Dealing with the Grim Reaper - from issue 53

Dealing with the Grim Reaper
It’s been 7 years since we resurrected our club from the ashes of Stan’s apocalyptic bonfire. It’s been challenging, euphoric, fun, frustrating and uncomfortable. This last season has seen our progress inevitably slow as we are now mixing with clubs with equal resources to ourselves. The euphoria of the initial years where we faced new opposition each week has ebbed away. We now get to visit familiar shit holes like Chippenham and Cirencester with that Stock Aitken and Waterman repetitive beat and feeling. “Never gonna give you up” is up there with the “we’ll support you ever more” songs. I will never sing either. Both parties need to earn the others love in my book, care and respect. End of!

Off the field the early incarnation of Merthyr Town FC was a firebrand club burning like a supernova. Every week we had something new, we were the trailblazers. Whilst our local league club Cardiff City imploded under the mad Malaysian, the Martyrs were the poster boy of what could be achieved. We were hard edged, radical and not very corporate. We felt “Merthyr” (if there is such a feeling).
Wind forward to today and our ground is nice, our club is nice – it all feels very magnolia. I want vivid colours, identity and style, but my club is now giving me conformity, standardization and beige. We are no longer standing out, we are no longer the poster boy, we are now the young lad, sat in his bedroom, looking at the poster and wishing he could be that rockstar or footballer.

Whilst standing on the terrace of Hardenhuish Park a few weeks back, I was not only witnessing our team being beaten by the league leaders (Chippenham FFS) I was also afforded the chance to see where our supporters were on the journey to our inevitable mediocrity. We love getting all highbrow at DMFM Towers, so I’d like to use Dr Elizabeth Kuber-Ross’s 5 step model of coping with loss. Ahem…..

STEP ONE - DENIAL
If you’ve got to this point in the article, you’ve probably already made your mind up. What I’ve said to this point is either real or you think  I’m talking nonsense. Perhaps you’re in denial?  It’s taken around 2 years of chewing the fat, but I think there is not 1% of the group known as Dial M in this category. It’s taken a while for us all to accept that there is a problem at our club and now the problem is firmly at our door. I know there are other articles in this edition attempting to communicate what these issues are. Issue 53 has the makings of a doom and gloom fanzine.  The denial stage is real, but I’m way past this point.

STEP TWO - ANGER
With 5 minutes of the Chippenham game still left to play, with the outcome of the game somehow still in the balance at 2-1, from within the enclosure behind the goal a chant of “Sack the Board” started. It was a bit edgy if I’m honest. I would say about 25% of those in attendance took up the chant. It was the first time, since the days of Stan, Suggy, Ryan, Mittell, Davies and Johnson, that we’d witness a vocal opposition to the clubs board. I didn’t join in, I smiled at the notion. We voted the board in my friends. The anger there was real. As I said earlier; I’m way past this point.

STEP THREE - BARGAINING
Where are we watching the Ireland game lads?
Grawen? Express? Webleys?
The reasons for and against each venue is tossed around. We’re bargaining between our own feelings and those of the club we love. It goes on…
“You should be supporting your club”
“I do but in my own way”
“What about the 400 others who just come here, watch the game and leave?”
“You should be eating your Sunday dinner at the club”
This stuff is real and online. It’s a minefield of walking on eggshells and negotiating with yourself for those new to this category. It can test friendships and give you anxious moments.
Do not fear – you will survive this. I know, as I’m way past this point.

STEP FOUR - DEPRESSION
Most of my Dial M buddies are here. Most will deny this, but I promise you they are entrenched here and will have to do their time in this  emotional quagmire. With any loss this area is the easiest to step into and the hardest to step out of. This is a gloomy cess pit of a world, where your whole week is consumed with dark thoughts. All I will say to my friends who find themselves at this point is – “It’s a fucking football club”.
I left this pergatory around 18 months ago. Chariman Mao declared it my “Selwyn” moment (Selwyn comes, watches the games and goes home – no more). It’s strangely the second time I left this level though. The first time was just 9 months after we took on the running of the club, as Trust Chairman in those days this area consumed me to a point that it nearly took me down completely. Since those days I have to handle MTFC as if it were anthrax. Looking at it through the glass of the bottle is OK, but one sniff, one moment of getting too involved could kill me.
If you are here, you welcome to have a chat with me, as I’m way past this point.

STEP FIVE - ACCEPTANCE
I’m home, this is my life. It’s a nice place. Come in, take your shoes off and relax.
Nobody notices when an oil tanker turns it does so by a decimal point of a degree, it moves so slowly that you’d think it was still going straight on. Over time, the destination could be so different the crew and passengers could find themselves on a different continent. At the port you scratch your head, puzzled, thinking WTF!! It’s broken. Our new oil tanker captain(s) started turning the boat around 3 years ago.

I watch as my mates drop down through the five stages. I’m here at the bottom rung of this bizarre ladder, waiting for them with a pint and a consoling word. We then sit here pointing up at the rest as they tumble and reminisce about the times when we were in denial or angry or spent our days bargaining or were depressed.

It’s sad really, as us bottom dwellers are the worst of the bunch; we should know better, we are calm and are in the best position to see the wood from the trees. But having experienced the other four stages, this area is comfortable as hell for us. The freedom gained is liberating, I can do what the hell I like and have no guilt about any of it. If I want to go to watch Taff’s Well next season I will, if I want to drink until I pass out in the Park view I will. If I want to sing stupid songs, leave at half time, wear a green and red scarf, write a fanzine, sleep rough, play kerbsy and laugh at our kangaroo mascot, all on the same day – I will.

I am free. We are all free; we have lives and interests outside of MTFC. I no longer have a season ticket, I miss games regularly and it doesn’t bother me. The club is no longer like cat nip to me. It’s a good place to be. Peace Out!!!
Donovan

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying,
She died herself in August 2004. She also looked a lot like Eddie Edwards

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