Fans Leaving Early (Hull City – NFFC Programme Notes 2012/13)

One of the most perfect moments a football fan can experience is to see their team score a last-minute winner.

To end ninety minutes of coiled endeavour by springing up in magic salute; to escape the grim clutch of mediocrity and grasp victory at the death, just as it seemed the opportunity had wisped away; to drink champagne at the last chance saloon, while opposition fans lie bleak and broken beneath our rising cloud of jubilation. That is, of course, unless you left early to beat the traffic!

If I could script an ending to today’s encounter, Lee Camp would score the winner with a 30 yard bicycle kick from a 94th minute corner … but how many would still be here to marvel at it?

A significant number of supporters, all around the country, leave many minutes before the referee has blown his whistle, regardless of whether the game hangs in the balance or not.

Perhaps, today’s real dream ending would be for all to remain, no matter what the climax holds. Nowadays, some fans don’t even give it until half-time!

The most entertaining game of the season so far has been Reading against Arsenal, in the League Cup, at the Madejski Stadium. Reading were 4-0 up after 37 minutes, at which point a battalion of disgruntled cockneys could be seen making their way toward the exits. After a series of scintillating twists and turns, Arsenal finally won the tie 7-5!

Did those who chose to leave early regret their decision? We will probably never know. Few dare to concede that they have ever left a game before the bitter end, least not when it turns out to be a twelve goal thriller. The premature exit is the dirty secret of many loyal supporters and you’re unlikely to hear any of them admit it out loud. Perhaps such sacrilege is reserved for the priest’s confessional.

Despite seeing bowed heads bob shiftily toward the turnstiles around the 85 minute mark every week, I have only ever known one supporter to be out (of the stadium) and proud!

The man in question, one of my best mates, was a Wolves Season Ticket Holder for over ten years and was famous for leaving games ridiculously early. He once travelled all the way to Old Trafford, watched seven minutes of action, declared “We’re never gonna score today” and promptly headed back down the motorway.

He also ventured home at half-time during Wolves’ Premiership encounter with Leicester back in October 2003. They were 3-0 down at the time, but went on to win 4-3!

Having so consistently made such reckless and regrettable decisions, he was the subject of near-biblical ribbings, yet still stands by these impulsive decisions. “Beat the traffic though, dae I?” will forever be his unyielding Black Country retort. Can avoiding a traffic jam prove eternal justification for such heinous crimes against football, and against his own wallet?

Most fans that leave early do so simply to get home that bit sooner and I can’t, in truth, offer any moral objection to their decision. I just wonder how they can possibly feel fulfilled without having seen the game play out to a close.

Do these same people leave the cinema ten minutes before the end? Do they even know that the Planet of the Apes was Earth all along … or that Bruce Willis was dead throughout ‘The Sixth Sense’ … or that Voldemort was really Harry Potter’s biological father? What I’m really asking is how can you truly experience something, if you don’t see it through to the end?

Those using this programme to disguise their face, whilst shiftily side-stepping toward the exit stairway, probably think I’m some sort of football elitist, dictating how supporters ought to behave. This is not the case.

Although I choose to stay to the end of games, I do so only because I think I might miss out otherwise. Each individual supporter is perfectly entitled to do as they please and enjoy football in their own unique way. Leaving the stadium early does not make someone less of a fan!

I brought the slightly tenuous cinema analogy into the equation, not to attack the early departers, rather to try and defend them. For, you see, I have a dirty secret too.

Many years ago, I walked out of the film ‘My Super Ex-Girlfriend’, without so much as a glance back in remorse. I don’t regret it, I don’t feel guilty about it and neither do I expect to be chastised for it – the film was irritating, styleless and ill-thought out. (In fact, it had much in common with Robbie Savage’s hair.)

As paying customers, football fans have every right to leave the ground as and when they please. Unfortunately, many of us are cursed with an inherent guilt that makes us feel obliged to stay until we’ve applauded our players off the pitch. But this is not the reason that I’m imploring fans to stay until the final whistle!

I suppose what I don’t understand is what the great rush to get home is? Is it really worth potentially missing a moment of pure football gold for? I could understand a little better if Gladiators was still on the telly, but now there’s nothing worthwhile until Match of the Day (and you’re very unlikely to miss that.)

Fans ought only to do what makes them happy, but I’ve witnessed enough last minute moments of ecstasy, and indeed agony, to know that staying to the death is the only option for me.

FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: @DAVE_ABBISS

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