Countdown

It’s that time of year when people like myself start to count the days til the new Football season begins. Although it’s been good to still be able to watch games (or work them in my case), in the form of Euro 2012, I think most fans will agree that there’s nothing better than standing on the Terraces supporting your club.

Fellow Cheltenham Town fans will, I hope, agree that last season was amazing for us. A trip to White Hart Lane and Wembley were the obvious highlights, but there are other less ‘glamourous’ times that I look back on more fondly.

Standing in the Speedy Skips stand with friends while the rain fell heavily (after trying to convince ourselves that it wasn’t going to rain) and refusing to leave or stand under cover. The banter in the Nest pre (and post) match, meeting some of the brilliant people working at the club and best of all meeting fellow Cheltenham fans and feeling like I’d never been away. Getting back in touch with an old friend and standing in the Kemble discussing our chances against Hereford and another time in the Kemble with a friend who supports Port Vale and meeting the Port Vale mascot.

The times I look back on less fondly are those where the fans turn against the players. I’m not referring to slating a player on their performance in the heat of the moment, I think we’ve all been there and anyone who claims otherwise is lying (or in denial!).

I’m referring to the times where Scott Brown was blamed for everything going wrong over a long period of time (yes he made mistakes, but I’m pretty sure a team’s defence isn’t supposed to be one man) and then, when loan periods end, ‘fans’ slating a player for going back to their parent club.

In all honesty, I have no idea what makes someone come out against players when overall they have been brilliant servants of the club and given their all.

Looking back over the years and some of the players (and management!) we’ve had, I would have thought that our fans would be a bit more tolerant. Passion for your club is something I am a big fan of, but sometimes people take things a bit too far.

Anyway, I refuse to end by moaning. On the whole we have amazing fans and I’m proud to be part of that. Next season is on it’s way and I for one can’t wait to be back there cheering on our team.

What will the season bring? Will Fleetwood do a Stevenage/Crawley and power their way straight into League One? As for us, who knows if we are strong enough to make it to an automatic place next year. I don’t really think my heart would cope with playoffs again, but I wouldn’t say no to auto’s or playoffs. In fact, I’ll be happy if we play good football and get our attendance up to where it deserves to be – come on people of Cheltenham!

No matter what, I can’t wait for Saturday 18th August. Bring on 3pm and Dagenham & Redbridge. Will we get to witness Dave Hogan come on again? Those at St Neots Town FC will appreciate that thought… 5th February 2011 v Kings Lynn Town FC anyone?

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The challenge begins

With February on our doorstep, training for my latest challenge is about to get underway.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed (via Cheltenham Town’s official Twitter feed – @CTFC_Official) that there was a challenge taking place, organised by Help The Hospices (@HelptheHospices), the Football League’s official charity for 2011/2012.

The challenge is to cycle from Wembley Stadium to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The ride is over 3 days and 244 miles (393km) in June.

Now, I should point out that I’m not a brilliant cyclist. In fact last year I had at least two accidents on the bike. One was full on, off the bike and sprawled on the pavement (I hit a kerb) while the other saw me misjudge the space between two bits of fencing on the building site of an estate that I live on. In the last incident, the fence came off slightly worse.

Has this put me off? Well, a little, but I want to do something to help this fantastic charity. The support they give to Hospices is brilliant. How many of us know someone who has spent time in one?

I’m pretty sure I will be cycle-fit enough to complete the challenge and I have the determination to raise the money so why not give it a try?

I’m hoping to put on a charity concert with a couple of friends in the next month or so (just need to organise the venue – anyone in Gloucestershire want to loan me somewhere and/or kit for free for a great cause?!) along with other ideas which are in the background, to help raise money. Which reminds me, I must setup my online sponsorship page…

The training will begin in two weeks. Need to fix one of the tyres on my road bike and plan how I’m going to approach this. Having not cycled more than 1 mile to/from the train station in the last 14 years, I’m confident this will be tough!

Love, Lust and Forgiveness

It’s a well known fact that when things are going well, they are brilliant. Everything looks wonderful and the world is filled with only the good and beautiful things. At the start of a relationship, it’s known as the honeymoon period. But, when it goes wrong, even once, we pick it to pieces. Concluding that it’s not just one slip up but that it’s no longer working and should be abandoned.

In this case, I’m referring to Sport. In particular, Football. When your team is on a winning streak, the fans come out in force. The ‘fair weather supporters’ who jump on the bandwagon enjoying ‘their’ teams successes. As soon as that team shows that they are human and impart a poor display of their abilities or, god forbid, a defeat, it starts.

In your job, if you were told you should be fired for having an ‘off’ day (unless this leads to killing someone or a serious breach of contract!), how would you feel? What if those around you began calling for your resignation…?

It’s my belief, as a supporter you should be helping to lift the team and cheer them on at the next match to help them back to winning ways. Don’t get me wrong, I think a constructive display of disappointment or measured response to the poor game(s) is more than warranted, but not an all out attack.

An example of the ‘right’ kind of support and publicity of this, has been Cheltenham Town. The team had a run of 5 wins in a row, lifting them to 3rd in the League 2 table, boosting the spirit of fans (and no doubt the players/staff) and awakening the belief that they could be candidates for promotion this season.

Tuesday night they played Crewe Alexandra at home. And the run came to an end .

After the game I was watching the comments going around Twitter. There were the usual disappointed people who felt that it had been a poor game, which it most likely was, but the biggest thing for me was that these were coupled with comments on how they were happy at the progress made so far and that Cheltenham could bounce back against Plymouth on Saturday. It’s this side of the fans that needs to be promoted. There are ones that come out of the woodwork and only complain about the result, but all they do is bring the players down and put the team on the defensive.

We’ve had this experience at St Neots Town. After last years promotion winning season from Step 5 (United Counties Premier League), the team have been backed for promotion again this year. The pressure applied from all corners, quickly showed in the first few games of the season. The team lacked cohesion and the results reflected this. The management and staff worked hard on pulling the players together, but on the forums, the back biting and put downs were numerous. Every football supporter has their views on the best formation for a team but game after game so-called ‘supporters’ were calling the management’s abilities into question and would openly lay claim that players were useless. The number in support of the team were minimal. Most of them were supporters who are active volunteers at the club. Constructive? I think not.

St Neots are sitting third in the table at the moment, equal on points with league leaders Biggleswade Town. Is this something that supporters can really claim to be poor, in a league which promotes two teams, one automatically and one via the playoffs?

As a person on the inside of that particular club, I can honestly say that it can really bring you down when you think that fans are going to jump all over the slightest mistake. Yes we have to strive for promotion and yes we are all passionate about going forward, but you have to be sensible in the approach to criticising players, management and staff.

Forest Green, like many other clubs, suffer at the hands of the non-believers. With a poor run of results, numerous draws at home and two consecutive losses (Hayes & Yeading away followed by Kettering Town at home) , the players found themselves subject to derogatory comments about their abilities.

Don’t get me wrong, when my team loses I’m disappointed and if it’s an ongoing situation then questions have to be asked, but is it right to come out in force against a team straight away?

Surely in this life, we can all accept that people have bad days, forgive them and give them the love and support they need to go on and return to winning ways.

The England football team are a good example of how the media helps to fuel the worst response to defeat. They insist on building them up as the next big thing ahead of all international games. Putting them on a pedestal for the sole reason, it seems, of knocking them off as hard as possible at the first sign of a poor game. And when they lose? Well they might as well be on the Coconut Shy at a Funfair for everyone to take a pot shot at.