Old habits die hard. Especially on match day. For the whole football family. Rituals, habits and superstitions affect us all, sometimes they even define us. Our daily lives are full of structure, mostly necessitated by work and family commitments. We are programmed that way. But sport, and particularly football, is different.
As supporters, it really does not matter what we do, but somehow it feels as though it does. Indeed our own actions on match days seem even more important than our daily activities and take on far greater significance. “If I don’t wear the same socks that I wore to the Reading match which we won, then there’s no way that we’ll beat Hull !” We have all been there. If not socks, then shoes, shirts or scarves. Even pants. Indeed all items of clothing.
Take that one step further, to bodily and facial hair. Beards have been grown to Moeen Ali like proportions on long cup runs, and dare not be cut until the run is over for fear of bad luck. Mullets and mohicans have been shaved in a bid to rescue a team’s flagging fortunes. Everything has been tried and tested, and invariably failed.
These rituals can extend much much further, from travel arrangements, including specific seats on trains and preferred car parking locations, to pre-match meals and tipples. The list is endless. We may be considered something of a sad bunch, but for many, there is no other way. We have gone too far. There is no turning back.
So why do we do it ? We cannot influence the result of our beloved team in any way whatsoever, unless roaring them on from the stands counts? Deep down. we all know that whatever we do pre- or post-match, will have no bearing on a match’s outcome. However, in our own minds, if we have done everything in order, as planned and as intended, and our team wins, then we can feel happy that we have played our own small part in ensuring our team’s success. We have ‘done our bit’ and we have not let the team down on their important day.
Yet if we haven’t, and our team loses, then we will inevitably feel it is partly our fault. Nothing to do with that poor back pass or leaving the opposition’s main marksmen unmarked at the far post. We will then vow never to wear that shirt again or drink that new lager that the barman was pushing particularly hard.
Football clubs are like institutions. They are ingrained into the fabric of our society. For many supporters, the football club is their life, or certainly a huge escape from the humdrum of their normal daily existences. For this reason alone, football clubs are special and mean so much more than just a saturday afternoon out.
As human beings, and especially as football supporters, we like to belong, to feel part of something and to share our passions with like-minded others. It is built into our DNA and when we do, our actions and rituals on match days are of huge importance to us in our own individual ways. They mean something and they matter, more than anyone else may care to believe.
The old adage that ‘old habits die hard’ is as true today as it’s ever been and if one of those match day habits, for QPR supporters, includes purchasing a copy of a ‘brand new issue’ of AKUTRS, then happy days indeed !
As a postscript, I always park just off the Uxbridge Road and have flirted with many a restaurant on the Uxbridge Road for pre-match tucker, of which Cafe Tuga was once a favourite until it sadly closed. It has now been replaced by the excellent Bush Hall Dining Rooms as the eating establishment of choice, and caters expertly for all kick off times on all match days.
Ellerslie Road stand chat with fellow season ticket holders is an absolute must pre- and during the match, and after a win and a post match rendition of “Hi-ho Silver Lining”, it’s down to Cafe Brioche, the African coffee house next to Nando’s on the Uxbridge Road for congratulatory teas and coffees, complemented by exquisite and delicious cakes, a better selection than even Mr Kipling’s finest.
Yet a defeat means hurt and offers no time for any form of celebration, however minor, so the coffee and cake will invariably be foregone. A loss cannot go rewarded. Habits certainly do take on their unique meaning and significance to us all.