• sootallures

Supporting both Teams at a Match

Is it possible to support both teams at a football match?

I first watched Forest Green forty years ago,

And Swindon Town sixty years ago,

So, with that track record,

A century of mutuality

In a manner of speaking,

And a crucial match coming up

Between the two mythologies,

I wondered if it might be possible

To be non-partisan and support both teams,

In an affirmative act of commonality:

Friendship, comradeship and cooperation

Rather than competitive antagonism,

Or as my nephew, Sam, messaged me

The night before the fixture:

'Embrace the non-binary fandom.'

So, how did the embracement go?

How did the journey go?

Went the day well?

I had written about my Swindon heritage the night before,

And woke in the morning, musing about some of my

Previous FGR historical reflections:

Radical preachers and abolitionists,

18th century followers of a moral economy

Who confronted food price-rise market-forces

With acts of five valley direct action;

Spinners and weavers, too, with strikes:

So that evened up the score, I thought.

Further even handedness followed at the railway station:

I mistakenly filled in a senior rail-card form

For my wife, Patricia, in my name;

The person behind the screen examined the form

And politely and diffidently asked:

'I know it's a personal question

But have you recently ...?'

I understood her intimation,

Laughed and changed the forename,

While overhearing a young woman:

'My other half supports both FGR, and Swindon.';

There's more than just me on a mission then.

I walked to the County Ground through streets,

Past pubs and along the alleyways

Of half-remembered memory,

To buy tickets suitably on the half way line,

Reflecting on how home is where the heart is,

But how the heart can easily inhabit

Different places and different times,


It might be yesterday once more,

But it's still today too:

Heart and home are not confined –

They can be, like a family, extended.

I walked to my sister’s house to wish her happy birthday;

We remembered past times at the County Ground

Over a digestive biscuit

In a Swindon version of Marcel Proust;

We remembered how our grandmother

Always moaned outside Swindon railway station,

After arriving on the GWR:

'It's always colder and windier here than in Stroud.'

She was right, too.

Fliss donned a red and white scarf for a photo,

Asked me to text the score at the end;

And as we said our goodbyes,

An ice cream van chimed its haunting tune:

'It's Now or Never' ...

How did the ice cream van know Swindon have to win tonight?

The pilgrimage to neutrality

Was becoming more difficult by the second …

Next up, after Trish got the train back to Stroud,

A walk through the old railway works:

'Now the heated mass of metal

Heated by the creaking crane

Slowly leaves the smoking furnace

And the door descends again.'

Then a haiku from my brother, Keith:

Distant supporter From times gone by and space now Hopes still for success’

A walk along the old canal towpath,

And the Old Town railway line,

Took us to the Town Gardens at tea time,

And a conversation with two passersby:

“Your t-shirt says ‘Made in Swindon’.

Were you?”

I replied: 'My claim to fame is that

I was, allegedly, the first baby

To be born at home in a prefab. in Swindon.

44 Beech Avenue.’

'You lived at 44 Beech Avenue?

We were at 37. Hobbs.

My grandparents were Hobbs. Who were you?'

'Butlers,' I replied.

How can anyone be neutral

Under the influence of such coincidence?

We were in posh Old Town,

A world away from past prefab Pinehurst.

This seems to be written in the stars.

Bob asked me about memories of various

Pubs both extant and palimpsestic,

I talked of the folk club at the Ship,

And there, to our great surprise, in the Town Gardens

Was a memorial seat with Ted’s name,

And Angela Gradwell’s and Les Thompson’s.

This is written in the stars.

How can anyone be neutral

Under the influence of such coincidence?

How many towns in southern England

Have memorials to communists?

And so, to the Wheatsheaf and the Beehive,

A couple of pints or so and a chinwag

With friends old and new,

And a blur of match and a croaky throat

As I write this the next morning;

My sister texted me:

‘The perfect end to a perfect day.

It was so nice to see you.

Take it easy today.’

And today,

I remembered the ten miles I walked yesterday,

I remembered the train ride home,

Reminiscing with FGR fans

About old Swindon players,

Remembered names who had trained me

When I played for Swindon Boys:

There was a generational sense of mutuality,

Sitting in a red and white scarf,

Amongst a sea of green in the carriage;

And this morning, in the clear light of dawn,

I conclude, reflecting on the possibility

Of supporting both teams at a football match …

When both sets of fans, needless to say,

Accuse the referee of biased ineptitude …

My conclusion?

If you want that cognitive dissonance,

If you want that John Keats version

Of sporting ‘negative capability’,

If you want to embrace non-binary fandom …

Then it’s best to stay out the pub and off the beer …

And probably not go to the football match.

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