Last night, having been left to my own devices, I settled in for a night of watching Darlington play Bradford live on Sky Sports. I shamefully have not watched my old team play a full game of football for, errrm, a very long time.
When I lived in Darlington, I went to my fair share of games, including a memorable season in the mid-eighties where I saw every home game bar one. Darlington v Middlesborough in the FA Cup. I’d been to the first game at Ayresome Park, and there had been a lot of trouble, a hail of bottles, fights throughout, familiar fodder to most fans who went to games at that time when things got violent. So I was banned from going to the replay by my mum. A shocking decision at the time. However I was only about 12 or so (and in that different age, far off in time, was used to going to games on my own or with a few mates, and getting the bus there and back without any problems whatsoever). It pains me to say it, but she was right on two counts. Firstly it was worse than the first game, pitched battles and a few large pitch invasions, not the sort of stuff that normally happened at Feethams. Secondly, and far worse, someone I knew from school was run over and killed on the way to the game himself, and I would probably have been on a bus going past where it happened. Don’t know how I would have dealt with seeing that, it was bad enough just hearing about it.
*deep sigh*. Anyways, I think that was the last full season I saw. Halfway through the next we moved down South to St. Albans, and I followed almost a full season of St.Albans City games. Terrible, terrible football. I think pretty clearly that was the point I started to lose my passion for football somewhat.
I still enjoy watching it. I just don’t follow it as closely as I did. I’ll watch a few full games a season, watch Soccer AM, watch more of tournaments like the World Cup, or England games, that sort of thing. It just doesn’t matter as much as it did though, I don’t have the same attachment to it now I can’t watch my team.
So the opportunity to watch Darlington again was one I did take eagerly. Darlington are looking bright and playing reasonably good football for their division this season, from the looks of it. However they just couldn’t capitalise on anything. As time went on and it crept towards the eightieth minute, a familiar feeling of resignation crept over me. Then we scored. Then they scored within 21 seconds. That feeling of resignation was far stronger now. This is how I used to feel watching Darlington in the flesh. Many hopes, many dreams, rarely to be realised.
That year we played Middlesborough was the one decent cup run I ever witnessed. Failure, or just a lack of overall achievement, was what any wise fan expected. Fans who follow the Liverpools, the Chelseas, the Man Utds, especially younger fans, just can’t know the feeling that scoring a single goal at the right time can muster, that brief feeling of rising above it all, of fleeting glory to be savoured, rather than expected.
And so right at the death of last night’s game, Franz Burgmeier headed in the winner for Darlington. Once more I got that glorious feeling of expectation being surpassed. A primordial sensation of local pride for a town I’ve long since left behind. It took me back somewhat. All in all, an excellent evening’s entertainment.