New season. New seat. Still no chips. Friend of the blog Ian Palmer gives some early musings as he adjusts to life in League Two.
Three home games into the season, and so far I have found the overall matchday experience at Coventry City to be befitting the club’s League Two status. I was dreading life in this division; not just because I imagined the football to be about as entertaining as watching a farmer plough his field, but because I feared that along with the quality of the sport diminishing, so would everything else about the club.
I’m an optimistic soul, however, and was an early taker of a season ticket as a gesture of willful rebellion against those who predicted our further demise, even beyond League Two. I was also still somewhat high off the Wembley fumes, which helped me to forget the abject failure I’d witnessed from block 21, and visualise a better experience in another section of the stadium.
This small act of self-cleansing was not purely selfish, though. I go to matches with my dad these days, and I know from experience that the seats in block A are padded, and that’s the sort of thing he likes.
On arriving for the first game, we initially went through the wrong turnstile, and had to be escorted through a locked and guarded door to get to where we should’ve been (I felt like some sort of journalist or WAG). When we’d been safely deposited in the correct place, we made our way straight to the food and drink stand to see what this new concession had to offer.
Being vegan, I am used to culinary disappointments. And not being able to buy chips at the hot food kiosks last season was a regular bugbear. This new season offered fresh hope but sadly no change in circumstance. I had to make do with an over-sized bag of crisps and a beer. I was, however, left with the consolatory thought that soon we’d get to travel to Forest Green Rovers, which, for vegan football fans, is something of a sporting Disneyland.
While munching on my “Grab Bag”, I evaluated my surroundings. Never has it been so obvious that we are in rented accommodation. Not only is the paint on the Ricoh walls chipped and faded, the floor is mucky, and there wasn’t a single table, or indeed any horizontal surface, to rest my beer on. To top it all, the toilet door wouldn’t lock, which meant a half time feat of gymnastics that would’ve impressed Beth Tweddle.
On the pitch, it’s been a mixture. The reason we beat Notts County so easily, I realise now, was the big storm beforehand. It was very exciting. The sky was ironclad grey; rain poured into the stadium like a giant watering can had been tipped over us; lightning flashed above as the stirring “Come With Me” boomed from the Ricoh speakers. I could almost imagine Godzilla himself poking his head in and grabbing one of the soggy flag-bearers for a pre-match snack. The tension was amplified by the 5-minute delay to the match and the shepherding of the flag-bearers to the safety of the sidelines.
I wish all matches could start like that. I was seriously pumped by that stage. And so was Jodi Jones because he won us that match (he and I must share similar feelings towards thunderstorms). Jones is a different player this season. Whereas last year he could’ve been blown off the ball by a hearty round of applause, this year he is bulkier, stronger, more tanned, and seems to have finally accepted the responsibility of matchwinner.
But from single-handedly beating Notts County, Jones went to virtual spectator against Newport. I mean, he did play, but was about as effective Frank Nouble – and you don’t need to have been at the match to know what that means. But to say that Jones wasn’t the worst player on the pitch sums up the overall performance. Even a cone of chips wouldn’t have made the proceedings enjoyable. And it would have taken the finest of dining to forget Liam O’Brien’s complimentary flap that made him look less like a goalkeeper and more like a greasy-fingered child trying to open a “Grab Bag”.
But this is League Two, and the horrors of all it entails are just something we’re going to have to get used to as we start our long uphill journey on the road back to… well, who knows, but somewhere better than this at least.