12 November 2014

Knowing where you stand

"You G Block or Block F these days, mate? Moved back to the old Oak Road? Kenny Ender? I could tell by your scarf... Oh, you shout from The Enclosure do you, hoping for good grace from the grey skies or have you shuffled down past the tunnel to J Block to look the visiting hoards in the whites of their eyes..."

Seeing Coventry fans rattling around on their rightful return to the Ricoh Arena, one of England’s many concrete bowls on out of town roundabouts with no souls, got me thinking about our own home and what we might have to face should we ever leave.

It’s not only Coventry fans who have seemed all-at-sea in their new build footballing arena: the list of teams whose fans have never quite settled-in is as long and grey as their modern match day but safe to say it’s got the Arse and ‘Boro and Citeh on it, innit.

The fact that the atmosphere suffers when you move from your old ground is unsurprising really. Architecture and materials and location can never replace or replicate the thing that made your old faithful sing while the floor boards creaked beneath the stamps of tastefully Adidased feet.

In the new grounds you get nowadays, no one knows where they stand; or where they sit; or where they sing; or where they can swear with impunity from the wrath of the tiny rucksack-Fruit Shoot-autograph book crew. They have to start again.

The various nooks and crannies of Kenilworth Road, as is the case the world over, have been historically claimed by singers and standers and sitters and packed-lunchers through 100 years of trial and Saturday error.

The subtle subcultures of Luton gravitate to their rightful weekly place like my Granddad approaching his living room chair. Whether you once stood in short trousers in the Maple or on the Oak Road, or spent your teens in the walk-ways of the Main stand raising your shoes to the sky at the drop of a hat; Whether you’re a keeper-botherer of the Kenilworth Road End or force your kids to climb the steps to the David Preece, there’s a place for everyone and for everyone a place.

I’ve heard about these new grounds. They have horrific things like pre-defined singing sections, designed to kettle the remnants of football-gone-by far away from the free spending football consumers of the future.

In these new grounds the corporate club plays their “audience” goal music and waves big on-brand flags with fire safety certificates when they score in case they are unsure of what to do when Stadium Cam lands on their perma-tanned perfectly white toothed grin.

They’ll do official tifos beneath your seat that spell out the watered down passion of the time before the new ground, held up above the heads of the new supporters; New supporters who don’t know why it matters where they sit, so long as everyone is in the correct seat, and that no one gets in the way of their big screen replay.

Meanwhile outside, the people who knew where to stand in the old ground have forgotten why they left the house...

They are wandering, aimlessly sullen, into the IKEA.