Adrian Chiles: Seasons of discontent that never really end

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The Independent Football

On the morning of the first Premiership matches of the season I wrote a passionate piece here lamenting the return of football to my life after an all too short summer break. I'm nothing if not consistent, as I now find myself welcoming with all my heart the end of the football season and the coming of a beautiful football-free summer.

Never mind the sunshine, the fields of green or the blameless chirruping of children playing. The main thing is that I won't have to worry about West Bromwich Albion for a few glorious months.

I knew things had gone too far back in January when a tramp approached me outside Leicester Square Tube station in central London. This guy looked as though he wanted words with me and wasn't going to be easily ignored. Something was different about him though: he seemed less keen to inspire pity than to offer it. There was compassion etched across the poor man's face as he put a hand on my shoulder.

"Adrian," he said gently, "I think the Baggies have had it this year. I think they are going down."

Overwhelmed, I tried to give him some money but he waved me away. All he wanted to do was offer me some support in the darkest days of my winter of discontent. Homeless and destitute though he apparently was, at that moment he felt luckier than me. Football bloody football, as Sir Alex Ferguson once said in entirely different circumstances.

I've come to see all life in football terms. In business I see successful companies as the Chelseas or Arsenals of their fields; I subconsciously mark colleagues down as footballing types - they might be dogged, selfless workers like Makelele, moaners like Drogba, coruscators like Cole or hated but rated Mourinhos. I'm sure most of my colleagues have me down as a Kezman: over-rated, underused and certainly overpaid.

Given that I see the whole world through the prism of football it's hardly surprising that everybody looks back at me through it. I write this sitting in a leisure centre in Kidderminster waiting to broadcast the result of the election of the Member of Parliament for Wyre Forest. When I walked in at 8pm it was deserted bar a man putting out chairs. He didn't bother with hellos or introductions or even a smile, he just cut straight to the chase: "You'll probably be down come Saturday, won't you?"

I settled down in a quiet corner with my laptop. A couple of coppers strolled past, their legs moving in unison, as they always seem to. I caught the eye of one of them. "Do you think you'll do it?" "Doubt it," I shrugged, "I just want the whole ghastly business over with." "Well I'm Leeds," he responded, effectively trumping my troubles with troubles of his own. We both nodded, understanding how much we understood about each other. He strolled on, silently, with his oppo. Left, right, left, right.

This is the season I've finally realised that what my wife has been saying to me all along is quite right: I've got this whole football-supporting caper completely wrong. For a start I should actually enjoy watching my team; it should make me happy. But it doesn't, it makes me miserable. What's the point of a hobby you don't enjoy? In West Brom's current situation I don't even enjoy seeing them win. If we'd beaten Arsenal on Monday instead of losing I would now be in an essentially miserable state of high anxiety ahead of today's games. As it is, having lost, all hope has more or less gone, so I'm rather happy. I'm even, as everyone writes us off, quietly, madly optimistic that Palace and Southampton might draw today; Norwich might not win and we might beat Man Utd. At Old Trafford. Conversely, perversely, if the opposite applied and everyone had us as favourites to avoid the drop I'd be in bits.

Even during matches black has become white and white has become black. For example, I've been shocked to realise that I'm actually much happier being a goal behind then a goal in front. If we're ahead I'm beside myself, praying that we don't concede. If and when we do concede I actually feel some relief as it at least means we don't have the lead to defend any more. And if and when we go behind I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders as we don't even have a draw to hang on to any more. Ergo: I now prefer losing to winning. I might look at life through a football prism, but it seems I'm looking at football through the kind of lens that turns everything upside down.

I suspect that with this kind of thinking you eventually drag your emotions right up your own fundament. At which point you achieve a kind of emotionless limbo where you're so desiccated by years of confusion and suffering that it eventually stops mattering to you any more.

It's the case of one Vic Stirrup that persuades me this might be the case. He's 86, saw his first West Brom match in 1925 and, since the end of the Second World War, has missed only five matches.

For Match of the Day 2 we filmed his trip to Middlesbrough a couple of weeks ago. West Brom were stuffed. My colleague Kevin Day asked him if he was upset. "Nah," he said as he shuffled aboard the coach home, "not bothered." Back in the studio Gordon Strachan said to me: "A glimpse into the future for you, Adrian." I hope so, Gordon.

Just moments before I do disappear up my own backside an e-mail lands which shakes me out of my self-indulgent stupidity. It was written by Sarah Prydden, a Wrexham fan, after her team, docked 10 points for going into administration, were relegated.

"I can't describe how awful this season has been for our club. I have stood on the Kop terrace tonight and sobbed my heart out. You, the Football League, obviously don't care about us or the other lower league clubs and I hope you are happy we've eventually been relegated tonight! I'm just praying you don't get your second wish and we lose our football club that we love so much."

There, someone worse off than me. I feel even happier now.