So yesterday I had to make what felt like one of the hardest decisions of my life. Whilst that may seem stupid or silly to some, that’s how it felt to me and many in a similar position.
Many things have been written about the B-Team boycott and the reasons behind it (for more background see Simon’s post here: http://www.yellowarmy.co.uk/que-sera-sera/), so I won’t go over old ground again, but this is a post about why I’ve turned my back on my principles and will be going to Wembley.
This season I have been fairly vocal about my distaste for the Checkatrade Trophy; it’s changing to a group format and adding fixtures despite club’s at L1 & L2 level already playing a ridiculous number of games a season, its laughable rules (bonus points anyone?), fining teams for playing understrength sides and most notably the introduction of B-Teams.
For the whole season I have backed the boycott and for the first time since Oxford United gripped me to start this whole love affair, I found myself apathetic towards results. I genuinely believed that I would be able to carry the boycott through to its conclusion were we to reach Wembley, after all what is the point in it if you fall at the final hurdle?
The Luton result came around and I was so happy for the players, staff and Oxford United. To reach a Wembley final two years in a row is a wonderful achievement and one that every United fan (who have been starved of pride & success for so long) should have been shouting about from the roof tops, but there I sat, ultimately, not knowing how to feel.
Then the announcement for tickets came around, it was so soon, it threw me. I hadn’t had time to fully process the reality of missing Wembley before it was thrust upon me. Then I thought about Lunny lifting the trophy and it broke me. I searched for solace amongst friends and found them feeling the same thing; desperate for someone to tell them what to do, or to say it was OK. So I cracked… and bought tickets.
I’ve seen so many reasons for why it’s “OK” to go now; Darryl has said that the club will vote against the proposals for next season, the boycott is “over” because the “point has been made”, a few thousand off the attendance won’t make a difference with 60000 at Wembley. And while some of these may be valid, to use any would just be a cover to make myself feel better. The actual reason is simply that it hurts more to think of missing it than it does to think of all the reasons why I shouldn’t go. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite (it does), maybe it’s exactly what the EFL were relying upon all along (almost certainly), but it’s right for me, and it is what it is.
So there we go, I’ll be at Wembley, an occasion that should be filled with joy & unity that will be tinged with regret and sadness, but then the boys will walk out and for 90 minutes at least I’ll forget all that. And that’s the power of football and why I love and hate it right now in equal measure.
P.S. For what it’s worth I do believe that Darryl was shocked at the strength of feeling against the tournament and the extent of the boycott that followed, so I will take comfort in that at least our point was in some part made.
To sum up: