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The frustrations of a non-matchday-drinker

6 years ago

With the international break, there is very little to discuss on the NUFC front.

I imagine Steve McClaren will have been working with the squad members not on international duty, including Daryl Janmaat for some reason.

The early season pause actually came at a good time for us, after the Arsenal match some time was needed to calm down and gather our thoughts, and not just for the players.  By the time the Wet Spam game comes around on Monday I expect us to be primed and ready to land a hammer blow.

This isn’t what I want to write about though.

I’m going to take this opportunity to get something off my chest that has lodged itself firmly on my man-tits.

Now, don’t read this as an instruction manual, it’s not a demand or even a request, it is merely exasperation at the way people carry on.  I’ll temper my tantrum with explanations of why I think it happens and justifications where I can, we are all different after all and everybody has the right to behave as they please.

I like a pint, many of us do, but I love football.

I love football more than pints.

I also have a bladder, one that is in perfect working order and processes liquids consumed with the same efficiency as it did in my alcohol heyday (university).  It is the same bladder that will happily store a pint, 2 pints, maybe even 3 or 4, for a fairly decent amount of time.

However, when the time comes and the splashback capital of the world, the bogs at St James’, come a’callin’ I release the warm gold/green/yellow/red(?) steamy stream with an ‘aaah’ and a little shake the same as everyone else.

Like everyone else, within about 5-10 minutes I need to go again.

If I don’t go, I can’t concentrate on anything other than getting to that shiny metal trough to empty the miraculously refilled bladder that only minutes earlier would have had horses clapping with admiration (if they had hands instead of hooves, maybe if they did they would fight back).

As I mentioned earlier, I love football more than pints.  So armed with this knowledge, and being unwilling to sit through 45 minutes of football in desperation, unable to concentrate on the match in front of me, I make a conscious decision not to drink before a match.

In 20 odd years of attending matches at SJP, I think I’ve only nipped off for a slash on one, maybe two, occasions and have never missed a goal.

I’m not boasting, the reason is that I make sure I go 10 mins before kick-off and again at half time, whether I need to or not, it’s quite sad really, an obsession.

I understand that for a lot of people, going to the match is entirely a social occasion, it’s a chance to meet the lads, have a few pints and generally have a laugh.

A lot (not all) of the same people then arrive for the match 5 or 10 minutes after kick-off because they’ve had to finish their pint before heading up.  This is exhibit A for not really being that into football.

I get extremely agitated if I am not at my seat at least 15 minutes before the match, I don’t want to miss a second.  I used to arrive 30-45 minutes early to ‘soak up the atmosphere’, but since we missed out on the title it hasn’t been quite so much fun, just cold.

Anyway, my argument is that if finishing that pint is more important than making it in for the start of the game, then the pint is more important to you.  Fine.  Your choice.

The same happens at half time though, people leave 5-10 mins before the end of the half and sometimes don’t re-emerge until 5-10 minutes after the second half has begun, all in the name of having a drink.  The same people are then keen to leave 5 minutes from the end of the match in order to be the first to the bar so they can get the next pint in.

Great, go for it, enjoy the day, enjoy the occasion, enjoy the time with your mates, enjoy making everyone else stand up as you shuffle past.  By the way, there are plenty of people who have to leave early in order to catch a train or bus, although I would remind them that there may be another bus or train arriving in the not too distant future.

All of this is probably making me look like a right idiot, and you’d be right, I’m a complete geek when it comes to football.  If I can’t concentrate 100% on the football in front of me, I can’t enjoy it.  I’m the same with watching the match in a pub, I don’t like it.

If it’s an England match, fine, I don’t care about England, that’s just a bit of a laugh, I’m up for pints with the lads for an England match.  But for Newcastle United it is important, I can’t have the distraction of people talking to me about something other than what just happened on the pitch, or pretty barmaids, or the lure of food.

I need total silence (so I can disagree with the commentary) and preferably nobody else in the room when watching on the telly (Just to point out, I can’t afford to travel to away matches, I can barely afford the season ticket as it is, so valuable fan-points lost there).

If I am distracted by other people or by the need for a pi**, by anything, then how can I appreciate the thing I have spent so much money to watch in front of me?

I could take that argument further and say that in arenas like this, where opinions are often disparate and divided, where tensions can run high and serious matters like whether I am writing official club statements are discussed, how could I formulate a valid and informed opinion if I had missed a minimum of 20 minutes of the match?

Also, with the consumption of alcohol comes impaired brain function, neuro-transmitters are blocked in their journey across the synaptic cleft, and our brains are literally slowed down, memory retention is affected and our ability to focus on something as intricate and nuanced as football and tactics is certainly not as sharp as a sober mind.

Add to that somebody talking to me about the fit lass he (definitely didn’t) have it off with and I’d be lucky if I could remember who was on the pitch.

I suppose people watch football for different reasons, and as I mentioned earlier, that is completely fine with me, each to their own.  But if you are a persistently late arriver and early leaver who enjoys a pint more than the sporting event in front of you, think twice before spouting your opinions off as if you know what the dickens (I had a much stronger word in mind) you are talking about, it’s embarrassing.

I was in a city centre pub watching the Swansea match (unavoidably) and there was a lad with his mates nearby, I watched him get a few pints down, he was having a great time, but he must have turned round to face the screen a total of two times.

I can almost guarantee that his next football conversation went something like: ‘aye, it was a sh** match, we were sh***, Janmaat is a f***ing disgrace’ having seen next to nowt of the match.  He may be right, by chance, but he really has no basis for his argument beyond being in a room where the match happened to be playing.  My dog would be able to give an equally insightful opinion.  Again, he was having a good time, so good for him, I have no problem with that.

To put another argument forward, let’s say the average ticket price for a match is conservatively £30.  If you miss 15 minutes of football per match, that is 285 minutes over the season, or just over 3 whole matches.  That’s nearly £100 worth of football missed, just for the sake of a pint, and probably actually a lot more.

I overheard somebody suggesting greasing the steps in the vomitorium on the referees whistle, or pouring hot oil over late-comers as they enter.  That’s a bit harsh, but I would be interested to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

I imagine those of you who do like a drink at the match will have something to say too, but before you do, remember that I am completely in favour of you enjoying a drink at the match and arriving whenever you like, just don’t talk to me about football.

NB I realise that not everyone who arrives late has been drinking, and that many of them do have valid reasons, like childbirth, and that not everyone who drinks arrives late or misses a second of the match, this is just meant as a gripe/conversation starter…

(Never mind arriving late for matches, check out Tony Slater’s article HERE about the ‘best match he never saw’)

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