What are we going to do now?
When the close season comes too early and we're all chewing the carpet

Monday’s Star stares back sullenly from the table. Between August and the start of May I bloody love the Monday Star. Not just the report on the Wednesday match (a mixed blessing over 17/18) but all the other local stuff and all the weekend’s results and League tables. It usually lasts me for Monday night and a quick read over breakfast on Tuesday morning. But not today Zurg. It’s the close season.

It’s bad enough that the season has ended but this year with the added torment of Not Being in the Playoffs. As I type I’m hearing Five Live updates on Fulham versus Derby; for the last couple of years this has been the pinnacle of our season but this year we’ve just got our noses pressed up against the glass.

It might be a World Cup year and that usually helps to speed the break along, but even though it’s been a ball-ache of a season down in S6 this year, I’m already really feeling it.

I’m guessing that the invitation to contribute to the forthcoming Wednesday 150 film stirred an awful lot of blue and white blood. I submitted two articles pretty much straightaway while Steve bobbed in one about War of the Monster Trucks (watch this space), but actually there was one I was thinking of that - at the risk of overdoing it - I didn’t submit. That would have been the one about how matchday is far much more than just the match.

There are so many things I love about the Wednesday experience and it starts with the walk to the ground. It feels so good to be striding along Penistone Road with so many other people with the same solidarity of purpose.  I’m a terrible ear-wigger in that situation, nebbing in on other people’s conversations; sometimes it’s the stuff you’d expect – “that Nuhiu, champion or charlatan?” “Which keeper can we say goodbye to?” – and sometimes it’s random bits of people’s lives – how much ale someone loaded last night, whether or not their latest relationship is a go-er, why that pillock at work should get the sack. My favourite moment ever was lumbering along in my Nilsson 2 shirt and a bunch of lads spontaneously starting up the historic “Number one is Roland Nilsson, number two is Roland Nilsson, etc…” chant.

Next comes the whole thing of just being in the promised land of the stadium. I’m a post, rather than pre-match, drinker so I’m usually there ten minutes before and I just breathe it in – picking up the vibe, chatting to mates already in, estimating how many away fans there are, all of that. Then the boys coming out and the Hi-ho is bubbling.

And then when it’s all over – for us – the Wednesday day isn’t. Charging our way across Penistone Road to the central reservation so we can outpace loads of people getting back to the Barracks, chuntering on about the match and life in equal measure as we walk, and then bundling into the pub and getting the Plum Porter in. This last season we’ve become the tap room tenants, ranged around the big table and watching the half five match. The tap is usually where a few away fans pop in for one before the drive home and it also means we share our post-match space with that guy with a particular relationship with Ozzy Owl.

And then before we know it it’s (usually) 8.00 o’clock and the cab’s outside waiting for us to wobble out and – more often than not – getting asked for an enroute match report by the driver. Get home, eat too much tea and fall asleep in front of Match of the Day. Everyone reading this will have their own variations on the themes I’ve set out but surely we will all be missing it just as keenly.

And now it’s the chuffing close season. Yes – we’ve got a close season do and the World Cup Auction already in the diary and yes various combinations of us will stumble across each other as we regularly tour the Blake, the Wellington and those glorious pubs around Kelham – but it really isn’t quite the same.

So yes, another close season of feeding on the scraps of transfer speculation, watching the World Cup and trying to pick out some tenuous Wednesday connections, and then waxing enthusiastic about finally reaching the pre-match friendlies against Mansfield and - in all probability - Glasgow Rangers (again). So try to keep your blue and white heads high, find a darkened room where you can lie down for the next 10 weeks or so, and before you know it it’ll soon be early August and that ironic first home match with Swansea City.

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