I sometimes think that we football fans are mad. We have to be, to keep the faith.
For supporters of yore, reaching a cup final necessitated an overnight camp outside the ticket office, or in our case portacabin.
These days for a big game it can mean being up at dawn for frustrating internet experience, with seven windows open at once.
And then there’s the superstitious element that seems to be a part of everyone’s matchday experience.
I started thinking about this on the day of the Albion game when I bumped into a couple of friends during an early visit to Lloyds Bar.
They were having the ‘All Day Breakfast’ (as habitués of SW6 will be aware, the All Day Breakfast at Lloyds Bar got its name through the wait you have to endure). I asked them why they were eating there in comparison to other local outlets where the breakfast is not only cheaper, but hotter.
“I’m really superstitious” replied Amanda. “We always come in here for breakfast”. This struck a chord with me.
For the previous weeks Charity Shield, as this column will refer to the game in perpetuity, I had deviated from the norm of bacon, mushroom, egg, beans, bubble & squeak, toast and coffee, and breakfasted exotically off smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with a glass of pineapple juice.
We lost to the Mancs. Seven days and a worker’s breakfast later, normal service was resumed.
And then there’s the music. There have, over the years, been certain pieces/songs which when heard on the day of a game have proved deadlier than a Siren’s song. Most notable was a game against Bolton just before Christmas 2003 and another meeting with a mate in Lloyds Bar.
During the course of the summer of 2002 a record called “A Thousand Miles” had been a big hit for an American singer named Vanessa Carlton, and it continued to be played not only into the autumn but throughout 2003 as well.
I had first heard this record played en route to a match on the way to the Manchester United game played on the Friday before the August Bank Holiday in 2002. The game finished in a draw. Thereafter, whenever I seemed to hear it on a matchday, we either drew or lost.
It got to the point that at the first notes of the distinctive piano intro, the radio would be off quicker than you could say Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Anyway, 13 December certainly proved to be unlucky. We were sitting by one of the TVs in Lloyds, and suddenly the infernal song began.
“Oh no”, I said to my friend. “You do know that this song is really unlucky?” and went through the litany of catastrophe that attended each matchday hearing. My friend laughed so much he nearly wet himself. “Just you wait”, I muttered forebodingly.
Neither of us were laughing at 5 o’clock, after we crashed to a 2-1 home defeat with JT putting through our net in injury time.
There are also other harbingers of doom. Johnny the Horse by Madness, most notably day we lost against Arsenal in 1999, having been 2-0 up at half time, with a very wet conga taking place at the front of the still unfinished West Stand. And Va Pensiere from Verdi’s Nabucco.
That’ll learn me to listen to Classic FM. And virtually anything by Edward Ball.
The above, combined with various diverse superstitions regarding clothing (lucky pants appear particularly popular), journeys to the game and drinking on matchdays, attaching not only to myself but my friends, would seem to prove that, to quote Blackadder, we’re “madder than Mad Jack McMad, the winner of this year’s Mr Madman competition”.
Finally, I share the sorrow of all of us who lumped on the Chels beating Blackpool 10-0. When we were four up at half-time it looked a distinct possibility. Even the MOTD2 team opined that we should have scored 14 or 15.
I’m really not bothered about the fact that the £500 quid I’d have won would have ensured a visit to Marseille in December, but I’m certain we’d have all revelled in the glory of becoming the first team in the Premiership to score 10 goals.