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SAM MORSHEAD COLUMN: How to inspire the next set of Swindon Town fans
5:30am Saturday 15th March 2014 in Sport
PART of the process of becoming a football fan is dealing with hard times.
While we all embark on our life-long supporting careers with open minds and wide eyes, along the way the magic of the sport is tainted by a run of defeats, miserable performances, terrible players and plenty of squabbling.
However, we always seem to want to come back for more, again and again and again - in that ever-so-sadist manner that would make absolutely no sense in any other sector of the entertainment industry.
Right now, at Swindon Town, we’re going through one of those troughs - where everyone seems to be able to out-Eeyore each other in the doom and gloom department and everything that can go wrong appears to be going wrong all at once.
In reality, of course, it could be a lot worse. The club is one win from what should be guaranteed survival in League One and we’ve had plenty of excitement along the way prior to smashing into an almost immovable wall around the end of January.
But the frustration, quite understandably, is palpable around the County Ground. And it can’t be good for anyone.
For the first time in around two and a half years I ventured back into the stands on Tuesday night; a paying supporter backing my club without my journalistic hat on.
It didn’t feel a thing like I remembered.
That may be down to several months of self-restraint in press boxes up and down the country, where jumping to your feet and sticking up a middle finger at the guys from the opposing paper when Town score a goal is generally frowned upon.
It may be down to my own disillusionment with the club I have followed since I was a boy, borne out of two months of increasingly frosty relations.
It may simply be that I have grown out of being a die-hard football fan. Perhaps I’ve become apathetic. I know I wouldn’t be the only one.
Football matches are places for the working man and woman - white or blue collar, mechanic, waiter, builder, businessman or multi-millionaire - to let off steam. It’s always been an outlet for a week’s blood, sweat and toil to pour out in 90 minutes of unrestrained anger/ecstasy/confusion (delete as applicable).
But at the County Ground now, it seems that the enthusiasm has dissipated and the men and women who flock to SN1 are doing so already convinced that what they are going to see is not worth their time and money.
Sadly, on most occasions this calendar year their preconceptions have been fully justified by a series of turgid performances by Town’s players and, therefore, this vicious cycle repeats itself.
It went through its latest rotation on Tuesday, when a rampant Wolves destroyed Swindon in the first half (£60million of parachute payments does that).
I was sat to the left of a dad and his young daughter, in front of a couple of middle aged gents and to the right of another pair of 40-ish fans.
All of them moaned within the first five minutes. The players responded by steadily getting worse up until half-time and at the break I felt as uncomfortable as I can ever remember being at a Town game.
Maybe I was so wide-eyed at 11 or 12 years old that I didn’t recognise this side of matchdays. If I had, I’m certain I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the game as I did.
To me, and of course it’s only one opinion, the soul is falling out of Swindon Town.
It could be down to any number of factors, ranging from a lack of clear communication between just about every party involved through the deteriorating relationship between the club and its local paper to a series of limp performances which haven’t lived up to expectations.
There isn’t the same feel about the place anymore and it’s up to all of us to correct that.
Now the play-offs are out of reach and relegation shouldn't really be contemplated, why not abandon those preconceptions and pitch up in SN1 willing to give a young group of players a chance?
In return, those players need to understand that they are there to entertain and, with no pressure of a play-off pursuit weighing on their shoulders, perhaps they will be freed up to try the fluid football they produced so brilliantly at the start of the season.
And then, maybe, that vicious cycle will lose its teeth.
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