Editor’s note: Today marks the first column of a new weekly series by Matt Jones entitled ‘The Heart Of English Football’ that gives you insight into what it’s like to be a supporter who lives in England — capturing the experience, rituals and everything we don’t get to see or feel via the television set.
Nobody really likes Mondays. That’s a given. But Monday Night Football – as Sky Sports like to bill it – always goes someway to reprieving that start of the week lull.
At the moment, it’s the best show out there for football supporters. The analysis from Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher is top notch, as is the chemistry and passion that exudes from the pair. Getting home from work, putting my feet up and watching an hour of impassioned football debate sandwich each side of a game is always something to look forward to. It’s as good as it gets for self professed football nerds like myself.
But when your team is playing, things are a little different. As most regular readers will know by now, (for my sins) I have an Everton season ticket and travel far and wide to watch the Toffees in action.
Monday night games might not compare to long away trips in terms of awkwardness and expense, but they are still a bit of a hassle.
Just think about the logistics of it. Most people finish work between 5pm and 6pm and have to make it to the ground for an 8pm kick-off. Those who work outside the city of Liverpool have to head straight to the ground with no time to go home, have something to eat or see their families.
It’s far from ideal, especially when the lads I go the game with all work in different places and finish at a scattering of times. Arranging a time and place for a pre-match drink can become a bit of a nightmare!
But it’s all worth it once you get into the ground and there’s no better sight for an Everton supporter than a floodlit Goodison Park. There’s just something hypnotizing about the famous old ground night and no matter how many times I’ve been to watch Everton, it never loses it’s aura.
It gets even better when Everton, inspired by Romelu Lukaku, go in 3-0 up at half-time. I was obviously ecstatic as the Toffees tore into a soulless Newcastle side time after time throughout the opening 45 minutes.
But, I have to admit, a small part of me did feel sorry for the traveling supporters. I’ve been in that situation before: cold, tired, out of pocket, 3-0 down at half-time and worst of all, a long, long way from home. This game – just in case you were wondering. It’s not a nice place to be in.
Perhaps the Everton side shared some of my sympathy, as the team took their foot off Newcastle’s throat in the second half, with Yohan Cabaye inspiring something of a comeback. In the end, the game finished 3-2 in Everton’s favor after a stunning strike from the Frenchman – which was roundly applauded by the majority within Goodison Park – and a very late goal from Loic Remy.
In truth, the final score flattered the visitors, as Everton bossed much of the second period too. But Newcastle’s late fight-back did little to dampen Evertonian spirits after the final whistle had gone. The Toffees have won three games on the spin, are unbeaten and sit fourth in the Premier League table, just three points off leaders Arsenal. Roberto Martinez is doing an excellent job, and the mischievous chants of ‘are you watching David Moyes?’ did raise a smile, I have to admit.
So in the end, I walked through the door at a 11:30pm pretty tired, but very happy. Winning does make it all worth it, even as I type this piece out on my way to work, weary-eyed on a train full of packed commuters.
But spare a thought for those Newcastle supporters that traveled down to Liverpool last night. The trip back to the North-East is a long one, roughly four hours. It’s even more of a killer when you consider the vast majority would have been in work today having had to suffer defeat and a monster journey.
Typically Newcastle are a side that bring excellent traveling support, but it was significantly lower than usual at Goodison Park last night. The Geordies only took up a reported 900 of the 3000 tickets available to them.
It is understandable that so many of the Toon Army decided not to bother. It’s the second time this season that Newcastle have had to make a long away trip on a Monday night, having played City away in their season opener.
It’s decisions and flawed logic like this that is turning many supporters away from the game. Surely there are other matches that could have been played last night? Two teams that are geographically closer, perhaps? To have Newcastle traveling away from home twice in the opening six games on a Monday night is quite frankly ridiculous.
So credit to those Geordies who travelled down; 900 supporters making a 350 mile round trip on a Monday night is a great effort in my book. They made themselves heard and were in good spirits after their teams second half showing. At least both sets of supporters went home relatively happy.
Everton travel to Manchester City on Saturday. Look out for my column on Monday, where I will offer an thorough insight into the Premier League away day experience.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball