Ah, well here we are – a football match! Having fully absorbed my return to the Valley (plus some pints of rye ale from The White Swan’s beer festival), I arrive 7 minutes 25 into the sport. My companion asks me “Anyone you want to know about?”. Not yet, not yet. Let us process the emergence of this match’s unfettered spirit with the appropriate reverie.
What’s changed since last time? Firstly, the crowd seem to have redoubled their hatred of Roland, with “Get Roland out” cries now adopting a double entendre that champions both LGBT pride and the ousting of our own shambling Apprentice candidate. Also, the pitch has been hyper-realised as part of the bid for next year’s City of Culture.
There are some marginalising chants about a stately gentleman I take to be the other team’s manager – I learn that he’s done time and catch wind of some fans wishing to slip him a packet of cigarettes during lunch to keep up appearances.
Twenty minutes in and it’s time to take note of the match. Number 9’s hair really captures the imagination! Taylor sports a nebulous white loaf, the originality of which is a credit to the team, and might even make a portrait prize contender if he plays his cards right. He definitely seems to be in the thick of the match and his legs take on a veritable life of their own as they spider hither and thither across the wilds of our dear Valley.
Gameplay meanwhile has consisted mainly of corners from the opposition. I realise I have none of the ‘fine details’ of the match for my readers, such as league post and team members. I believe we’ve been relegated to the ‘Data Cars’ league, and we’re currently playing a powder blue team of entrepreneurs; our ‘big f–g sherbet’ has been twinned with a ‘big f–g spaceship’.
Page 3 takes a tumble, lamenting his branding choices, and a star is visible on his shirt, which indicates ‘resident sommelier in training’.
Our new manager is booked for unscrupulous behaviour and everyone chants ‘diva’, a callback to his NYC ballroom days when he was purported to have out-vogued Terry Venables. Phillips is quite the picture of his eponymous DIY instrument in black and yellow!
Two Egyptian eyes encrypted into the Royal Greenwich logo flank the Jimmy Seed stand, reminding fans that reincarnation is the cornerstone of the footballing mentality, which is nowhere better embodied than in Naby Sarr’s ghostly oscillations up the left ‘wing’.
Albee attempts to propel himself into pole position, but is unfortunate on this occasion.
Between parts one and two, I get drunk on beer tinted with vegetable water as all fans wait for chips to arrive via UPS. When they’re finally here, I can’t help feeling they’d have benefitted from dijon mustard, and keep it in mind to set up a campaign on Change.org.
After the break, my handwriting has noticeably deteriorated and there’s a supermoon whispering incantations to the crowd, whose rise in confidence seems unfounded. There’s candyfloss everywhere, which incidentally makes a tidy drum on finishing.
The match goes a lot quicker when lightly inebriated and I wonder if some of our more vociferously angry clubsmen have attempted this as a measure of calming down. 74 minutes in, and it’s only got boring a handful of times!
Peterborough’s goalkeeper has on a Stevie Nicks-inspired fringe sweater, which sways hypnotically as he swerves to block some attempts at an own goal by his comrades. Ajose takes this as a cue to try out a symphony of corners (none successful). Several loud and ugly altercations unfurl with the referee, who eventually leaves the pitch in tears and is replaced by the right honourable Karl Robinson.
Solly calls time out as he ruminates on signing up for equestrian lessons, and one of the less famous Dembeles is removed from play.
Discerning viewers will have noticed that this match is not a ‘friendly’ on account of all the arguments. Several times now, it’s seemed fitting to evoke Bion’s group-as-container method to work through some of the more insidious unconscious anxieties being played out in the team. They give it a go, joining together in a big line as Aribo drives a metaphor through the ‘compulsion to repeat’ in order to break it. Alas, a breakthrough of this kind may take years.
Wounded, we allow Team #2 to realise their own dreams, but just once.
Leaving the match five minutes before the end is like playing the roulette wheel – and in this way we might identify our club’s gamblers and stage a friendly intervention – please mail in your ideas to the club.
The night ends on a bit of a sour note, with a scuffle, but ultimately no one can feel sad as we trail off up the hill cradled in the the moon’s pale embrace. A kindly start to the season.