I love a sunny Saturday morning, when there’s an away match to travel to. For the last few seasons, the journeys have been slightly more ‘regional’, but promotion has obviously meant travelling up north a lot more. Nice for our fans who live in the Northeast, and for the chap who comes down from Falkirk, but a little more demanding for those of us who live in Ipswich. Ipswich. It’s not the end of the earth, but you can see it from here. It shares the same postcode.
It could be just another league game or, even better, an FA Cup or Trophy game against a side a league higher than us, and in a town and at a stadium I haven’t been to before. After a busy working week, the feeling of freedom is, well, liberating. The sense of anticipation consists of a mixture of excitement and fear. When we’re expected to get a result, there’s the fear of failure. When we’re the underdog, there’s the excitement of the chance, that tiny chance, that we might just pull it out of the bag. I’m never sure by that expression exactly what we should be pulling out of the bag, but it’s exciting anyway. I’m a traveller by nature, and so the journey itself is hugely enjoyable.
Latimer Park is a mere 100 miles from my home. For me, the average away match this season involves a return journey of 416 miles. Boston is the nearest, and Blyth the furthest. I worked it all out and put it on a spreadsheet. It’s a boy thing. Well along some spectrum or another, but I worked it out anyway. Occasionally I do the trip by train, but usually I drive, accompanied by Saturday Live on Radio 4. It starts at 09.00 and goes on till 10.30. There’s some good chat on there. Broadens me. Keeps me amused, engaged, and awake. All is well with the world.
Unless it’s raining. So many things can cancel a game these days. An outbreak of Covid. The team coach breaking down, again. Floodlight failure. A snowflake. But it’s usually the rain. Whenever it rains, I brace myself for that dreaded picture of a pitch-side puddle being posted on twitter.
In reality, I haven’t done badly with travelling to games that never happened, although in recent years the cancelled games at Gosport Borough and Curzon Ashton were far enough. The way the spray kicks up on the motorway, drastically reducing the visibility, makes a cancellation seem inevitable. But actually, more often than not, as you slow down and arrive at your destination, you realise the rain is probably little more than a drizzle.
So, all is well with the world. Unless it’s raining. Or unless I’m late. I can’t bear the thought of turning up with five minutes to spare. The only time I arrive at an away ground at 2.55 is for an evening kick-off! It’s not only the fear of being late. Arriving early gives me enough time to park up and take a walk into town. I like to catch the flavour of the place. I’m intrigued by people, architecture, history, culture, accents, trees. More or less anything really. And so everywhere is interesting. One week it might be the ecclesiastical glories of cities like York, or Gloucester. And, with the greatest respect to small East Midland towns, other weeks it’s Barwell, or Coalville. But I’ve got here. Soon all my cronies will stumble off the supporters coach and the game will start.
...watched Ipswich Town home and away until moving to Kettering in 1983, since when I have followed Kettering Town. If I'm not watching KTFC, I tend to seek out a game on a ground I have not previously visited.
...featured in the Kettering Town match-day programmes in the 2021-22 season.
Kettering; verb. The present continuous tense of the verb 'to ketter', as in "I know I am, I'm sure I am, I'm Kettering till I die". Or, as our fans sang once on a rain-soaked open terrace in Charlton, "I'm Kettering till I dry".
We are required to be pessimists. Being a pessimist is a large part of the enjoyment.