I know you don’t need me to tell you.
These are desperate times. But this is especially so if you’re a fan of non-league football and your team didn’t have a game on Boxing Day, for Boxing Day is traditionally football day. And without tradition-we’re lost. In these uncertain times we need the odd touchstone.
My team, Prestwich Heys, didn’t have a match because the team the fixture list had given us was the only one in the league that had decided that they wouldn’t play at the government reduced, Covid-caused capacity.
I had to find an alternative for my son and I.
A quick scan of the fixture lists showed me that Daisy Hill were at home and that was doable, just a twenty minute train ride and a quick walk. Plans remade.
Except, just as we were about to leave, we received the news that overnight Bolton had experienced some snow and the game was off.
So, after checking other possible games, (the fruitless results of which I’ll share later in this post), we decided to go a bit further out to Darwen, in Blackburn, jumping a lift with a friend.
Needing a game, needing fresh air, we set off, reassured in the knowledge that even if snow had ventured this far, Darwen had a plastic pitch and when cleared the match would be on.
Once we reached the hills, we saw the wicked snow that-this-way-came. It was nothing more than a novelty and pleasing to the eye, providing photo opportunities to document our dedicated search for football.
At the end of our journey, the ground awaiting, we rolled into the club car park only to be told that they had reached their reduced capacity limit and so we couldn’t get in.
Deep sigh. Wasted day. Journey back.
I wouldn’t be taking any photos this time.
Boxing Day equals football day. Remember that?
Though I wouldn’t now be watching a match in person I thought that at least when I got in I’d be able to see Man City on TV as at that level the games were always on.
As we were dropped off I received the latest news which was the final nail in the coffin of every match I’d held flickering hopes for:
Prestwich was cancelled because of Covid restrictions ;
Daisy Hill was cancelled because of snow;
Heywood St James was cancelled because of a waterlogged pitch;
Maine Road was cancelled because of Covid restrictions;
Went to Darwen but couldn’t get in;
And now Man City was cancelled because of positive Covid cases among the squad;
What an unbelievable set of circumstances they were, all coming together to thwart me. In resignation, I decided to look at the day’s football league results on my LiveScore app and got this:
From all of this I’ve come to the conclusion that the universe is telling me NO MORE BLOODY FOOTBALL!
NEW YEAR’S EVE
Restrictions building, a sense of the world closing in, we went for a coffee at one of the last places we were allowed to sit in (a motorway service station) as the sun slipped away for the final time from this most challenging of years.
Custom was scarce, enthusiasm more so, and after just the one drink we went home, staying in as the country, maybe even the world, stayed in for the build up to the midnight countdown. The clock struck twelve, the family hugged and then we went outside to see the fireworks.
Almost on cue it began to snow. I don’t think I’ve ever known it to snow on New Year’s Eve before, certainly not beginning at midnight. (I know I know, technically this is New Year’s Day.) It momentarily lifted the spirits, the children shouting in delight.
Snow on New Year’s Eve seemed a suitable way to draw a line under this difficult year. It was as if the earth had taken pity on us for all we’d recently endured and given us just a little sprinkling of magic to remind us that nothing lasts forever.
New Year’s Day
No hangover, no self-induced fragility, but this day seemed more subdued than ever. Perhaps it’s that play-off, that tormenting dichotomy, the knowledge that 2021 has been ushered in with an end in sight to our 2020 struggles, but to get there we are going to have to endure the more difficult days to come.
I write this as we have entered another national lockdown, one that reportedly could last until the end of March. We are like prisoners doing time, scratching off our days served on our cell walls until the day of release comes. And it is coming, be certain of that. We just have to keep our eyes fixed on that distant, longed-for prize.
Who will meet us at the gate?