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'There was this bloke near me, right...': Tales from the cheap seats

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There's nothing like going to a football game to make you think the world is full of abject cretins. In part one of a very brief series, David Marples has a tale of one of the 'characters' he has encountered at the City Ground...

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"Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself — soul-less and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

All of us are prone to the odd moan and groan about a misplaced pass, a wayward finish or a duff substitution but some people really do take it too far.

Generally speaking, life in the Trent End Upper couldn’t be better: relatively cheap, elevated view and more than a nodding acquaintance with those around…but there’s always one who spoils it. Up until this season, one chap excelled in sucking the joy out of this whole thing we got going on every other Saturday. I don’t know his name but he looked like an Alan. Let’s call him Alan.

These sorts of chaps (and they are almost always chaps) have their oft-repeated catchphrases of exasperation or wisdom, no doubt honed to perfection after hours in front of a mirror in a Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver ‘you talking to me’ style. Any time Andy Reid lost possession, the frustrated, angst ridden, growling cry of ‘REIDY’ echoed around the Upper Tier. Any time a pass went astray, a mocking ‘HA’ in disbelief would be loudly uttered.

This went on for some time. Over the course of the season though, you become weirdly immune to it. You excel in compartmentalising it out of earshot and although inwardly wanting to challenge some of the cliché ridden, half baked observations on the quality of fare on offer, you bite your tongue: it’s not worth it.

One day, someone snapped. In retrospect, it was as inevitable as night following day, as Simon Cox being flagged offside, as Matt Derbyshire notching the winner for Rotherham United against us in the not so distant future. One too many ‘REIDY’ shouts of frustration. One too many exasperated ‘HA’ cries of exasperation. We all have our breaking points and Steve had reached the edge; he’d been balancing precariously over it but now he was tumbling headfirst into the abyss. It all came gloriously tumbling out: "WHY DO YOU BOTHER EVEN COMING? IF YOU HAVEN’T GOT ANYTHING GOOD TO SAY, JUST SHUT UP. ALL YOU DO IS MOAN AND IT’S DOING MY HEAD IN. WHY DON’T YOU GO AND SIT SOMEWHERE ELSE?"

A more uncomfortable short period of silence ensuing this outburst has never existed.

Eventually, some wag relieved the tension with, ‘Let it all out, Steve,’ at which we all chuckled and breathed again. An entente cordial was reached. Both parties, Alan and Steve, got it out of their system and left each other in no doubt of their frustrations: Alan, for his part, justifiably felt that he was free to express his frustrations but Steve pointed out that it was the same every week and incidentally, this was during the whole unbeaten at home period under He Who Shall Not Be Named. We all went on as normal for a while.

But then, in the words of Jarvis Cocker, something changed.

On that glorious, balmy opening day against Blackpool, we settled ourselves back into the routine…but something was different. Is he here? Have you seen him? Questions to which no one was able to respond in the affirmative. Alan was not here. Maybe someone else is now enjoying the wisdom of Alan’s chuntering match commentary. If you are, he’s harmless and no doubt a lovely chap once away from the tension of watching some blokes kick a ball around. But my sympathies are with you. Just hold on to those happy memories, as they are likely to be sucked from your soul, leaving you a trembling wreck of a human being, rocking back and forth struggling to come to terms with the futility and pointlessness of it all.

And that’s not a very nice place to be.

David Marples

Do you have a 'favourite' tale of someone you sit near at Forest? If so, leave them in the comments below and we'll compile them in a cynical crowd-sourcing exercise that means we don't have to do quite as much work...