Somewhere in the bottom of the wardrobe is an old band t-shirt I picked up at a music festival many years ago. It’s old and faded, now more of a dirty pink then bright red, but I’ve kept it because I still harbour hopes of one way wearing it again and proudly displaying my love of a rock band from Texas no-one’s ever heard of, like the tragic middle-aged man I’ve become.
Never mind the fact it hasn’t fit into it since about 2006. One day, I think, I’ll go on that diet and I’ll wear it again.
LET IT GO But of course I won’t. It fits me like a wetsuit and always will. Deep down I know this, but I still can’t quite let it go. But at some point, you have to. On that note, somewhere in this matchday programme, you’ll find a copy of the Vanarama National League North table. For your own sanity, you’d be best not bothering to read it. Suffice to say, a bit like that tattered old band t-shirt, all it’s going to bring you is a sense of profound disappointment and nostalgia tinged with a hint of bitterness.
BLYTH SP-AAAARRRRGHHH Terrace Chatter shouldn’t need to explain why. Thanks to an extremely disappointing defeat up at Blyth on Saturday, it now seems all but certain that our play-off ambitions are but a long-distant memory. With the gap now eight points with just twelve points up for grabs, they are (or were when these notes were written) still a mathematical possibility, but then again, so are the chances of winning the next EuroMillions rollover, or finally bumping into Timmy Mallet at B&Q. Basically, it’s (probably) not going to happen. It’s rubbish. It is, I’m afraid, football.
THIS IS THE END Even so, the finality of the defeat was as galling as it was emphatic. Even if results had remained frustratingly patchy, Boston had looked a better side in the last few weeks and it was tempting to think we might somehow embark on a spectacular, if improbable, run of wins to snatch that last spot. But nope. Hopes dashed again, and another season of fans pondering ‘what if?’. As it is, we’re now all wondering if Boston will even finish in the top ten. This is really not where any of us expected to be.
SILVER LININGS A natural pessimist in real life, Chatter nevertheless tries to keep an upbeat tone in this column, mainly because I’d quite like to keep this gig next season. But in a couple of weeks the 2018/19 season will draw to a close and the post-mortem will begin. And when it does, it’ll be clear that this has been one of the most disappointing campaigns for many years here at the Jakemans. A lot has gone wrong and mistakes have been made. You can sense the frustration on the terraces, and in the dugout too. But no-one’s tried to deflect any blame or shirk any responsibility. Instead, there’s a determination that next season will be different.
HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE And yes, you’re right: “it’ll be better next season” seems to be a recurring message now every April. But Craig Elliott’s refreshing honestly about the mistakes made over the summer has earned him a lot of respect in the stands. A lesser manager would have simply wheeled out a load of half-baked excuses that we’d all have seen through the moment they left his mouth. But Elliott hasn’t. He’s fronted up – and that takes courage – especially in front of a crowd as notoriously tough as Boston’s. Still, even his patience can be tested and he had some sharp words for his squad after the Blyth game. His sombre mood no doubt matched those who’d made the long journey north who will hope to see much better next term.
LOOKING AHEAD But strangely, many of those grumbling about how the season has gone – Terrace Chatter included – are quite excited about what the summer has in store. Why? Well, we have a core of players already signed up for next season. You might argue that these are the same players that have taken us to nowhere in particular, but continuity is a good thing, and with a core of players already signed up, there’s a whole heap of time freed up for Elliott to go our and chase the players who not only know this league, but know how to win it. And with next season promising to be another open one, there’s a sense our window is still open – that a handful of intelligent signings is all that stands between this team sputtering out at the death, or doing what Chorley and Stockport have this season. We have a huge few weeks and months ahead – and even seemingly dead rubber games like today matter, because we already know many of those involved today will be back next season trying to put right what went wrong this time round. The future starts today.
Enjoy today’s game – I’m off to clear out my wardrobe.