I’ve been trying to pretend this hasn’t happened, but there’s no getting away from it – the football season’s started.
(I don’t know how often they’ll be making an appearance in this blog, but the team I follow are/is Kettering Town F.C. – the Poppies! My father followed them, his father and (on my mother’s side) my great-grandfather followed them, and so I follow them too. In footballing terms I’m a sort of soft-to-medium core fan. Since I moved back to within a reasonable striking distance of the ground I’ve seen – I suppose – 90% of the home Saturdays. I rarely travel and I can’t make midweek games).
There have always been these two curious periods where football and cricket overlap, but as first the football season and now the cricket season have spread themselves beyond the timespans I feel they ought to occupy the problem becomes more acute. (In 1965, for instance, the first match of the cricket season was on 24th April (Middlesex v Bucks in the Gillette Cup) and the last (A.E.R. Gilligan’s* XI v Sussex) on 11th September. This year the season began on 9th April and ends – if we’re all spared- on 27th September).
How I react to this depends on a bit on the weather,and a bit on how the season’s going. I’m usually keen to watch cricket as soon as humanly possible, if only to prove to myself that the winter’s finally over, but if Poppies are still in contention for something (promotion, relegation, play-offs etc.) that will take precedence. At the beginning of the football season I’m reluctant to admit the summer’s nearly over, but will often attend early season matches for that feeling of hope springing eternal in the human breast.
Poppies had their first home match yesterday – and I wasn’t there. I was somewhere else, and not even at the cricket. I might not have been there anyway, but what’s put the tin hat on it is this season’s ticketing policy. It’s almost impossible to keep up with this – unless you spend your every waking minute on the internet looking at Poppies-related websites – but I think they have decided that home games are now to be divided into three categories of cost, depending on the perceived appeal of the opposition. What’s worse is that some of these Category A matches are to be all ticket – i.e. you can’t buy a ticket on the day of the match, they have to be bought in advance. Originally, these had to be bought from the social club at the ground, so not much use to those of us who don’t live or work in Kettering.** Even for ordinary matches (categories B & C) you can’t pay in cash at the turnstiles, you have to go to an as-yet-unbuilt club shop somewhere near the ground and buy the tickets there (why, I have no idea) – for the moment it’s the social club.
And who are these Category A sides – Barcelona? Manchester United? Boca Juniors? – nope, it’s the likes of AFC Wimbledon.
Good to see that the editor (author?) of the Poppies fanzine PATGOD (Poppies at the Gates of Dawn), apparently revived online, is taking a firm line on this nonsense – PATGOD. Good, too, to see a bit of a shout-out going to William Knibb – William Knibb. ***
*For A.E.R. Gilligan see here – Arthur Gilligan. He was also – briefly, and regrettably – a member of the BUF.
** I believe they’ve now softened their stance, and tickets can be ordered in advance over the phone.
*** Not all opinions expressed by PATGOD endorsed by the author of this blog. Other non-league fanzines are available.