Tuesday, 14 August 2007

In off the post...

Yet another football blog. Just what the world needs... Well, in this case, it's just what I need, anyway, as a space to curate my occasional forays into sports journalism. Which makes a pleasant change from all that religion and politics, some would say. Plus it's a less cerebral headspace than my scribings on music.

The very particular purpose of Only Just Offside [Who do you think you're kidding Barrow? Ref.] is to gather in one archive spot the regular columns I am writing in the 2007-8 season for the match day magazines of Dumbarton FC (Sons View) and Exeter City FC (The Grecian). These are musings on the weird and wonderful world of The Beautiful Game, the patiently stressful life of the lower-league fan, soccernomics, mascot wars, football on telly... you name it.

In the case of Dumbarton, I've been a supporter-at-a-distance for 37 years, during which time I've never been geographically closer to the Vale of Leven than London. Well, in terms of living, at any rate. Of course I have made my pilgrimages to the old Boghead Park - and now the glorious new Strathclyde Homes Stadium. But these visits have been far fewer than I have wanted. And in the pre-internet universe, even keeping up with regular DFC news was tough. So the column I am contributing to Sons View is unsurprisingly called 'The Far Post'.

By way of compensation, and because not seeing football in-the-flesh comes to be a minor form of torture for some of us, I have usually (with a couple of hiatuses brought on by that great interrupter of things known as 'life') formed an attachment with whoever my local team happens to be. First off, Brentford - my grandfather's team. Then in the 1980s that was Southall, whose fall from an already lowly state of grace has been sadly very great indeed. They now languish in a junior league, with a question mark over their very existence. It should strictly speaking have been Charlton, Dulwich Hamlet and Brighton & Hove Albion, too - but I skipped a beat on those. I must have been shifting furniture too much to concentrate properly.

However, since moving to Exeter in 2003 I have gone to see the Grecians on a regular basis. This year I've even succumbed to a season ticket - and, as you can see, writing for the programme. I was as gutted as the next fan (the cliches flow like water in football!) when ECFC lost out on promotion back to the English Football League proper last year. But not as much, I'm bound to confess, as when Dumbarton were relegated back to the Third in Scotland.

The way I'd summarise it is this. In England, and in my locale, I support Exeter - and there's none I'd wish to see take a point or goal off them. But in the world as a whole (and not just Scotland) I am first and foremost a Sons fan. How and why my lot fell in with Dumbarton is the subject of the first piece I wrote for Sons View. What on earth constitutes fan loyalty in football - especially in one so instinctively anti-tribal and non-chauvanistic as me - might be the subject of another column. Who knows. The mandate is to entertain, which doesn't always sit easily with the philosophising that comes as second nature to someone like me.

Meanwhile, you'll have to excuse me. I've got a match to go to.

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