Triumph and trauma at end of Brighton pier

FAN'S EYE VIEW No 149 SKY TV; Simon Carroll
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The Independent Online
Sky TV has certainly had a major impact on the life of the football supporter over the past few years. A private recreation - watching a match in the comfort of your own home - has entered the public sphere. Those of us for whom football sometimes reaches the point of obsession are now compelled to enter a cold, wet and miserable world in search of the beautiful game.

As an addict of televised football, such is my lot. No longer can I sink in front of my TV at home on a Sunday afternoon, bottle of lukewarm beer in hand, and rant and rave to my heart's content. These days, compulsive viewing takes the ritualised form of visits to the pub, on Brighton's Palace Pier in my case, in search of Sky TV's live coverage.

The glories of the European Championship may somehow have allowed football to penetrate the national consciousness and come home, but the new season brings a return to the big blue world and the bar stool for many supporters. Yet do I and others like me receive any reward for my dedication? No, just derisive cries of "armchair supporter" from those glory, glory boys who frequent the terraces.

For the devoted such as myself, last weekend's clash between Manchester United and Newcastle offered a return to normality after a close season of scanning the back pages and Teletext for transfer speculation and days of DIY: a pointless existence. However, from last Sunday, I was once again thrown into battling along the seafront, through the hordes of day-trippers, loving couples and rollerbladers, come rain, shine or hurricane to see the twin towers of the Palace Pier beckoning on the horizon. It may not be Wembley but it is a home fixture. All those dreams of total football and hopes of silverware are fired once more and the belief that "our name" is written on the cup is born again.

A televised football match can assume the role of an event as games are turned into social occasions watched with friends. Hair of the dog, friendly banter and the elixir of football are mixed into a heady cocktail of entertainment. Of course, it can be fraught with problems as heads bob up and down in front of the television screen, sending you straining and squirming in a desperate attempt to see the action, but it does offer great rewards.

Who can forget the pulsating Liverpool-Newcastle game of last season? Or the sight of friends, such as my mate Denis, with head in his hands, as Fowler scored yet again against his beloved Arsenal?

Then there was the experience of two years ago, when Manchester United lost the title on the final day of the season, and I half expected to see their supporters throwing themselves, lemming-like, into the sea as they left the pub in misery. More mundanely, if everything has turned sour by the final whistle, you can always comfort yourself with a consolation prize at the bar.

Yes, the big kick-off is nearly here. I have, of course, indulged myself in some pre-season training which has consisted of picking several Fantasy Football teams. Yet this has led to a rising sense of frustration as, after having studied my team, I would have to be richer than Jack Walker to win the Premiership. This appears to be extremely unlikely under the present circumstances and I am not keen on paying pounds 4m for Stuart Pearce in fantasy money, let alone cold cash.

The new season is dripping with promise following the European Championship and last season's Premiership, which was undoubtedly the most entertaining for many years. If you add exotic new names such as Di Matteo, Ravanelli and Emerson to the recipe, you have a truly mouth-watering prospect for the coming winter.

Cue fanfare, mine's a pint and, as Ruud Gullit might say, "Bring on the sexy game."

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