The Loving Feeling

“I wish I was a Leicester fan,”

Johnny said to the old man

Who sat beside him every game

(Johnny didn’t know his name)

“I could be one, by right of birth

We used to live in Lutterworth.”

The old man thought him best ignored,

And turned his wrath on Jamie Ward.

 

And when the final whistle blew

(Forest 0, United 2)

The old man asked “how old are you?”

 

Johnny said “Fourteen next month”

The old man said “I had a hunch

You’re new to this, and ‘cos of that

I’ll disregard your Leicester chat.”

And with the slam of folding seats

The scrape of concrete under feet

The chuntering, all full of spite

They headed out into the night.

 

Out into the sweat and smoke

The thousand-headed snake of folk

That wound its way towards the bridge

(It spanned the river, like a ridge

Of lights and horns and shoulders slumped)

A voice rang out from near the front:

“I promise I’m not coming back,

It’s thirty quid to watch that crap.”

 

Johnny saw the old man grin

And said “but I agree with him!”

And thrust his hands into his jeans

And listened to the venting spleens.

The old man only shook his head,

He sighed and laughed, and then he said:

“You say that now, and that’s just fine

But you’ll be back in two weeks’ time.”

 

And then he stopped, and lit a fag

And took a long and thoughtful drag

And pointed at the flapping flag

 

Atop the stand, against the night

Green and black and red and white

“Now blokes like him, they’ll come and go,

But what you really need to know

Is what we are, beyond all that:

This rubbish team—this present tat.

It’s who we are, and where we’ve been

It’s so much more than what you’ve seen.”

 

“It didn’t used to be like this

And if you’ll let me reminisce—“

“I’ve heard the stories,” Johnny said

(The old man – smiling – shook his head)

“I don’t mean what they used to be

It’s more the possibility

That out of nowhere, things can turn

A lesson Cloughie helped us learn.”

 

“It’s more than just a game, you see,

It’s more than Cohen’s injuries.

It’s more than Wilson’s lack of care,

And more than Henri’s bloody hair.

It’s everything, from start to end,

The time you’ll spend with all the friends

You’re going to make, because of these –

This forest full of tricky trees.”

 

“It’s walking from the Market Square,

That sense of something in the air,

The meat and smoke and beer and brine.

It’s every week, the only time

To leave behind your real life,

Your bills, your boss, your job, your wife

And lose yourself, and feed your soul

With something that you can’t control.”

 

“It’s the hot electric light

The yellow bruise on winter skies

And rolling mist, and grass that’s green

The kind of shade you’ve never seen

It’s orange balls in heavy snow

It’s red and white (and sometimes gold)

It’s sounds and songs and smells and sights

But it is never black and white.”

 

“It’s that feeling, every time;

Tear your ticket, stand in line,

Not knowing what they’ve got in store,

Expecting nothing—wanting more.

Through the gates and up the stairs,

Out into the special air

That’s full of who-knows-what-might-come.

It’s singing till your throat is numb.”

 

“It’s never seeing round the bend

The nerves and hope, the special blend

Of threatening to walk away,

But knowing you don’t have a say.

They wait until you’ve had enough

And then they’ll go and call your bluff

Their magic rubbing out your woes,

A lifetime of ‘we told you so’s.”

 

“Football—it’ll teach you rules

The things that they can’t say in schools

Like fortune’s fickle, life is rough

And sometimes wishing’s not enough.

And that’s its value, that’s its truth:

Forest make you bullet-proof.

But just like life – when things go right –

You soon forget about the shite.”

 

“You’ll be like me one day,” he said.

“An hour getting out of bed,

And banging on about the past,

Moments go, but stories last.

Trev in Munich, Dessie’s goal

Rice at Highbury, London Road,

Going up by accident

That Neil Warnock, what a …”

 

“I wouldn’t swap a thing for them.

If I could do it all again

I’d pay the money, waste the years

Sit through all the hurt and tears

Of ’93, and ‘99

(And all of Gary Megson’s time)

And stick it all, just to declare:

Whatever happened, I was there.”

 

Johnny stopped, and turned to say

“You reckon they’ll be back one day?”

The old man laughed, and said “my friend,

That’s just the thing—there in’t an end.

There’s no such thing as finish lines,

But that just means they’ve got the time

To balls it up, and even then –

They’ll get a chance to try again.”

 

 

John (once Johnny), arms out wide

Sung the song, and at his side

His son sang too, all loud and shrill

As John looked out to Wilford Hill.

The boy said “who you looking for?”

“A friend,” said John, “from way before.

That seat you’re in belonged to him,

A lovely bloke—his name was Jim.”

 

Forest won (they usually did,

and it was worth the sixty quid)

And as they walked back to the car

The boy said “daddy, is it far

To Wembley, when we go in May?”

John said “just enjoy the day.

The journey’s all part of the plan,

When you are a Forest fan.”

 

kid

Image courtesy of melissamaloophotography.com

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22 thoughts on “The Loving Feeling

  1. Thanks Phil that’s absolutely brilliant I want to frame that and put it on my office wall. Then one day when my son is old enough (he’s 2 now) I’ll get him to read it to make him understand what it’s all about being a true red.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this, went to my first game with my Dad aged 10 and 3 years later we won the first European cup, still a season ticket holder, attending matches with my husband and 2 children (20 and 14). Living in Leicestershire, this has not been an easy season for my 14 year old, and this sums it up. Why we keep going – remembering the past with pride but looking forward to the future. Amazing words.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello from a Kiwi Tricky in Melbourne, Australia. I used to do that walk over the bridge(s)… the sounds and smells ….. ahh nostalgia from 25+ years ago when i lived in Lady Bay. and elsewhere. And Cloughie was in his son’s Bridgford newsagents on a Saturday morning…. Those words sum it up. I work with words. I know how good that really is. Thank you. COYR!

    Liked by 1 person

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