Its approaching a full calendar year since most of us were inside Ibrox watching the team we love, and it has been that long that it is now ‘the norm’ to sit down in the living room to watch the match unfold. Of course, this IS the norm for thousands of Rangers fans who, for a number of reasons, can’t make it along to Ibrox or away grounds to watch the team in action. It would be interesting to hear the views of the regular ‘armchair’ fans if they feel any different towards this season, because as someone who travels home and away, the anticipation and excitement before matches is certainly not the same.
For forty five thousand plus season ticket holders, and thousands of other regular match goers, ‘matchday’ has changed. Rangers have a very loyal support, and thousands of us are itching to get back to the football and cheer on the team. That itch is obviously made even greater with the team showing tremendous form and looking increasingly likely to lift our first league championship in ten years.
As someone who regularly attends European games, we have also missed out on several good trips and results this season. Porto and Braga were superb last year and a trip to Benfica would have been just as good – the same goes for a return to Gibraltar. Standard Leige might have been a messy bus trip, and Willem II had the potential for a night or two in Amsterdam – can you imagine the scenes in the away ends of both those grounds after the results we got if a few thousand of us were able to travel? Poland in early December to see us win the group would also have been an excellent trip. Catching two or three flights each way, still paying hundreds of pounds, trains, trams, taxis, sometimes bussed in from other countries – you really cannot beat that atmosphere on matchday at ‘The square’ for a European away tie and the only thing that compares to scoring away in Europe is scoring at The Chamber of Secrets. I suppose the only way we can console ourselves about not being there is 1) Everyone else is in the same boat and 2) The team are delivering fantastic results.
For myself and many others, going to the match isn’t just the ninety minutes of football. Many of us who go to the match regularly will have matchday routines that we all cant wait to get going again. For many, match day is a family day out and a time to catch up with your Dad or Mum, or your Son, Daughter possibly even Aunty, Uncle, Cousins, Granny or Grandad. For others and probably most of us, its time away from family life and a day out with your pals. The 3pm kick off seems quite far into the distance when you meet in the pub for opening time, but before you know it, its time to sneak a carry out onto the supporters bus or train, then fit a pint or two in at your chosen pre-match establishment before rushing up to the turnstiles just as you hear simply the best played over the tannoy.
I cant wait to experience the buzz of walking up the stairs and seeing Ibrox in all its glory once again. I’m looking forward to returning to my seat and greeting people I speak to every other week in normal circumstances but by the time I see them again it will be well over a year since we last spoke. I’m missing the greeting faced b**tard who sits a few rows behind who it seems only comes to games to let off some steam. How I wish I could hear his voice this weekend!
I’m craving a six oclock Sunday morning alarm because that normally means a long trip north to Pittodrie or Dingwall. It also usually means a chap on my door from one of my pals because I’ve slept in! Dingwall was actually the last league game we had a full support and the football on show was pretty dreadful, scraping a 1-0 win with a late Ryan Kent deflected strike. However, the day out was superb. On the beers and singing tunes on the bus way before sunrise, a good few days of annual leave per year are used up for those trips knowing the hangover the next day will be a bad one no matter the result. Those are the days you look forward to, the ones along with derby fixtures that you look out for when fixtures are released in the summer.
The thing is, going to the match is something to look forward to. If it’s midweek, it breaks up the week. If it’s the weekend, it’s the highlight of the weekend – the main event. It gets you out the house for a few hours, a bit of social connection with friends, family and of course that stranger who you nearly take off his feet when you score an important goal. When you are watching the match in the same place you’ve spent 40 hours working from home all week, the buzz just isn’t the same. So it’s definitely not only Rangers or the football I’m missing, it’s the whole social side of following the team aswell. I suppose it’s hard to explain and only those who attend regularly or used to attend regularly will be able to relate to what I’m talking about.
Of course, at times this season I have been able to meet up with friends and watch the game together. These are my mates and when I think of watching Rangers, my mates are always there hence when watching on TV this season its made a little bit easier by watching it with those I usually stand with on the terraces.
I’m not sure if others are the same but I am more nervous when watching on TV. I feel as if when at the match I have some sort of control over what happens, but on the television its completely different. Obviously whether I am at the match or not has absolutely no bearing on what happens on the pitch at all but I think the nerves this season have obviously been ramped up with every passing match week as Rangers get closer to lifting the league title.
I remember thinking back in the Summer that I would be a bit gutted if we win the league and I wasn’t there to see it. Truth is, if and when that does happen there will be many who feel similar, a bit disappointed that after travelling the country and Europe far and wide that we miss what will be arguably Rangers greatest ever title win. However, we wont miss it, we will be able to watch every minute of it on our Tv screens. That slight disappointment of not being there will be completely overwhelmed by the feeling every Rangers supporter has craved for so long.
This season is different without a doubt, but Rangers are within touching distance and I cannot wait to sit on the couch and watch it unfold.