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Swindon Town v Forest Green Rovers

My Granny Bingham was born in Stroud in 1891. She married Charles Butler (a carpenter in the GWR in Swindon); they moved to London where my dad was born. Gramp joined up in 1914 and came home from the war to unemployment in 1919: so the family returned to the Stroud area – they lived in a nissen hut at the Aston Down airfield. They returned to Swindon when Gramp got a job back in the GWR. Gran and Gramp retired to Leonard Stanley in the late 1950s. I used to visit them in the summer holidays on the train from Swindon and fell in love with Stroud as a child. I’ve lived in Stroud now for forty years. I’ve supported FGR for eight years. Swindon for over fifty. So, I have split loyalties: FGR and STFC. Tuesday will be a difficult day and night for me … It’s easy to be partisan. It’s easy to be neutral. But is it possible to support both teams in a match? Time will tell …

Swindon Town v Forest Green Rovers

Now I’m not sure if there’s a debate here About determinism and free will, Or whether there’s just some sort of reflection On 60 years spent going to the match, That LS Lowry feeling of being lost in a crowd, That loss of sense of self that meant strangers were friends And friends were never strangers, For all was empathy and understanding, And the boot was never on the other foot. And you can talk as much Sociology, Psychology or Philosophy as you like, But the reason you trudged fortnightly to the game Was because you enjoyed it and because, really, How could you do anything else? Who would do anything else? You went because you loved the game, And because you had loyalty to your mates, And because you had a loyalty to your home town, And because you had loyalty to your team, And because the team was your town and your town was your team, And because you were your town and your town was you, In a syllogistic spiral that counted For nothing when you put your scarf on – For the minute wage differences that existed in a one-industry town, And the fact that footballers didn’t earn much more than anyone else, Meant that a happy commonality and solidarity Suffused the town of Swindon! And so you never imagined that your Carefully choreographed movement To and from the ground through the red-brick Terrace streets of England Was like some sort of scene from The Wasteland, Nor did you see it as some sort of extension Of typical male industrial working class historic traditions, So that even when you were wearing the height of mod fashion, You were in fact an anachronism, For who would think like that? Nor did you think, when you carefully read Your programmes at half time, Or when you re-read them at home, Or swopped them, or used them, So as to build up a store house Of memory and fact and knowledge About every facet and aspect of the game of Football That you were, in fact, following i In the footsteps of working class autodidacts, The people who caught a glance at the classics Within the rhythm of the pistons, Or studied art or poetry or philosophy Behind the foreman’s back, Or beneath the chief clerk’s nose or by the ganger’s shovel, Or by the candle in the attic; And now just think, how many brilliant minds there were, In that faceless crowd of so-called untutored intellect, Living lives that The News Of The World Never ever dreamed of, There, in Swindon, Richard Jefferies’ ‘Chicago of the West.’

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