
It was still great. Who cares if we're down? I was proud to be a part of the lustily-baying masses, (even though my musician's ear was constantly analysing the exact pitch-slippage throughout a chant of 'Wycombe 'til I die' - a slip of at least a minor 3rd! - and the accidental pushing of the classic footy rhythm from a 4/4 time signature to 15/16 - brilliant!), staying resolutely until the end to applaud the soaked lads, to prove our love was not unabated, that we would be there in League Two just the same. I wouldn't have been anywhere else but there, picking Cornish pasty-gristle out of my teeth and drinking THE worst hot chocolate ever (rubbing my face into a dead cat would have been more pleasurable) and chuckling at the frustrated old geezers next to me politely heckle our subs ('Harrold, you plonker! Take him back off!'). I collected a sky-blue balloon and took it all the way home to Bethnal Green, where it will stay until it wilts, loses its last breaths, and sags to nothing. There are always more balloons.

* Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain by Fred Rose, 1945