I am not taken to being sniffy about who makes up our support. I have spent years watching grunting embarrassments squawking and growling incoherently in away ends supposed to represent one of the friendliest and most literate cities in the league, the technological counterpart of which, I suppose, is the gruesome profligacy of hamster-brained keyboardists aboard t’internet, where BHAnorthstandballbag gets to retweet his mate saying “give gav a follow lol”, or invites are issued to “BHA V’s Bolton Wanders”.
I myself was even more of a nauseous little oik than I am now during my smoggy adolescence on many a pointless faraway terrace, and no amount of free tickets from our beloved local rag could persuade me, at times, to absorb the soul-impaling eye smash that was Withdean. But if you are reading this and can identify with feeling like an isolated non-rabid among the growing pack of baying dogs – they’re all mad! Oh god, I always knew I was special! – you might know what I mean.
Even thinking it feels painful. As the lickspittle crashes from above, flobbed by a ruddy-faced goat, wet-whistled from a recital of “stop pissing about with it! Just get it forward!”, I want you to share my consolatory pint of infinitesimally cheaper post-bile Harvey’s, simultaneously high-fiving me, suffragette style. I know I partly asked for this. When I was curling myself around a lamp-post to adorn Hove with apple-coloured YES YES balloons, I yearned for a full stadium. But it seems a narrower, rather than broader, church to me. Local Arsenal fans flicked their allegiance temporarily to us for the Cup delights, then probably flicked back with the nonchalance of someone turning their bedroom light off once the game was settled.
It feels like the equivalent of millions of genetically devolved species bursting out of their incubated eggs, running toward the nearest lights they liked the look of and introducing themselves to the long-established specimens who had overseen the plans for that carefully-nurtured ecosystem by headbutting them aside and claiming it as their home, all the while making it a gradually less welcoming space, to the point of inhabitability (the loads of gurning, sweating beefcakes jostling for the last inch of every coach at pre-home game Brighton Station being exhibits a, b, c and d).
Does it matter? There can be no objections. The majority prevail. Mine’s a plastic pie. And a duplicitous scarf.