What Beating Boston Taught Us About Life

wrexham_boston_celebration
Boston’s last match at Wrexham left a question in my mind. What’s the point of football?
It felt like one of the biggest games in our history, and I suppose it was at the time. Yet ultimately, for all the drama, passion and gravity of the occasion, it stood for absolutely nothing.
I felt massive at the time. Nearly thirteen thousand crammed into The Racecourse to witness a remarkable quirk of the fixture list: the two sides in danger of dropping out of the Football League, going toe-to-toe to fight for survival.
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What played out was incredible drama. Behind at half time, a rousing second half performance towards The Kop, packed out one final time, saw Ryan Valentine keep his cool to score a penalty, Chris Llewellyn put us ahead, and Michael Proctor finally ensure victory in the last minute, profiting from an audacious rabona assist from Llewellyn. The crowd poured onto the pitch in jubilation at having witnessed one of the great days in Wrexham’s history.
But we got relegated the next season, so it didn’t matter anyway.
In fact, it didn’t really matter at the time. With two minutes of the match remaining, United’s chairman, Jim Rodwell, entered Boston into a Company Voluntary Arrangement, which meant they would suffer a ten-point deduction that season and not the next.
Boston’s punishment was an immediate relegation of a further division, and the final table had us surviving by ten points more than we thought!
So was it meaningless? It felt remarkably important at the time, and isn’t the experience of a passionate victory what matters to a fan? Or if a win merely postpones the inevitable, is it essentially pointless? If a tree scores a penalty in an empty forest, does it make a sound?
The strange feelings that Boston victory evoke makes me question what the purpose of supporting a football club is. Is it a hedonistic pastime, living for the moment and loving every glorious victory for what it meant at the time? If so, Boston really meant something. Try to tell the thousands who poured onto the pitch in jubilation and relief that it didn’t.

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Bielsa and Guardiola: nuts.

Or is football an endless pursuit of something, a soap opera which never runs its course?
The desire to pursue perfection in football is what will eventually drive Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa mad, as they try and fail to get to the point where every little thing is in place. In some ways, the football fan who looks at the long picture is on the same long, unsatisfactory journey. Football is always in a state of flux, as ungovernable as life itself. If we want to frame everything in a larger context, and hope to gain happiness from that, we’ll never be happy. Every promotion brings with it the possibility of subsequent relegation; every cup win brings the run closer to its disappointing end; every win can be followed by defeat.So, to be a happy fan, you have to embrace the moment. That Boston win certainly did mean something at the time, and there’s a lesson to be learned from that. Perhaps today’s game will see us show our priorities and field a rotated side. Certainly it will be watched by a small crowd because supporters have ranked our fixtures in order of priority, and the early stages of the FA Trophy come out at the bottom of the pile.
But should we be so calculating? When Bobby Grant rips the goal of the season into the top corner today to win in the 97th minute, will it feel less good than if he’d done it in the league? Perhaps we should seize the day and simply enjoy what’s put in front of us.
(Oh, and if Grant does do that, please don’t report me to the FA for match fixing. I’ll be in The Bahamas by the time you tell them, anyway!)

Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.

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