11 February 2015

Luton vs. York: The familiar embrace of despair

Under the lights and under the influence of a League 2 promotion campaign looking implausibly difficult for us to derail: a second goal, somehow, for York City... and in the bracing February night, the familiar embrace of despair.

That feeling of conceding a goal on the terraces is totally unique isn’t it? A thudding full stop in the story of a game, it leaves its victims reeling and heavy in their trainers, momentarily devoid of perspective on life. It is all encompassing.

The jubilant band of anonymous footballers, wheeling away in celebration towards the pogo-ing faux pitch-invading men and women of whichever faraway town should have travelled here to ruin our journey home like a Thameslink departures board this week, suck the oxygen from every Lutonian lung.

Absolute disbelief shudders through the system blurring the senses: The injustice. The FA. The Football League. The Tories. The TV Gantry. How. Could. This. Have. Been. Allowed?

No matter what league or game or blockbuster name is in town, the involuntary split-second internal reaction to conceding a goal is the same. The escaping air in your chest leaves your heart without the buoyancy it had on the expectant trek up Hazelbury Crescent earlier, and it sinks briefly into your gut, tugging the saliva from your tongue to the back of your throat with it.

A beat later your blood is up. Like retreating seawater on a beach, the sad moment of sunken spirit is immediately replaced by the looming height of a violent wave, and you are ready to belt out a defiant song or to vent blame and premature analysis at your brothers in Bedfordshire bedlam.

Stuff winning every week in the conference, THIS is the dreadful sadistic football I fell in love with.

When you get too used to winning it creates a shallow, emotional void, like a 2 week beach holiday you’ve saved all year for that’s inexplicably beginning to drag. It’s very un-Luton.

Football is not a light entertainment product, no matter what Richard Scudamore might put in his pitch, nor is it the shallow Bantermime of a Paddy Power viral campaign. Football’s an awful, emotional wreck of a day out that ruins your coat and empties your wallet.

Football doesn’t happen to characters on a screen or performers on the stage, or to 3 inch tall people in looping 6 second videos on your phone. Football happens to YOU and Tuesday night’s blur of red cards and bobbling chances was a beautiful visceral reminder.

But occasionally, just occasionally, as it did with Cullen’s Cameo, football spits out a fleeting out-of-body moment of Main Stand moshing joy and everyone remembers why they bothered. For at least a minute or so...

If you can meet Promotion and Going 2 Nil Down to York on a Tuesday Night and treat those two imposters just the same, then you’re probably not of this Earth like the rest of us.

And - which is more - you’re very Luton Town, my son.

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