Comedian and football fan James Gill shares six tips on enjoying the new football season to the fullest.
John Cleese might not have been talking about football when he uttered this gem from the 1986 comedy Clockwise. But, my days, does he sum up the lot of the football fan when he sighs: ‘It's not the despair… I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand.’
After all, as the new football season roars back into life, it’s only natural to get your hopes up (only to invariably see them cruelly dashed by May).
And so, to ensure you keep those boots firmly on the ground, we present the top five tips for enjoying the new season:
1. Have a sense of perspective
It’s very easy to watch your team lose and let it ruin your weekend. And by “weekend” we mean “entire life”. We’ve all got that friend who doesn’t get that fussed by the important, weighty stuff in life. But give them, say, a 2-1 loss at Gillingham and they’re inconsolable. Just think: if you do get relegated, tickets tend to be cheaper the lower you go down. This might be the most positive spin on the prospect of relegation ever.
2. Sing when you’re winning (or, indeed, losing)
Most football grounds suffer from this: fans only sing when they’re winning (hence that very chant). So, this season, endeavour to always get behind the team. According to research, chanting and group singing can improve mental health – and because chanting dates back thousands of years, it can make you feel connected to a wider community. Consider this a lovely little speech to give to the rest of the main stand as your team goes 4-0 down. Mind you, perhaps duck immediately after giving it; you don’t want to get a pie in the face.
“According to research, chanting and group singing can improve mental health”
3. For your pies only
Speaking of pies, they’ve come a long way since the ‘What animal is in this, exactly?’ days of the 1980s. Heck, we’ve been to some grounds where the matchday food has been so good that it’s genuinely taken the sting out of a chastening defeat (Norwich City and Delia Smith, we are talking specifically to you).
4. Get with the programme
We’ve all done it. Bought the programme. Flicked through it. Read the manager’s or chairman’s notes. And then left it under the seat. You may, however, recall that the matchday programme for the 1882 FA Cup Final between Blackburn Rovers and Old Etonians sold at auction for £35,250. You can gently inform your partner of this as they point out that it’s no longer possible to get into bed, due to the extent of your matchday programme hoarding.
5. Live in the moment
A big part of football’s allure is that it’s tribal; my town is better than your town etc. And while division, paradoxically, unites us, it’s important to remember another key reason for loving football: the treasured memories. And you make memories by embracing the present. What’s more, mindfulness can lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety and depression. So, this season, keep that phone in the pocket and enjoy what’s unfolding all around you. Unless you’re losing again and, if so, feel free to say out loud: ‘It's not the despair… I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand.’
6. Comfort is Key
When you’ll be standing up to cheer and sitting back down constantly, an unrestrictive outfit is essential. T.M.Lewin’s Radcliffe Chinos are the ones to wear - thanks to the fact that they have a hint of stretch that won’t get in the way of celebrating your team.