Well happy new year. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you – how’s the wife etc?
It’s Saturday 12th January 2013 and we’ve just drawn a terribly dull and freezing cold match at home against Bury. I’m sitting on my sofa wearing a new and rather glorious “Heel of God” T-Shirt and have just realised that I’ve not posted anything since before ‘that’ game. So perhaps I should.
Jon Otsemobor will forever be a legend. No ifs or buts. It matters not what he does from here. If he never plays for us again, he’ll forever be a legend. If he plays terribly every match between now and the end of time, he’ll forever be a legend. If he walks out for today’s match stark naked except for a bobble hat with an “I Love Thatcher” motif, punches every single fan in the face and scores a hat-trick of deliberate own-goals, he’ll forever be a legend. If he sleeps with the wives of the rest of the team, he’d still be, well you get the point.
That match was glorious for so many reasons that it would be a shame not to list them all. So lets do it.
First of all, the way the club, the supporters association and the supporters handled themselves throughout the media build-up was exemplary. Calm, patient responses, not rising to the bait and simply allowing the Kingston lot to show the world what they really are. The whole media buildup was fascinating to watch, but there were four significant elements that I’ll remember the longest:
- My beloved BBC letting itself down terribly. They invited a member of our SA to join them in their Manchester studio on the morning of the game, and were good enough to offer accommodation the night before. Good offer as it was, it didn’t make sense for anyone to be up there on that morning (it was a lunchtime kickoff in case you’ve forgotten) but our guy explained that if a local studio or a telephone interview could be arranged, they’d love to take part. The BBC replied with “we’ll get back to you”. Nothing more was heard, until the programme on the morning, where the Kingston representative was interviewed from London, and the phrase “nobody from the MK Dons Supporters Association was available for comment. Disappointing and genuinely surprising, but a real eye-opener into the workings of the media and how stories get created.
- Repeated radio interviews where the representatives from Kingston made themselves look petty, aggressive and just plain weird. Whenever they were interviewed on their own, they would have sounded relatively sane, at least to anyone not well-versed in their methods. What changed everything was when they were interviewed alongside one of our guys. That was when they were shown up time and time again to be relying on such a twisted interpretation of events, and that they were devoid of any sense of perspective.
- Robbo talking about the match a few days before at a fans forum that was broadcast live on three counties. I couldn’t get to the ground in time, but listened live, and found myself standing to attention and cheering at the radio as he spoke. Someone asked him whether the players were truly up for the match, and his reply was inspirational. He took time to explain just how much the match meant to the team and to him and to the chairman, but then he said the line will always have him down as a legend in my book. He said that as much as it might mean to them, he understood that they were essentially bit-part players in the match, and that it was really about our fans. I was screaming “he gets it – he really gets it” at the radio.
- My friend Paul instigating a conversation about football. This might not seem to be that weird, but that’s because you don’t know my mate Paul. Paul is the person least interested in sport on the entire planet, and that applies more to football than to any other sport. I’ve known Paul for nearly thirty years, and in that entire time we have never discussed sport. I tried to get him interested for a number of years, but it’s just not his thing. He’s not interested. At all. Yet a couple of days after the match, we went out for a drink and the first thing he said was “I couldn’t believe how biased the coverage in the build up to that match was. I shouted at the telly”.
The next glorious thing about it all was simply that so many of them turned up. I ended up feeling ever-so-slightly sorry for the few who actually stuck by their principles and stayed at home, as it was clear that they had never considered that their fan base would turn up in such huge numbers. All those years of requesting that supporters of other clubs boycott our games, with many doing so, some of whom had proudly not missed a game in years. All those years of decrying anyone who acknowledged us as a club, and yet at the very first opportunity to boycott themselves, despite all they’ve said over the years, they brought more than five times their usual away attendance. Let’s just say that once more shall we? At the very first opportunity to adhere to the same standards that they’d asked so many others to follow, their hypocritical fanbase turns out in droves.
Perhaps the funniest part of the worst boycott in history was WISA waiting until it was clear that they were going to bring thousands of fans and then proudly announcing that they wouldn’t be calling for an official boycott and that it would be left to individual fans to make their own choices. After thousands of tickets had already been sold. That was then followed by the Kingston club arranging a deal with a ‘now to be considered as dead’ chain of bookmakers whereby fans who had bought tickets would not only get their money refunded by the bookies, but they would also make a donation to the club as well. They couldn’t even bribe their own fans not to come to the match.
Having failed to persuade their own fans not to come, and then having failed to bribe their own fans not to come, the next plan was to make sure that we got none of their money (other than the ticket price of course) so it was widely announced that fans attending would not be spending money in the concession stands or buying programmes. You all know what happened of course – the concessions did a roaring trade, even with prominent supporters standing by the concession stands encouraging people not to buy. Watch the tv clips of their fans invading the pitch after they’d equalised, and you’ll see a glorious shot of someone on his knees in front of the cameras, programme clutched tightly in his sweaty, hypocritical little hand – we sold lots.
Some of the behaviour of their fans on the day was laudable, some was laughable, and some was just disgusting. Those who came and got behind their team would have rightly had the respect of the footballing world (as long as we ignore the hypocritical stance they’d taken by turning up of course). Those who smashed up the toilets and those who defecated on the floor deserve exactly what you’d wish on anyone who did that anywhere. That’s not the disgusting part though. What was truly disgusting was that some of their fans had strayed so far from the path of normal behaviour that they felt it was appropriate and acceptable to spit in people’s faces. I don’t have the words to describe just how much contempt I feel for people who have sunk so low that they can casually spit in the face of a fellow human being and deem that to be acceptable behaviour. That’s the serious side of this. That some people have allowed themselves to, and to be brutally honest, have been encouraged by the media and elements of the football world to, see themselves as incapable of doing anything wrong and for any behaviour on their part to be justified by what has gone before.
There was one thing that was genuinely funny about the media coverage of the match, and that was how it all ended. The weeks and then days and then hours during the build up to the match were met with an increasing media whirlwind that increased in strength as kick-off grew closer. And on the final whistle, it all stopped. Dead. Because we won 🙂 Had we lost, it would have continued unabated for some time I’m sure, but as we won, it immediately stopped. There was no longer a story.
So back to Mr Otsemobor and the actual game itself. It’s still impossible to watch the winning goal without feeling that same sense of excitement, of sheer bloody elation and of vindication. At that moment, it all felt worth it. We have it on Sky Plus here, and it’s moved from being watched daily to once a week or so, although at 11:58 on New Year’s Eve my wife cued it up and we saw the New Year in together with the Heel of God. It couldn’t have been written any better, and if it were a film script, then nobody would believe it possible. The casual flick of the heel that culminated in celebrations that I’ve not seen the like of in more than thirty years of watching live football. I’ve never celebrated like that before, and I’ll probably never celebrate like that again, sad as that may be.
I left the ground that day with an overwhelming sense of pride in the club, pride in the chairman, pride in the manager, pride in the team, and most of all, pride in the fans. We’re in the process of creating something wonderful here, and I’m immensely proud to be a part of it.
Come On You Dons!