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The Day I Became a Coventry City Supporter

0 Comments 08 April 2017

In our Coventry homes,
We speak with an accent exceedingly rare,
You want a cathedral we’ve got one to spare,
In our Coventry homes…

Culture: The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture is transmitted, through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, art, and – in the most extreme cases football – from one generation to the next.

We landed in Gatwick at 8:32 (a.m.) and promptly caught the express to Victoria which is where everything started. It was subtle at first. Groups of two or three people donning Sky Blue shirts skittering amongst early Sunday morning crowds. Some chatted quietly, others – too anxious – simply navigated the Underground in anticipation.

While we’d been traveling for 8+ hours in many ways our journey was just beginning. Needing to drop our things before we headed to Wembley we continued on to the Victoria line (north) to Oxford Circus. As we waited for the Bakerloo line heading northbound numbers started to grow. Not just Sky Blue jerseys but yellow and black jerseys too. Their presence grew less subtle as volume increased.

Finally, arrived at Paddington we were hoping for a quick drop-in (maybe snap one off), leave our things and head towards Wembley for a few pre-game pints. For reasons I won’t get into here we ended up having to wait quite a spell for our flat owner due to a key mix-up and a general all around massive fuck-up by a wretched woman with her head so far up her arse she should consider proctology. Again, I won’t get into that here.

With the flat (finally) sorted we were on our way. Pip, pip!

Back on the tube the volume of supporters had grown dominating the lazy Sunday afternoon revelry. Primarily Sky Blue jerseys mixed – to a lesser degree – of yellow and black jerseys. And the songs start. Yes, I’d heard team supporters on TV sings songs/chants at matches. As an American I’d always been impressed/jealous of the crowd enthusiasm and interaction but seeing it in person is completely different. Amongst supporters anyone can start the song and immediately dozens (at least) jump in in support. In mixed company City supporters would start their anthem immediately rebutted by the Oxford United faithful. This is on public transportation – miles from the stadium.

Finally we switched over to the Metropolitan line for our final leg into Wembley. The train was packed full of CCFC fans. Young and old. In the final 20 minute ride decibel levels hovered between 85-100. For reference Black Sabbath concerts typically register at ~120 (on average).  The atmosphere was jubilant. The anticipation was palpable. Kinetic.

What specifically stood out to me was the older supporters making it a priority to include the young. There’s a fraternity there that cuts deeper than just one match. The team, the culture is present for everything. Bringing the younger fans in isn’t a chore. It’s shepherding a birthright. It’s an honor.

I’ll never forget the sight of Wembley as we got off the train. Organized chaos. Seas of people surging towards the stadium – yet, somehow parsing out by supporters. Black and yellow up the left ramp, Sky Blue up the right. In the states we don’t have the separation by supporters. It’s just a big jumble for better or worse. I understand the concept but seeing it in person, on that big of a scale was impressive. It has to be said – there seemed to be 3 or 4 Sky Blue jerseys for every Oxford United. Despite the differences one similarity this event had to other big time sporting events I’ve been to in America was the Jesus Freak. You know the type. I guess some things transcend culture & country. That poor bastard was there reminding us all that Jesus died for our sins. I only gave him a passing glance as we made our way into the stadium but at the time he was being approached by 4-5 clearly inebriated United fans. I was somewhat concerned for the zealot but soon got over it rationalizing that he put himself in that position.

We were lucky enough to have a friend (and CCFC supporter) already at the stadium that we were going to meet before kick-off. For those that haven’t been Wembley is massive. It took us a bit to navigate the crowds but we finally made the rendezvous point across from section 548.

“This is literally the best day of my life!” Tom yelled as he wrapped us up in a bear hug.

“You guys….landed this morning and came right here. You’re fucking insane! Here, meet my mom and dad.”

He was there with the entire family – brothers, sister et al. Our meeting consisted of sweaty hugs, spilled drinks, singing and some yelling. It was great! Tom, ever gracious, realized we had no beers and quickly went to remedy the situation.

“We really are shit this season” Tom said handing us our drinks. “But it doesn’t matter, this is literally the best day of my life”.

We chatted a bit more about the teams, match, our travels etc. The unbridled enthusiasm, jubilation and revery from Tom – and his family – was palpable. I’ve been to big games for my home teams and experienced nothing like this. On one of their biggest sporting days, before a crucial match the Fosters took us in like we were one of their own. Mr. Foster imploring my fiance – Kerry – “to come up to Shipley, we’ll cook you something nice”. It was incredible. Gametime fast approaching we bid farewell and heading for our seats.

