Round my hometown
Memories are fresh
Round my hometown
Ooh the people I’ve met
Northampton Town had won the League 2 playoff final at Wembley, known as Division 4 in old money and the team bus journey home was one of bottled beers, exhilaration and tired eyes.
Alan McCormack, the Cobblers’ bull mastiff midfielder tweeted into the night “6 mins PTS 6 mins, Yous better be ready”. You could almost hear the Dublin lilt in the tweet, unsure if anyone would be there for a welcoming party at Northampton’s PTS Academy stadium, known to most as Sixfields. It was 12.43am.
He needn’t have worried. Northampton natives were there in numbers to swamp the coach and its contents, jubilance amongst a group of supporters whose motto “is born to suffer”. A rush to touch silver not gold, embrace players with Wembley grass still stuck to foreheads and who may not be at the club tomorrow. To hell with social distancing for one brief moment under lamppost light. Since when has football been about being sensible anyway?
The alluring smell of smoke bomb vapour brings together this small crowd, this community. Teenagers on bikes and people from surrounding estates in Renault Clios holding faded flags strung up at Morecambe and Macclesfield, there for a 4-0 win that hasn’t quite sunk in.
It wasn’t quite Liverpool claiming the Premier League where masses congregated at Anfield and the Pier Head in red nylon tops and with mobile phone camera glare rivalling the pyrotechnics for fluorescence. It’s a myth that the Reds’ fans don’t come from Liverpool as evidenced from rocket bangs and street hollering from all over the metropolis. But, dotted among that number at Anfield, brand groupies from across the country and beyond, with no obvious ties to the area or the people that live in and contribute to the City of Liverpool. That’s what good brands do, make you feel part of their product, like Hollywood starlets of the 50’s with a glint in their eye, publicly single but ultimately unobtainable.
You can’t blame anyone for wanting to be associated with success and feel the endorphin high of watching world class players dominate a division. It makes complete sense in contrast to the fingernails in palms anxiety of watching a team of what seems like perpetual no hopers.
Amidst Liverpool’s total celebrations the emptiness of what is somewhat cruelly known as the plastic fan.
Plastic is a bad term for the allure is far sleeker, like the smooth metal case of a Macbook. Consumers milling around Anfield as people do at the Apple shop of a weekend. Wanting to feel connected, to touch something and then leaving with a carrier bag with a logo on it.
Back at Northampton, the club who’s trophy cabinet is the size of a kitchen cupboard, the supporters celebrate a sweeter high than any other. Without footballing struggles how can you truly appreciate glory?
Everyone is remembered in this tiny ocean of fans in the town as far away from the sea as it gets, everyone is a face. The club itself was nearly gone 5 years ago.
The rapper Slowthai, Northampton’s child but a Liverpool fan talks about struggling to get in at Anfield in the track “Gorgeous”. He’ll always get a seat at the Cobblers and looks more content in his claret Northampton colours than any red jersey of a lighter hue.
“This thing of ours” football supporters call the bond with their team, with several hundred million fan strung across the world, Liverpool’s success will always somehow belong to someone else.
What better definition of family than the Northampton fans who live in the same orbit and get together once a week to love, hate and just, be?
Through the pyro smoke that fills the nostrils there are full hearts and that fella who has been to 1500 straight games. Through the smoke we know each other. There’s nothing like supporting your local team.