For reasons too arcane to go into, I found myself with no scope to cover the match at Borehamwood last September but with a train ticket to the ground, so I was able to indulge myself in a rare treat. I went on the away end!
While I was standing there, enjoying the September sunshine and the pastoral glories of Meadow Lane, I tried to think back to the last time I’d been able to stand behind the goal and cheer Wrexham on. It soon became apparent to me that it’s been a long time. In fact, I think it was in the late 1990s!
I soon realised that, although commentating on Wrexham games is a brilliant experience, I missed the joys of an away day. Indeed, many of my favourite memories from Wrexham games are created not by the actions of the players, but by the fans.
A personal favourite from my youth was the “If you’ve only got one arm, clap your hands” chant which was punctuated by everyone raising an arm above their heads to clap thin air!
I recall a midweek game at Orient when an attempted protest against their board by the home fans had the rug pulled out from under it when the Wrexham supporters joined in. The bewildered Orient fans, unsure what to make of us, gave up!
And yet probably most bizarre of all was a boiling hot afternoon on the terrace at Bath when Bristol Rovers were playing their home matches there. The game was awful – we got hammered – but that didn’t matter as our lord and master, Jacko, led us in a rap version of “The Lord’s My Shepherd” for some unknown reason.
Saturday lived up to such high standards. The camaraderie was palpable, the result was good and there was a magnificent song, directed at Borehamwood’s keeper:
“Oh, Russell Russell,
“He used to play for Chelsea but he was no good.
“Oh, Russell Russell,
“Now he’s letting goals in at Borehamwood!”
Pure poetry, which was only enhanced by James Russell’s brilliant, appreciative reaction! It was hard not to warm to him, even as he pulled off a string of fine saves to thwart us!
The thing is, watching rather than commentating feels very different. I have felt for a long time that working on a match has an anaesthetising effect which can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the circumstances.
When I’m commentating I don’t tend to feel the extremes of emotion, I suppose because I’m trying to be unbiased and some of my focus is on doing the job.
This is really good when Wrexham are struggling as I don’t tend to feel the pain quite so much. However, it’s the opposite when we’re doing well and I’m unable to enjoy the delirious thrill of success.
Saturday reintroduced me to the extremes of being in the away end. The first seventy five minutes or so felt good. We weren’t at our fluent best by any stretch of the imagination, but we were still looking by far the likelier scorers, so I was happy.
However, the closing quarter of an hour suddenly felt very different. We ought to have sewn the game up by then, and the fact that we hadn’t kept Borehamwood in the game. It was one of those closing periods which, with hindsight, wasn’t too tricky to negotiate. The home side managed a bit of possession in our half and an injury time corner but they didn’t really create any opportunities. However, to quote Morrissey, at the time it was terrible.
There were two thoughts in my mind: I bet I wouldn’t be suffering so much if I was up in the stand commentating; and how ironic it is that you can pay £16 for a ticket to a form of entertainment and then feel desperate for it to end. How many other times in your life will you feel like that, not counting Simon Pegg’s recent film. I actually paid to see “Absolutely Anything” last month. That’s two hours and ten quid I’ll never get back!
Saturday was a treat, but I was glad to get back in the commentary box. I guess I don’t need a sense of jeopardy in my entertainment!