There are not many things in my life which are cast-iron certainties but one of them is that I love football. Always have, always will.
Or, so I thought . . .
For, as the last ball of the season was kicked this week I realised just how much the past football season had actually passed me by and I wondered if I was alone among my fellow footil fans in feeling this.
The reason I think that this has been a season that I will happily forget almost instantly is that although I still regard this as the sport of sports and a truly beautiful game, the occasional ugliness it produces has really put me off.
For this, I don’t blame the teams that I follow myself – Nottingham Forest, Tamworth FC and now Bath City if you’re asking – but the game on a much broader level. It has totally tested my patience this year.
I think it was the World Cup that first started to dent my usually never-ending love affair. Like so many of my generation who are too young to truly appreciate what 1966 meant, I have had my hopes and dreams smashed and shattered so often by our national football team that I am amazed why I still keep believing.
So, at least year’s World Cup even though I wasn’t as wildly optimistic as in previous tournaments, I still harboured the secret belief that England could go against 40 years of evidence and win the big pot. The fact that they didn’t wasn’t really that much of a surprise but the way half-hearted multi-millionaires timidly screwed up my dreams in a ball and kicked them into the South African sun left quite a mark on me.
I watched our final German capitulation in the sun at Glastonbury and a quiet voice said in my ear me “never again. It’s not worth it”.
As the season duly began my enthusiasm returned a little bit – particularly watching the ultimate David’s (Blackpool) taking on the obvious Goliath’s – but then the world’s stage intervened again and the appalling way that England’s genuine and honest bid to host the 2018 World Cup was dismissed for all kinds of reasons (none of them footballing) made my enthusiasm sink again.
To see Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham smiled at by people who then stabbed them in the back made me think that football was sinking. And this week’s Stalin-esque ‘one man one vote’ reappointment of the always disgraced candidate in the election for FIFA President hardly helped. Football? Pah!
Just as I was beginning to think that my love affair with football was going to struggle to ever reach its previous heights, I saw two things this week that reminded me why I loved it in the first place.
I was sad to see a British club lose in the Champions League final on Saturday (and that is being honest, I am no stereotypical 'anti United' bore) but I felt nothing but admiration and respect for the Barcelona team that beat them. They truly played beautiful, inspiring football. Now THAT is what I call football I thought. And then on Monday the somewhat more humble Swansea – who also try to play football the right way – became our ‘new Blackpool’ and proved that unlikely dreams can come true in this splendidly infuriating game. Hallelujah.
So, England’s multi-million pound flops, FIFA and Sepp Blatter you nearly did it.
You nearly made me fall out of love with football.
But you failed.
Roll on next season.