The feeling at the game today was a far cry from the one I had on Tuesday night playing MK Dons for the second time. But sitting there on that cold week night, watching an FA Club replay against a team 32 places below us, together with a paltry 10,000+ fans, memories of past years in mid-table Championship mediocrity and League One blues came flooding back. No doubt the press would be writing about the somewhat muted atmosphere the next day, and I almost felt sorry for Mark Hughes as he looked out to all the empty seats and heard some boos from many fans who only turned up for the £10 tickets.
The one thing about these cup games though, is that there's always a chance you'll sit next to someone different due to the release of season ticket seats. And that night it was my opportunity to meet someone new. Next to me was a chap who must be in his 70s, possible even older. Throughout the match he gave me nuggets of wisdom which made me laugh and smile and think - maybe this situation isn't so bad...
Basically, we didn't play well on Tuesday did we? Or so I thought. Some of us 'booed' the changes that were being made, 'booed' the team, groaned in anger. I was one of them. And the man next to me said 'come on look, these guys are really playing so well'. And I watched carefully and thought...he's right. MK Dons nearly scored several times, they were extremely physical. They had nothing to lose, and it felt like we had everything to lose. I sat there, biting my nails (at the football it's the only time I do!) and he squeezed my arm and said 'Don't worry, I really think we're going to win this one'. For some reason I felt a glimmer of hope from his words. And when he even prophesied that we'd score from a 'set piece', my hopes were affirmed.
Those of you who are a little younger won't remember this movie, but there was a film called Oh God that came out in 1977. That was actually the year I was born but I grew up watching it and its sequels. The film was about God who appears to an assistant grocery manager as a 'good natured old man'. I am by no means giving a religious message but there was always something about the movie and the way that God was portrayed as an old man that was quite funny, touching and tickling. I almost felt as if perhaps the chap who was sat next to me having moved down from row L was God coming down to sort QPR out and give me a bit of hope!
The truth is that really, he was just a fan who had been going to games for probably twice as long as I have. And through all the experience he had probably seen so many scenarios that he could almost predict what was going to happen. At the end of the match, we introduced ourselves (by name), and he was so kind and said 'Emily, you are a lovely girl, it was so nice to meet you, I'll be back at my own seat for the next match'.
About 3 seasons ago my Dad & I lost the seats we'd had for over 15 years, as we were late in renewing them, so I moved up 3 rows and have been sat next to the same people for every home game as you would be. And after all this time, the guy to my right (where God was sat last Tuesday), turned round and asked me 'Hmm, where are you from?'. I guess it must have sounded strange hearing this slightly mixed up American/English accent shouting 'come on lads' or 'come on rangers'. So I explained my mixed background. And then I asked him why he wasn't at the MK Dons game. He told me that during the week he works in Holland so coming to games during the week is pretty tough. We found out more about each other in 5 minutes than we had in the 3 seasons we'd been sat next to each other. Such is the nature of the way we supporters are - week in and week out.
As I write this on the train up to see some family in Doncaster I chuckle at the thought of 'God' sitting next to me and smile at the sincere human interaction that takes place at the football. Of course, this is made much easier by the fact that the boys won 3-1. They played well and I am proud today.
Come on your Superhoops! Bring on Chelsea!!!
George Benson in 'Oh God'