Help! My beloved football team have been relegated

Updated: 11/08/2022


In brief

  • We’ve been through Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief
  • If anyone can help me move on, then all advice is welcome

A couple of years ago I wrote here about the extraordinary sight of grown men with tattoos and shaved heads being in tears on national television: “Big, burly, old-school, non-metropolitan-elite ‘manly’ men – that don’t cry over anything, except football.”

Back then, I was referring to Sunderland and Hartlepool United fans, whose teams had been relegated – Sunderland from the Premier League, Hartlepool from the entire Football League.

Little was I to know, dear reader, that the misty-eyed grown man this week would be me. And, I struggle with why it matters so much when we know it shouldn’t.

Huddersfield fans might fit the above stereotype. Fulham’s faithful, the alleged “Tarquins” of south-west London, not so much. You know you’ve made assumptions about each group of relegated fans already.

I knew it was coming

Except that I’m not sure either was actually in tears this week in that stunned made-for-TV, invasive way that lingering cameras love. We both knew our teams were dropping out of the Premier League, long before the maths confirmed it.

Tim Ream looks dejected as Watford’s Will Hughes scores (Photo: Reuters)

The feeling is actually numbness: we’ve been through Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief already: denial, anger, bargaining (“if only”), depression* and acceptance.

Three managers, no away win, the worst defence in the top five leagues of Europe; an expensive defender who got injured for months putting on his football boots; team-mates fighting on the pitch over a penalty and off it in a yoga class; a player arrested at the training ground; the cancellation of a team-bonding go-karting day because of insurance costs – all make the excitement of that heady play-off day last May when 40,000 of us in white did indeed cry (with promotion joy) at Wembley Stadium a distant memory.

It was a different story last season

Misery compounds misery. Where did that happiness go? Last season, when Fulham went 23 games undefeated, I navigated an otherwise stressful little period of my life on a virtual dopamine drip.

Each victory gave a surge of pleasure that made us crave the next. This season, winning just four times, I have a dopamine hangover: the slump after the massive high.

Plus, laughter is one of the best ways of stimulating endorphins. In the absence of joy at on-field success, then gallows humour becomes the norm in the stands. Cue resignation.

Look, I know that Bill Shankly’s “Some people think football is a matter of life and death, I assure you it’s more serious than that” is not supposed to be taken at face value, but… I appear to be stuck on that *fourth stage.

If anyone can help me move on, then all advice is welcome. “Support Chelsea” and “get a life” will get you banned from reading again.

Twitter: @stefanohat

This post first appeared here

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