Amber Rambler

Football ramblings and reminisences

Keep the faith with Paul Doswell and Sutton United

Going to the football just isn’t fun these days.

In past seasons I’d wake up on match day morning like a kid at Christmas. I’d quickly change out of my jim-jams then merrily wend my way to the pub with a spring in my step.

I’d sink a few pre-match beers with the boys before gleefully passing through the turnstiles into the football wonderland that is the Borough Sports Ground.

The team would play well, score goals, defend resolutely and pick up the points. Job done.

Me and my motley crew would then toddle off to the boozer for a few celebratory beers before trying to pull some birds twice our age in Chicagos, Legends or some other poor excuse for a nightclub.

Going to football used to be good.

Instead, the boys I used to drink with have settled down and fled with their wives and kids to towns where chavs are not permitted to roam as freely as they are in Sutton.

I wake up on match day with about as much vim and vigour as I do for a trip to the dentist.

After watching Football Focus, I get dressed, then trudge off to Gander Green Lane with an overpowering sense of foreboding.

These days, I expect to see the Amber and Chocolates give an inept performance and lose, having gifted the opposition a goal or two.

The lads duly oblige.

I walk out the gates of our little ground with my shoulders hunched and my hands in my pockets, kicking a stone while muttering a string of expletives.

I head to the pub and wonder why I allow myself to go through this misery every week.

I have also stopped chasing women – especially those twice my age, as that would mean spending my Saturday nights at an old peoples’ home.

Yes, the excitement of match day seems a distant memory.

The season has been written-off long before time, a bit like my battered old Ford Escort which I sold to the scrap dealer for much less than the price of a 2015/16 Sutton season ticket – and they are dirt cheap.

Goals and points are hard to come by at the moment, which is a shame because there is no better advert to get people to spend their afternoons at the Borough Sports Ground than a winning team playing attractive football.

I am sure the town’s mature womenfolk miss a winning team, too. No groups of marauding happy Sutton supporters vying for their attentions.

Despite a wonderful campaign by the club to get people through the turnstiles, the atmosphere at Gander Green Lane on match days has been as flat as that fox on the side of Sutton bypass.

I was eight years old when I first saw the team I would fondly call the Amber and Chocolates play.

I was absorbed by the Sutton side of the early 1980s whose free-flowing style was often reflected in the margin of victory.

I regularly saw matches at Sutton where five, six, seven, ten and more goals would be shared, more often than not, in the home side’s favour.

As an impressionable youngster, I was hooked.

It’s going to take a rather strange kid to get hooked by the morsels currently being served at Gander Green Lane. That said, non-league football is a strange world inhabited by oddballs.

If we are to be the progressive club we’d like to think we are then we must do better than attracting life’s misfits.

Of course, life was so much simpler back in the early 1980s.

There was no internet, no mobile phones and no cornucopia of live sport on television, meaning, there was more time to focus on going to the football.

I admit, I had an Atari games console – a much simpler, yet still amazingly addictive forerunner to the PlayStation, the preferred gaming device of kids, geeks and non-league oddballs.

I also acquired a ZX Spectrum, a Cliff Thorburn-endorsed snooker table, swingball and Subbuteo set (Club Edition), which was more than enough to keep me busy. I was certainly a lucky lad.

However, these days, there’s a tonne of other stuff kids can do rather than go to football. So when they do go to a game, it’s vitally important the game is good, or at the very least, not atrocious.

Some of the chaps who pulled on a Sutton shirt in the early 1980s stayed with the club for many years. These days, they barely get a chance to introduce themselves to their coaches before they’re off to another club.

I just hope there were a few eight year olds who were at the Pay-What-You-Can game against Hayes and Yeading (lost 0-1) and the Community Fun Day game with Gosport (lost 0-1) who will give us another chance, maybe next season.

It’s clearly demoralising to the fans, but it must be felt more so by the volunteers who give up their time to make sure these prestige days go ahead for the long term benefit of the club.

Next season the task will be tougher with Kent heavyweights Maidstone, Welling and Dartford, potentially joining the party and we can expect a tougher challenge from the likes of Ebbsfleet.

Personally, I think we missed our big chance last season. We suffered home defeats at the hands of both relegated clubs – Tonbridge Angels and Dorchester Town – which ultimately cost us the title.

That said, with the prospect of a 3G pitch being installed at the Lane over the summer, we may actually be  better equipped to go up next season.

When it eventually does happen, promotion to the Conference Premier will provide a stiff challenge.

Both last year’s promoted teams for Conference South, Eastleigh and Dover have proved there is no point resting on your laurels. If you go up, then you’ve got to look to push on even further.

Every relationship has its ups and downs, and we’re having a bit of a rough old time of it. On the field, at least.

The future is bright, the future is amber and chocolate. In Dos we trust.

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