“For me, football always meant that we came together as a family ,and in the Summer we played football outside” Claudia Schiffer.
I am told by my Nottingham based research assistant that the last time we were top of this division in January was probably in the 98-99 season. Martin Butler was top scorer and I’d had the added joy of seeing us draw 3-3 at Forest in the Worthington Cup, just down the road from where I lived at the time. Sadly, we lost the last game of the season at home to Brentford and finished second behind them but the ever popular Roy MacFarland had given us a season to remember. It was also during this season that today’s opponents, Bradford City, were promoted to the Premier League.
And now we are top again ,and deservedly so. It is always good to beat Southend, not least because of the jiggery pokery over the postponement which reeked a little of gamesmanship. We had to play into the teeth of a gale in the first half and produced a very professional performance in the second half to take the points. Social media was alive at times with claims that the wheels have come off and Bonner should be sacked. Well, we are only top . Like many others I think of Simon Dobbin whenever we play Southend. I met him just the once before the game on the fateful day he was attacked. He was delighted to be at the game and was really enjoying that sense of camaraderie which is such a special part of going to an away game. Of course I don’t feel vindictive towards Southend FC because of what happened. They and their supporters were as appalled by what happened as the rest of us.
And every time I think of Bradford City, I think of the dreadful fire at Valley Parade that killed so many. What I learned from that and from what happened at Southend is that the football family is not just a well intended myth. Most of us love the rivalry but , beyond that, we appreciate and respect each other for what we have in common. At its best, football is a unique force for good. And don’t we need it.
It has been an awful year. Covid has dominated our lives and the list of those fans we’ve lost is a reminder that, however brief a life we may have, we all matter to each other. The Stephen family has just lost a close family member, known to many who have stood for years on the Habbin.. Bill Shankly knew when he light heartedly claimed that football is more important than life and death, that looking out for each other will always matter more.