On minibuses and trains, in cars and on coaches with unsuitable toilet facilities across England and Wales you can spot us from a mile away. Relentlessly regularly on nights of the week when Syd Owen wouldn’t have dreamt of pulling on his football boots we’re there: Tuesday, Friday, Saturday it makes no odds. From Carlisle to Plymouth, on telly or not, you’ll spot a Bedfordshire twang in your local pub asking how far the ground is and why, today, your beer comes in plastic glasses.
We’ll find a reason to take a thousand anywhere no matter your league or county, or how tired your high street. A single Luton fan could convince 5 more to go to the steaming slopes of Mordor to watch The Town with little more than the promise of a mythical boozer with the happiest hour and some lively locals with peculiar patter.
There are some clubs, like us, where when the league position goes down, the numbers don’t. They might even go up. It’s a source of great pride of course when, like on Saturday at the seething Abbey of Richard Money, Town’s following is up there with the best in the country, and we can gloat when clubs in Buckinghamshire retail outlets barely muster a non league crowd for their post Man United cup run frenzy.
But the small print beneath these bragging rights contains uncomfortable clauses for men and women like me and you.
Like an audience held captive by its own well known penchant for large followings at provincial football matches, our loyal hordes can seemingly be charged San Siro shilling for Stevenage, El Classico corn for Kettering and (one more) Cup Final clams for QPR with no recourse. In addition to the lightness of our wallets, the extra weight in the away end usually comes with a few extra gendarmes too, and unlike the beer in this backwater these exotic overtimers don’t come cheap, so the price on the turnstile is notched up again. It’s a self-fulfilling vicious chicken and egg prophecy circle, lads. No question about it.
There’s a campaign by the Football Supporter’s Federation that you might have heard of called 20’s Plenty that seeks to stand against pricing supporters with average sized pockets and addictive personalities like ours out of football matches. The campaign is understandably aimed at Premier League giants charging the price of my first car for a seat, but if 20’s Plenty for them up there, then down here in League 2, £24 is taking the Micky Harford.
So what can we do next time, when they see us coming?
Well maybe next time we’ll all tell that mate that we’re still up for the train and the happy hour in Mordor’s mythical boozer with the lively locals and the provincial police, and maybe we’ll count heads in the march up to the ground to tell those #AwayDays accounts on twitter just how many made the trip for appearance’s sake. But when we get to the gate and they ask for our money... maybe, one of these weeks, we’ll stop.
Or maybe we won’t