13 June ~ I went to watch my football team 36 times last season, and on only 13 of those occasions did they actually manage to win. Yet despite longing for the campaign to be over well before May – it ended with an especially dispiriting 5-1 home defeat – five weekends without a match to attend have already left me craving for the beginning of the next one. Really, we should cherish these summer moments where our precious time off is not filled by getting up early on a Saturday and driving down the M1 – allowing our mood to be dictated by the application levels of a team of underachievers.
Travelling around the country to cheer on your team, or even just going to home games every other week, can hinder and compromise your social life. So, for all the friends and family I can sometimes neglect between August to May, the close season should be the time to put that right.
Yet best intentions don't seem to work out that way, and instead you wake up on a Saturday with no plans because you're in the habit of devoting this day of the week to going to the football. An empty feeling engulfs you that cannot be satisfied by tedious local newspaper stories about how next season your manager is determined to get it right, or by scanning message boards for rumours of transfer targets. Sometimes during the season I resent myself for the amount of hours I waste on watching my team, which leaves me little opportunity to do other things. Now I have too much free time and a lack of inclination to put it to good use.
The summers with no major international tournaments are the worst. At least in years ending with an even number there's a World Cup or European Championship to be distracted by. The itch to watch meaningful action is scratched by a more regular stream of live coverage than during the domestic season. And the ongoing soap opera that is the England team and the amount of non-football fans who suddenly take an interest means you feel like you're stood at the centre of the universe when they play; rather than the disconnected, bored and lonely individual trying to kill time during blank summers like these.
As I drove to the cinema on Saturday night – taking a slight detour so we could go past my team's stadium because I'd not seen it for a few weeks – it struck me how much I miss the tedium and miserable side of football in addition to the great moments that keep us going. The road we travelled along is the same one I usually end up crawling slowly back home through heavy traffic after the match, listening to the radio for the manager's justification for another home defeat. And I found myself longing to be stuck in that traffic jam once more, feeling outraged by BMW drivers cutting me up.
I also miss the pre-match pint and chat with pub regulars – most of whom I never see outside the season – feeling bored by a struggling opposition team playing for a 0-0 draw and time wasting as early as the 30th minute, and feeling outraged by an appalling referee ruining your 500-mile round trip to Wycombe.
Of course I miss those all-to-rare moments of joy too, and – with blank Saturday afternoons being filled by drawing the curtains on improved weather to watch reruns of past glory days – as the new season creeps closer it is this side of supporting you think of most, leading to the perils of pre-season optimism. But when going cold turkey I'm equally yearning for the downsides of supporting a football team, simply because they are part of the whole experience – anyone know where I can buy a dodgy, overpriced burger before August? As much as we sometimes hate ourselves for allowing the weekend's football to spoil our mood on a Monday morning, it's a small price to pay to wake up on a Saturday with that sense of purpose – even if that purpose is to feel depressed, outraged, let down and stupid all over again. Jason McKeown