“We live our lives in years Paul, you know? January through to December” “Not all of us” – Fever Pitch
Some of us, a very small, yet significant number of us, actually live our lives from October to the End of May. Might sound weird to the outsider, but to some of us, it has become routine, the norm, a ritual, and some days you even wonder why on earth you decided to become a football fan, but the reality is, there was no choice, there is no way out of it, because you always live in hope for next season. Such is the life of a football fan.
The quote I used is from the movie “Fever Pitch”, the 1997 version, a movie based on Arsenal and the famous climatic end of season 1988-89 where Arsenal ended their 18 year league drought at the fortress (well back then it was anyway) of Anfield, beating Liverpool 2-0 with a goal in the last minute of the game. Some scripts are just meant to be written.
I know I wasn’t alive back then, but one would argue, that if it wasn’t for that moment, football may not been the same for me and I might’ve never felt this weird sensation during the months of May, June and July, known as the Off-season.
But let’s go back to May, to the last day of the EPL season 2012-13 – May 20. What did you feel on that day? Personally for me, it was one of joy and excitement as well as sadness and melancholy, it was weird thinking about all the games I have watched, from Spurs 5-2 to Blackburn 0 -1 whilst watching Arsenal, and the losses to Victory and the Wanderers to the wins against Wellington and the Mariners whilst watching Sydney FC. Basically, it was kind of like New Year’s Eve, looking back at the end of the year, all the things that have happened, all the people that have come and gone, but for a football fan, at least the team never leaves you.
Well for a bit it does, come June and July, reality strikes and we have this thing call Football Withdrawals, we realise what an addiction it has become, a love affair between man/woman and their sport. It’s not a sport, it’s a religion. Just imagine if you were a Catholic and all of a sudden you couldn’t attend church and preach because of a silly thing called an off-season? What would you do?
Well for me, it was football coaching and Active Support.
So I decided to take up coaching an Under 10s team from my local area, I don’t know why really, thought it might be a good hobby to take up, maybe improve some of my skills, maybe for my football withdrawals, get some discipline etc, that sort of thing. I also learnt a lot about football in the last 2 or so seasons, and thought it would be a good idea to test out my theories in a practical environment. Went to a couple of junior coaching sessions, and from the moment I stepped onto the pitch, I knew it was my calling…
First 2 games, we won 7-0 and 6-0. To be honest, I don’t know if it had anything to do with me, I set the team that goes out on the pitch, but they do all the work. Then we lost a game 2-1 and I realised something about coaches, they don’t take a lot of credit for wins, but they cop a lot of blame when the team loses. It’s weird coming from a fanatical background, because as a fan it is normal for most to blame the coaches and players as it is their responsibility to get the results on the pitch. But as a manager/coach, you are in a weird place, because it’s not your responsibility to get the results on the pitch, in reality it’s the players, but you blame yourself anyway because as a leader you now take responsibility, and that’s what I felt the other morning when we needed a win in our very last game of the regular season to clinch the minor premiers.
One of the interesting theories that developed in my head after watching both the EPL and A-league seasons was my 2 goal deficit Theory where there seems to be a lot of games where teams come back from 2 goals down and went on to win the match, and I wanted to find out why. “They say the most dangerous scoreline to lead by is 2 nil because you appear to have the match wrapped up” – said Australian football legend Johnny Warren on air as Australia conceded the 1st goal against Iran in a crucial world cup qualifier in 1997, which we ended up unfortunately falling short with a 2-2 draw. More recent examples off the top of my head include both North London Derbies that finished 5-2. Tottenham were ahead early both times, by 2 goals in the first derby and 1 goal in the 2nd and yet somehow capitulated both times to let the Gunners win 5-2. So I was intrigued as to how to solve this as a football coach and got my chance when in one of the games this season my U10s were 2 goals up early in the 2nd half. I stressed the importance after the 2nd goal to gain some focus and go for another goal, thankfully to my relief we scored again with the final kick before the whistle to win 3-0. I’m not 100% sure if that’s the best way or the only way to solve that theory, but it definitely seems as if players switch off and become complacent when their team is 2 goals up, and it’s important for both the coach and player to not lose focus.
So back to the most recent game, the scenario was pretty simple, win and we would be premiers. My team was first on 26 points, 1 point ahead of 2nd who were on 25 and third place was on 24. There is a finals system like the A-league, but the last games of the season was our main focus, because we would be crowned minor premiers and get a trophy. We ended up losing 3-2 after leading 2-1 midway through the 2nd half.
The game alone reminded me of the roller-coaster ride that was the EPL and A-league seasons of 2012/13. You just feel so many ups and downs as a player, a fan, a coach or a manager.
The season isn’t over yet, but I’ve learnt so many things about myself and players and relationships, that I think this football thing is not just going to be a hobby for me, it might even be a possible career path, maybe even a passion or even a dream. The moment I step out onto a football pitch I feel right at home, it’s a nice feeling to be honest.
Another place I felt right at home was on the terraces of Bay 23 at the Sydney Football Stadium, watching Sydney FC play, but I was one of the lucky ones, already having connections to a few friends who were already well connected and loyal Sydney FC fans. I found out very quickly that some people unfortunately were just unable to connect with the club, and that the new team on the other side of town seized that opportunity to quickly create a sense of belonging and family friendly, and now they have around 14,000 members for next season. So a group of us have decided that we’ve had enough of all that’s going on over there, and decided to create a sort of sub-group, to help connect new people to the Cove and help others feel the sense of belonging that had been missing for the last few seasons. The idea was that we would help others learn how to create banners, flags, feel a sense of belonging within the Cove, and of course come to games and sing. Also our motive is to promote active support to the passionate Sydney FC fans who haven’t perhaps had a chance to become active supporters yet. We have an active Facebook group where people communicate and interact which other passionate Sydney FC members and have a twitter profile which you can follow @CoveBay22. Our first appearance was in Sydney FC’s first pre-season game against Belmore. (We will still sing the same songs as the Cove Bay 23 and co-operate with them etc).
Of course it is still in progress though, so should be interesting to see what happens on the 11th of October when Sydney FC play their first game of the season against the Jets.
Other important football stuff:
Both Manchester United and Liverpool came to town, and in what is usually a very quiet period for Australian football, the English clubs helped put the round ball game on both the front and back pages of most media outlets for the week they were here. Football had even more coverage than the Ashes, Rugby League and probably AFL (just my opinion though). I thought personally Channel 7s coverage of the Liverpool game was much better than the United game (though I watched only the last 10 minutes of the United game because I had work), but I was disappointed to find that they played it on 7 Mate rather than the normal channels because it meant a lot of people missed out. Oh well, it was still great coverage for Australian Football, the A-league, Melbourne Victory and of course the two English clubs who came down under.
In regards to the A-league All-stars concept, I’m both for and against it. I can see other people’s concerns as it was obvious that the team had not gelled long enough to make any sort of an impact against an unfit and tired Manchester United side. Victory showed the benefit of an actual club playing with the coaches philosophies and training techniques being drilled in for years rather than weeks. But I support it because I notice that all the other non-European leagues around the world are using it, such as the Indian league, MLS, Chinese, Indonesian leagues etc, and how are we meant to compete in the world stage when we don’t co-operate with FIFA and the world game? I hope in the future that we have not only more world class teams come down here like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, etc and play the All-stars but also play A-league clubs like Sydney FC or the Wanderers or even Central Coast Mariners, or maybe it should be a prize for the team who wins the Grand Final or even the Minor Premiership?
I’d love to know what you think? All I know is I can’t wait for the 2013/14 season and get over these offseason blues.
Follow me on twitter @Morphjin