• Monday, 30 April 2012

    In praise of: Non-league terraces

    As mentioned in last week's Marking Your Card, we were at York for their final game of the regular season in the Blue Square Premier on Saturday. We've been paying the extra quid to go and sit down lately, but eschewed that in favour of standing on the Longhurst, behind the goal at the Shipton Street end of the ground.

    It's only when you've not done something for a while that you remember why you did it in the first place. Or perhaps it's more that you didn't realise why you were doing it - it was habitual - and time away allows you to reassess. Whatever, standing on the terraces behind the goal is great.

    The dynamic of the terrace is fascinating. It works along socially democratic collectivism means and is unashamedly masculine. Of course there are plenty of women in there these days and that's undoubtedly helped mollify the worst excesses, but it is still an overwhelming refuge for the male of th species. The heady aroma of stale beer, cigarettes and testosterone - all similarly strange and exotic when the young fan first risks a trip into the bear pit - dominate the air, the only difference being that you realise you're now a contributor to that rather than the passive consumer you once were.

    It can be unforgiving, but also diplomatic. York's winner came in front of the Longhurst late on, Portuguese winger Adriano Mok√©'s weak shot squirming through the legs of Forest Green keeper Sam Russell. Russell's distribution had not been good all afternoon and the terrace let him know. And yet when an over-eager ball boy in front of the Longhurst picked up the ball before it had gone out, you could sense the urge to berate him, but destroying a six-year old would have been a step too far. The poor kid was soaked anyway and diplomacy reigned; the lad was spared with only a few titters the giveaway to the casual observer that something was afoot.

    Planning wrangles aside, York will soon be moving to an out-of-town, all-seater stadium in the middle of a retail park, as is the style of the time. The days of the Longhurst are numbered. It's a thing to be cherished in the time it has remaining.

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