Missing in Action

Picture the scene:

Your team is 2-0 down with ten minutes to go.

It’s a League decider and your heads in your hands.

You make the decision to end the suffering and make for the exit to end it all, you know beat the traffic or get to the boozer before the rest of the fans.

As you walk in the front door the Missus asks; “What you doing home?”

Perturbed you snap: “We got beat”

Only to be readily informed that your team scored three late goals to
clinch the title.

The gut wrenching feeling of utter regret would floor you.

Have you ever left a game early and regretted your utter act of folly?

It’s something I don’t do and never plan to do. I’ll nail my colours
to the mast here. I’m a Celtic fan and my bum is stuck to the seat for
the full 90 minutes and any additional time. It’s one of my pet
hates in football. That and people who arrive 10 minutes late,
consistently invading my space as they bump past you.

We were rightly beaten 2-0 by a tenacious Kilmarnock side last week. Celtic
could have played an extra days additional time and not scored. It’s
not me pontificating about being a better supporter of my Club than
those who do leave but I can never fathom it. The game is played to
90 minutes and anything can happen.

Can you imagine the uproar in the your local cinema as a film got to
its climax and you just upped and left sending popcorn sprawling or
spilling the extra large ‘share’ barrels of Coke?

Why should it be different in a football stadium? After all we pay
money to be entertained. That entertainment lasts till the end.

A multitude of Arsenal fans left when their team was 4-0 down the
other night missing out on what Arsène Wenger cited as ‘a big party’
as they miraculously fought back to win 7-5.

I bet they now regret their attempt to beat the traffic – they missed
a piece of history. That comeback was better than anything Rocky
Balboa could muster up – albeit he did it more than once. I never
turned the telly over during any of his bouts.

Look, traffic is a pain in the neck but it’s a part of every day life
– you don’t go early at traffic lights either. The pubs can wait ten
minutes, your beer is served on tap. Why the rush to get home?

Most men, and women for that matter, go to football to get away
from their spouse or kids!

I pay £495 for the pleasure of sitting for 90 minutes mostly enjoying
the football. If I go 10 minutes early, maybe I should be entitled to
a discount?

Will football fans will never learn? How many times has your fixed
odds coupon been burst by a 93rd minute goal? Did you leave the pub
early to collect your winnings only to be told by a grinning betting
assistant that Colchester equalised on 92 minutes. How many times was
it your team that scored THAT winner or equalised?

Celtic, in particular, are notorious for scoring late goals. Even a late
consolation can give you the rush of celebrating a goal – stark
consolation all the same.

Even if they do get beat – surely you should be there to keep the
support going? Faithful through and through?

When Manchester United came from behind to win the Champions League in
the Nou Camp in 1999, the late great George Best missed the two late
goals. He was en-route to the boozer as Sheringham and Solksjaer
etched their names into Champions League folklore. Is it a case of
being thirsty or giving up on your team? Imagine Best had decided to
leave the pitch early in the 1968 European Cup Final – his 3rd Minute
Extra-Time goal would not have happened.

Can you imagine the feeling of remorse if you were a Liverpool fan in
2005 who left the ground at half-time as your team looked to have
blown only do a Lazarus and go on to lift their fifth European Cup?

Only last season, there were empty seats in the Etihad in May when
Manchester City came from behind to beat QPR in injury-time and win
their first league title in 44 years.

One fan recalled: “We were on the way home in a taxi when the radio
blasted out we had scored the winner – we promptly headed back to the
stadium to celebrate.”
.
I would have locked them out for their own stupidity. I mean, it was
only 44 years since the blue half of Manchester had won it – once in a
Blue Moon? Surely the traffic would have been at a standstill anyway?
And I’m sure the local hostelries were well stocked in anticipation.
I’m really struggling to grasp some people’s psyche on this.

On the slopes of a sun-drenched Hampden on May 14th 1988 I stood
biting my fingernails; Celtic looked down and out, looked to have blown
the double in their Centenary Year. Kevin Gallagher gave Dundee Utd
the lead. But late goals from Frank McAvennie sealed an historic
win in true Celtic style. I could have left and I felt like it. But I
didn’t and I can tell the tale to my son. Which I have but he left
early midway….

It was the same story at Reading the other night. It wasn’t the
biggest most important game in Planet Football but for sheer drama
it’s almost unrivalled. I’d ask those who leave early from Celtic Park
if they’d have done the same at the Estadio Olimpico in 2003. No doubt
someone would have replied: “Aye, the traffic’s murder on that Puerta
de Santiponce.”

If only Jesus had been at Celtic Park last weekend to perform a
Lazarus on our behalf.

It would have been a miracle. One I’d have been right there to see.

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Comments on Missing in Action

  • andy doc

    I sit in the front stand at Celtic Park – every week, regardless of the game or the score, fans(?) start leaving with 10 minutes to go – as soon as 1 gets up, it starts a snowball effect as other take this as a cue to leave – it must be disconcerting to the players hearing all the seats banging down – they must be tempted to switch off as well.
    One young guy who sat next to me always left with 5 minutes to go – didn’t matter who we were playing or what the score was. I used the cinema analogy and asked “when you go to the cinema, do you leave early to avoid the traffic?” – no answer. A couple of weeks later during a particularly boring game I was reading the programme – young guy turns to me and says ” when you go to teh cinema do you sit and read the programme when the films on?” – touche.

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