“The natural state of the football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score.”
So says Nick Hornby, and today I realised how right he was. Forest have just missed out on a spot in the League One play-offs this season, finishing 7th. They went into the last game with a chance, albeit a very slim one, of making the play-offs, providing they bettered the result of Swansea or if Barnsley didn’t win and Forest did, they could leapfrog Barnsley. Neither of these eventualities materialised, and Forest are resigned to another year in League One. I am obviously disappointed in this, and why shouldn’t I be? Because thirteen games ago, Forest were only four points from the relegation zone, and showing no signs of putting together any sort of decent form. Gary Megson resigned, Ian McParland and Frank Barlow took over, and Forest’s form improved beyond comprehension. Before Gary Megson’s resignation, if anyone had said to me that Forest would go into the last game of the season with a chance of finishing in the play-offs, I wouldn’t have believed them. Almost all the Forest fans I know were resigned to a mediocre mid-table finsih, and yet here I am disappointed that they exceeded all my expectations and finished higher than I could have believed three months ago.
This disappointment made me think. What if Nick Hornby is right? Are all football fans really disappointed no matter what? Very quickly I came to the conclusion that they are. Chelsea fans will be pleased that their club has retained the Premiership title, but disappointed that that is the only trophy they will win this year; Liverpool fans will be delighted that they are in the F.A. Cup final, but will be disappointed that they didn’t come closer to retaining their Champions League title; Manchester United fans will be pleased that their team has won a trophy, but disappointed that it is only the League Cup; Middlesborough fans will be overjoyed by the UEFA cup final place, but disappointed about finsihing so low down in the league. You get my drift. No matter how well a team has done over a season, there is something which could have gone better – too many goals conceded, not enough scored, form worryingly inconsistent, star player looking decidedly average for most of the season, good start wasted by a poor finish to the season or vice versa.
And then I thought, are football fans constantly disappointed? And I realised that whilst disappointment is ever-present throughout the season, there is one emotion which is there the whole year through – optimisim. The belief that things will get better. The star player will find his form, performances will improve, the goals will flow (or stop flowing) sooner or later, it’s just a matter of time.
As the new season approaches, the optimism grows. It’s not long before the disappointment returns, but when it does, it does not appear alone, it is always accompanied by hope, and the belief that this is our year…