Yesterday was a 'bank holiday' in the UK. That's a fancy way of saying it was a national holiday. Football leagues tend to schedule matches on bank holidays because they generally draw big crowds. Unlike other games in the week, they are normally held at the Saturday kick-off time of 3pm.
After rushing through lunch Big Nedved Junior and I headed off to Twerton Park. I was very excited. I had been looking forward to the match for almost two weeks. A victory over Havant & Waterlooville would surely put City in the playoff spots for the first time for two seasons. And after the performance I saw at Woking, and what I read about the one at Weston-super-Mare, I was sure City would win.
Because I knew we needed to leave after the match in a hurry I parked on a side street rather in the club carpark. As soon as I stepped out of my car, though, something seemed wrong. City matches do not draw big enough crowds for there to be a 'buzz' around the ground (well, not often), but my spider-sense immediately picked up on the fact that it was too quiet. I tried to shrug it off, but as we headed down a footpath I got a view of the pitch. I could see there were no players warming up on it. I was trying to find some way to deny it, but the rational part of my brain had figured out there was going to be no match.
My first thought was that I had gotten the time wrong. I had just assumed there would be a 3pm kickoff. Maybe this bank holiday had an evening kickoff instead. Or maybe in the chaos surrounding Christmas I had managed to get my dates really mixed up.
I kept walking anyway, hoping as I got closer to the ground I would figure out what was going on.
After a few more steps I had my second thought. I was wearing a Bath City hat. I had a Bath City scarf on around my neck. I was wearing a Bath City replica kit. Nothing was going to look more pathetic than wandering into an empty football ground obviously dressed for a match that wasn't happening. I stopped to take all my City gear off, bundled it up and stuck it under my arm. As I turned into the carpark I tried walking nonchalantly, as if I was just out for a stroll and just happened to be walking through Twerton Park.
The carpark was empty. No away team coach. No stewards. It meant no match.
To my relief, another City fan arrived. He even had two small children with him. And he was wearing his Bath City gear. We compared notes: we were pretty sure we had the right day and the right time. We walked past Charlie's (which had its shutters down) to the club office. There was a schedule of December matches posted in a window and it did say Havant & Waterlooville, 28 December, 3pm. My companion then stated the blindingly obvious:
'The match must have been called off because of a frozen pitch,' he said.
Of course it was. There had been a post on the City forum about how there would be a pitch inspection at 10am. I hadn't bothered to look. It didn't seem that cold, so I just figured the match was on. Considering that the Woking pitch had had as much snow as grass showing, I had just assumed the match was on.
As Big Nedved Junior and I walked back to our car about a dozen or so City fans walked into the carpark with the same bewildered expression we had had moments earlier. We were all like lost sheep looking for our pasture. Or maybe druggies looking for our fix. Whatever we were like, I was in a bad mood.
I tried to decide if a postponed match was more painful than a loss. As I got in the car I was beginning to convince myself a postponed match was worse. With a day's perspective I can see now that this is total hogwash. Still, showing up at a cancelled match is a major bummer. It is like reaching into the packet for the last Hobnob, only to find that a friend had alread eaten the last one. That's the sort of thing that can put a friendship under real strain.
My relationship with Bath City is not a friendship, however. It is an obsession. I'll be back on Friday (although not before a thorough check online to make sure the match is on)!