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It Only Lasts 90 Minutes

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 20/01/2008

"NOTHING has happened. This is worse than a Grimsby Town game" I commented. What I was referring to was my first and seemingly last attendance at the ballet. Unfortunately the recipient of this gem of information was Malaysian and the only knowledge I had previously imparted to her about Grimsby was that it has good fish, it’s cold and it’s windy.

Home > 2007-2008 Season > Reports > Dagenham (a)

Worse still, we were only 90 minutes into this Swan Lake boreathon, which barring injury time would at least have signalled the completion of the endless torment of the footballing variety. Three hours in, two of the characters in Swan Lake did finally do something and committed suicide. I don’t blame them. I was getting that way myself. Never has a forthcoming trip to the Essex wilderness of Dagenham seemed so appealing.

This is Britain, 2008. Liverpool: the City of Culture. Luton: the Town of Administration, Dagenham and Redbridge: ... well, they’re in the league. There was a time not long ago when representatives of relegated Premiership teams would dolefully announce they had to play the likes of Grimsby. Now we get to play the likes of Dagenham. "Are you in the Conference?" was a serious question I was asked at work in the build-up to the game. Well, we were heading for it, but not now. Our mission is League Two mid-table mediocrity and guaranteed strength-sapping disappointment. It’s the norm, guys. But at least it’s not Stevenage.

Ah, Stevenage. We may not have fun at our football, but let’s consider the alternatives. Yesterday I went to hospital. In 2008 we have choices. The government says so. My choice was Stevenage or Bedford. I knew nothing about either. I’d call it Hobson’s choice. Hades or Hell. I chose Stevenage on the basis of their superior league position. Like Josef K in The Castle, I wandered round aimlessly like a blind man, seeking directions. The hospital was in darkness. There had been a power cut. I walked through the corridors, which were lined with patients in bed, many screaming in pain, others having given up out of sheer resignation. It was like a scene from a former Eastern Bloc country. Staff ran around, attending eternal emergencies. People complained. Five hours later I left, no further forward with everyone still running around in confusion and desperation. The analogy with division 2 football is clear. Confusion and desperation abound, but at least it’s only for 90 minutes. Indeed, the desperation inherent in our level of football is like hospitals, but without the overcrowding. No Centres of Excellence for us in Grimsby or Dagenham. That’s for the nouveaux riches. No glitzy Emirates Stadium tartistry here, no champagne bars. We specialise in pain and suffering. And today its epicentre is Dagenham East. "Will it have seats?" asked my daughter Revis, relating to the experience of Barnet. The youth of today likes its comfort. But then there’s no point in having grand aspirations here. A seat will be nice.

The day came. It was grey, overcast and raining. It had rained solidly for three days. Once again, paying for punishment was the phrase which came to mind. "Crappy and cold" was Revis’s prognosis. Crappy certainly covered the journey to Dagenham East, but we were there. All the hospital and ballet nightmares were forgotten. I felt the customary buzz of excitement and anticipation as we turned into Victoria Road towards Dagenham’s ground. Well, it had stopped raining. The surrounding buildings were grim, but the sky was momentarily brighter.

The report continues in the Part Two

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