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Monday, 12 May 2014

Always Next Year

Football fans understand long waits and disappointments. For Liverpool fans, the wait for that precious title stretches back 20 years. For Bristol Rovers fans, there is the little bereavement of relegation to the Conference. For fans of the club formerly known as Rushden and Diamonds, dreaming of the days when they played in League 1, there lies ahead another year of the UCL Premier, playing on a muddy, borrowed pitch in the wrong South Midlands town.

And let us not mention the plight of Coventry fans. Oops, I just did.

But alongside that, football supporters understand hope. As the Premier League final whistles "blew around the country", in Radio 5 Live's evocative term, a ritual was repeated by the fans of Liverpool, Chelsea, Man Utd, Spurs, and, for all I know, Sunderland. Probably not Arsenal yet, as for them this season's pilgrimage is not yet over

"There's always next year," they said as they streamed from grounds, sat on the couch or went off to the bar for another pint.

"There's always next year" is the "How long, Lord" of the football supporter.  As the season dribbles out, or ends in disappointment or disaster or frustration. "There's always next year." Next year, with a new manager,  or a new centre half, or the youth will come through. Or a "marquee signing". Though I've never understood how a large tent helps.

It's part, I guess, of the human nature. We always dream of the something better that lies over horizon, we remember Zion in Babylon. Even geeky atheists dream of a shiny, tinfoil-and-Velcro future where cars travel in the sky, voting is by telepathy, politics is a subset of physics and robotic women are interested in geeky atheists.

And so the wait goes on, with delights just over the horizon. The Christians cry "Maranatha". And in ten thousand pubs, the football fans repeat the ancient incantation. Maybe not the League. But, at least, maybe next year we'll make it to Wembley.

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