Alone in a crowd
Every time I wake up in the morning and I’m all booked up to go to an away game, I ask myself “Why?”
What has possessed me to spend the money?
To spend hours going to see pretty crappy League Two football on a wet and windy Saturday afternoon 91 miles away from London in the middle of Storm Dennis. Why?
But once I’m underway there’s no doubt about why. I love away games. It appeals to so many of my nerdy instincts. I love a train journey. Love getting off at an unfamiliar railway station and looking at the architecture, the local adverts, the people, the bits of station infrastucture that vary across the country.
I love picking an out of the way pub. Maybe like I did in Stevenage, actually head in the opposite direction to the ground when I get to the railway station. Find somewhere sleepy and quiet, and enjoy a beer, and reading, or fiddling with my phone or writing or music editing or whatever on my laptop. Overhearing conversations. Getting a glimpse of life outside London.
I love a walk through a strange town or city. I usually book a train to come back around 6pm, so that gives me an hour to slowly stroll back from the ground to the train station, pick up a couple of cans of beer on the way, look at the houses and businesses and think “Oh, if I lived here I’d visit that park, that pub, that curious looking shop” and the like. Sometimes it can be a treacherous walk down the side of a A-road in the dark, sometimes a lovely wending explore through a town or a residential area or a mix of all of it.
I also think there’s something useful socially about travelling around the country more. To get out of your normal locale. To see people and places you don’t normally see. To experience a miserable afternoon in Aldershot and feel the way it has been neglected, or the way Northampton’s town centre has been hollowed out in favour of an out of town retail park you couldn’t possibly entertain going to without a car, to see that Cheltenham looks lovely and there’s more to it than horses. To mind boggle about the drugs that council town planners must have been on at some points in the seventies.
But I make it a very singular practice. Sometimes I’ll have one of the kids with me, and the day takes on a different hue. Make sure you find a playground for them to expend some energy. Make sure you’ve got snacks and visit KFC for lunch and have them wrapped up warm. I once left a game at Maidenhead after 65 minutes because it was absolutely pissing down and my poor son was totally soaked through despite the fact that he was wearing two layers, waterproofs and *my* coat too. That’s no fun for anybody.
My approach is not for everyone. A lot of people usually go to away games as groups, with mates, with family, to be together. But it is absolutely perfect for me. I’ve come to terms as I’ve got older with what I’m like and what I like – I like being alone in a crowd.
Whether it is on social media, or at a gig, or with a whole load of other Doctor Who nerds watching a vintage episode at the BFI, most of the things I enjoy most in my life are when I’m on my own, but doing something together. Away games on your own. What a perfect way to spend the day.