Signs were posted everywhere clearly stating no alcohol be brought to the seats but the bloke sitting next to us didn’t seem to know/care. He came barrel-assing through with two meat-pies and 3 cups of red wine. Interesting combination. Other than his body odor I really liked his style.

God Save The Queen. Side announcements. All 75,000+ supporters accounted for – and we’re off!

The Sky Blue supporters were raucous. 43,000 people chanting in unison creates a wall of sound like I’ve never heard before. Frenetic energy mixed with some sloppy midfield play had the pace at a breakneck, end-to-end clip. Before we knew it the bloke next to us was 1 ½ pies in and slugging is merlot. At the 11 minute mark winger Jordan Willis sent a delicious cross into the box. Stuart Beavon’s attempted volley was blocked invitingly into Gael Bigirimana’s path for a somewhat easy finish.

1-0, CCFC! The supporters jumped and roared! The stadium was quaking! Our neighbor lost 2 cups of merlot but didn’t care. The underdogs had scored! Could momentum be setting in?

Despite the scoreline United always looked the stronger side – dominating possession and set pieces. Anxious play caused a few unfortunate off-sides. The pace of the game slowed as the minutes ticked away. City was primarily defending. Pressure was building and the Sky Blue supporters feared what seemed to be inevitable. Our neighbor in front sensed what was going on and lept to his feet. With a festive thrust of his hips he pointed to his crotch and taunted the United supporters with a chant of “suck my cock!”. The 43,000 Sky Blue supporters went ballistic.

Stand up,
If you love City,
Stand up,
If you love City,
Stand up,
If you love City…

The players, feeding off the crowd, finished the half strong. At the referee’s whistle the scoreline stood at 1-0, good guys.

The concourse was a melee at the half. City supporters were jubilant with a hint of cautious optimism. Surely United would capitalize on all this possession and equalize. Surely the Sky Blues couldn’t see this out…could they?!?!

Early on we knew there was no chance we’d reach a rendezvous with the Fosters. Even a beer was a bridge too far. Not wanting to miss any of the second half we returned to the seats.

After a cuppa the crowd filed in, the players took the field and the second half commenced. It only took 10 minutes for Coventry winger George Thomas to net a cracking goal further tilting the match for CCFC. Thomas neatly settled Kyel Reid’s left-wing cross at the top of the box before smashing a shot just inside the post, 2-0. The Sky Blue section went bananas! There were thrusts! There were taunts! There were cigarettes rolled! Our wine-glugging neighbor cursed at a prodigious pace! Hope sprung eternal! We were a half hour away from glory.

LET’S GO CITY!

Oxford felt the time crunch and began to press. They were relentless but City goalkeeper Lee Burge was a force between the pipes. First tipping Chris Maguire’s set piece over the bar in the 74th then – doing his best Patrick Roy impression – turning away Rob Hall’s shot with a kick save in the 76th. Tension was high – both sides began to grind. The clock continued to tick and the unbelievable became increasingly more believable!

LET’S GO CITY!

As we approached the 90th minute referee Chris Sarginson delivered the harshest blow yet to the Sky Blue supporters – 5 minutes of injury time. 5 MINUTES!? What a wanker!

United pressed – whipping in balls into the City box from all angles. Players were cramping. There were late substitutions trying to run the clock. Then – all looked lost for the Sky Blues. There was a scramble on the City goalmouth. Surely an Oxford player could get a toe on the ball and send this game to extra time. Alas Lee Burge, with an eggplant in his shorts, thrust out his bear-size paw and inexplicably saved Josh Ruffels’ shot. That’s it! The whistle blew! The game was over. City took the title. The unbelievable happened. CITY TOOK THE TITLE!

I thought back to our meeting with Tom pre-game. “This is literally the best day of my life!” – a storybook ending. I couldn’t be happier for him, the Fosters and the 43,000 supporters. I was just glad to be a part of it.

Anything you read will say Coventry City supporters are ‘long-suffering’. Long suffering because of their exile from the Top Flight? Long suffering because currently their team is owned by a soulless organization that has no business being there (Sisu)?  If the performance of the group on the pitch and the stands on that Sunday at Wembley is any indication – they are far from suffering.

Some say Coventry may get relegated yet again this season. For me – no matter. Wherever they end up I”ll be there.

In our Coventry homes,
We speak with an accent exceedingly rare,
You want a cathedral we’ve got one to spare,
In our Coventry homes…

 

- who has written 510 posts on The Shade.


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