We all know the slogan, and we all know what it signifies. But if TB wants to start handing out bits of paper with motivational instructions on Saturday, he could do worse than above.
It’s been a strange couple of days since Coldseal were dispatched. As is traditional with Ryman League playoffs, there’s one helluva cockup on the horizon. A few years ago it was the last-minute venue changing (not involving us, we were still a lowly R1 outfit by then). Then there was us wondering exactly who we would play, and more importantly when, literally up to the last day of the season. Last year seemed to go off smoothly enough, but this time the issue of 1500 tix suddenly becoming 1000 tix has really got peoples’ backs up.
OK, I’ve got my ticket (and many thanks to the Teddington branch for a bit of ingenuity), but plenty of others haven’t. And more importantly, they’re people who should have them but haven’t. I know somebody who would have popped over to KM in the afternoon, which by then would have been far too late. What’s really pissed people off isn’t the actual numbers allocated, it’s the way it’s suddenly been slashed. Yes, I know that we could have been given 600, which is the minimum. Realistically though, that was never going to happen. 1000 you may think is small, and if we had played somebody like Chelmsford, it’s what we would have expected. 1500 was probably a decent and in truth fair distribution – it’s Staines’ home game and obviously they want to use it to their advantage.
What reducing it down to 1000 has done is this : it’s pissed people off to the point that they’ll now be motivated to go over to Staines this evening and nab tix that way. Even those with existing stubs anyway are contemplating going, partly to bail out people who have been stung, but also as a kind of defiant “hey, fuck you”. I think a lot of people – Staines people included – have missed the point over all this. If you promise somebody a specific allocation, stick to it. If it’s 600, 1000, 1500 or even 2450, make sure it stays that way and you won’t get nearly as much hassle. There is nothing guaranteed to make people more angry than renaging on a committment like this. Especially one you could argue you’re justified in having (let’s face it, we would have sold out 1500 by the end of yesterday. Not BBB, just stating the obvious).
If Staines want half the ground for their own locals, then fine. Restrict ticket sales – don’t more or less admit that you’re happy to sell to AFCW fans tonight and then turn around and bitch at us for taking over their place. We could have at least 70% of the crowd supporting us on Saturday at least, and who’s fault would that be? Not ours…
All this of course has proved a distraction for us, though whether it’s a welcome one remains to be seen. Perhaps it is a good thing, because right now I’m so fucking nervous you won’t believe. Is football supposed to be this psychologically damaging? For too much of the day, I keep thinking forward to Saturday? What will I do if we win? What will I do if we lose? I think I’m more scared of thinking about the former rather than the latter – I mustn’t tempt fate. To get myself excited and then lose on Saturday will just be crippling.
And as I said in the last match report, things can go badly wrong on Saturday. We’re not there yet, and I really hope that we have put Tuesday out of our minds. Saturday will be 100 times harder than Coldseal – it will be harder for the players because Staines are no mugs, they have a bit more brain than the Essex lot and you know they’ll want to do us for the 5-2. Not to mention the fact they’re on a pretty decent run of form themselves, and apparently their own game on Tuesday was quite one-sided.
Plus of course there’s the usual ex-AFCW factor. The not-so-much-maligned Richard Butler, plus Lewis Cook and Dave Sergeant all have points to prove against us. They’ll be up for it big time. Staines won’t lie down and in fact I would put them as favourites. Yes, crowd size doesn’t matter – if they’re good enough to beat us, they’ll overcome that.
Right now for many people, it’s straw clutching time. I want to believe in omens, but I don’t. Or rather I can’t – I just won’t let myself. Here’s my thinking:
If you believe that a repeat of Tuesday’s guts will put us through – it won’t.
If you believe that it surely has to be third time lucky for us – it won’t.
If you’re invoking memories of 1988, and of various incidents back then which point to us winning on Saturday – they won’t.
Life doesn’t work like that. You may think we “deserve” promotion on Saturday, but we don’t. We don’t have a deity-given right to go up. If we are going to win, we are going to have to play harder than we did against Coldseal. Our attitude will have to be THE best it’s ever been : no slacking, no letting Staines get on top of us, nothing. It will be 90 minutes of sheer hell, it will make the last 20 minutes of Tuesday seem like a PSF. I just wonder if the players really know it.
Granted, they took a step forward after the game Tuesday, when they refused to celebrate. The job is only 50% done, although I think it’s nearer 30%. It’s a final which brings its own unique little quirks, no matter what team you are. Plus of course it’s our biggest game in the AFCW era, and we always do shit in the big games.
Now, you’re probably getting all het up and yelling at your monitor right now. “Why are you so fucking pessimistic you miserable bastard?” you’ll probably be hysterically screaming. Well, a couple will be anyway 😉 Here’s why – fear. No, not fear that we’ll get tonked, or even that of losing – it’s that fear of failing to perform. It’s that fear of the inevitable fuckup in the one game you don’t want it. It’s that fear that evil AFCW will turn up on Saturday with a forged ticket, do its worst at our expense, and then dance merrily down the road with Alan Boon and Turdey hand in hand camply singing “The Staines are going up”.
It’s the fear that it really is shit-or-bust on Saturday, and we may never get a better chance to get out of this division for a while. But it’s also the fear I want the players to have.
Why? Simple. With this fear has come with it THE most determined I have ever felt before a game. I hope I’m not alone when I say it’s that fear of failure that is pushing me towards wanting to win. Does that make sense? I’ve got fear, yes, but it’s not the same feeling that I had before Chelmsford away.
Games like Saturday are why you support a club. You have to believe at times like this, and whether you cross yourself or you sacrifice sheep on an altar (unless you’re Welsh or from Yorkshire, in which case ramraiding takes on a whole new meaning) you find yourself doing it. I think it’s times like this even an athiest like myself knows why religion has kept a grip on people for so many centuries. No, you don’t go to heaven (or hell) when you die, in fact it’s just a load of nothingness for all eternity and you merely become worm food. But your mind doesn’t want to know that. It wants to believe there’s some saintly bloke with a white beard awaiting you, or a fiery-tempered individual with a large fork awaits your hated enemy. It’s a self-coping mechanism
And in this religion called football, it’s how all of us cope with these sort of occasions. I’m telling myself we’re going to fail because it will make life more tolerable if we do. And yes, I do believe that we are more than capable of fucking up on Saturday. But anything better will be a bonus, and one I will certainly enjoy.
But all this should be irrelvant for the most important people on Saturday – the eleven individuals who take the field in our colours. They got over that first psychological barrier on Tuesday, and now they face the biblical Day of Judgment. They have ninety minutes to prove that they can win. That’s it – just ninety minutes. If it takes 120 minutes and a penalty shoot out, so be it, although I would prefer it if they don’t. But it’s shit-or-bust for them as well as AFCW off the field. If they want people to adore them for ever more, they know what they have to do. They will be nervous like the rest of us, but they must be the most professional, the most focused, the most determined they have ever been in their entire careers.
It really is that simple. I guess in my tense state, what I’m trying to say is, I just want to see AFCW put in more than 110%. Make it 200% or even 500% and I will not complain. This is a playoff final, anything can happen and probably will. It can go wrong, but at the same time it can go right. I just want to walk away on Saturday from the ground with my head held high, and you can read that in any way you like. I want it to be victory, fuck I’m agitated enough to win, but if we are to lose, I want us to go out with honour.
In short, I want us to just do it.