Exposed to the world again. Physically, and metaphorically

I started pre-season by exposing myself at Folkestone Invicta.

Stepping over the back row to an empty seat below I suddenly remembered, right leg extended by about 60 degrees, these were the jeans with the large hole between the legs.

Everyone, from the people in the front row to the players warming up on the pitch, got a glimpse of my briefs. I don’t think anyone noticed, and no rondos were harmed, but the lady in front didn’t turn to her left for the duration of the game.

But in a way we were all exposing ourselves because this was the first game back after nearly a year of enforced hibernation. There were worse things at stake for the people in the stands than a flash of my unmentionables. Depending on who you asked, we were risking our lives to watch some semi-pro footballers enjoy their Saturday afternoon.

It was worth it though.

Nearly a year ago I’d been at Hastings watching their penalty shootout win over Ashford Town in the cup. Then the match ended with the rumour it was not just the end of the game, but the season.

We didn’t play Hastings, and my epic report was a complete waste of time. I’d finished it, believing that the season couldn’t be cancelled after I’d put so much work in. What a load of rubbish that theory proved to be.

Anyway, here I was at Cheriton Road, which if you’ve never been to has a biggish stand, and enough fans to justify terracing on the other three sides. There was a good atmosphere too.

The idea was to watch Ramsgate in the annual Sid Burvill Trophy. They’re a league rival and two whole seasons ago they finished third to bottom. A good early look at the whipping boys then (future me – incorrect. Edit this out). But in reality it was a practice run for going to football on a Saturday.

I was also putting newly acquired scouting skills to the test, learned over several exhaustive months waiting for the season to start.

Up until that Hastings United game my scouting system from last year worked like this.

I record games on a small camera, making notes along the way. At home I then watch the game six or seven times, coding it into separate clips, and then writing my report based on everything I’d discovered.

It was and still is a long process, and one I only manage to carry out by total obsession, which happens to be a rare upside on the mental health troubles I have.

But this was pre-season, for me as well as the teams. So, I figured on a more relaxed approach with just a notepad. Within minutes my notes were the usual scribbled list of pointless observations…

7 runs w/ball RW

6 sloppy lat pass

10 cross Z3 RW

Luckily the three fans behind me had the game summed up from the start. They got it down to repeating the phrase “they haven’t shown up,” every time Ramsgate conceded a goal.

No allowance for this being the first game back for either side. Or the difference in level. Or that these weren’t first team players. As far as they saw it, Ramsgate should have got off the bus ready to fight to the death.

Folkestone won comfortably. But the result didn’t matter. Football was back, the 527 of us in the crowd appeared to have survived, and the world had taken a step forward towards getting back to normal. I set off home to buy new jeans on the internet.

Best player: The Ramsgate sub who came on in the dying minutes. Very young, great work rate, constantly scanning the field. Knew exactly where to be for his three and a half minutes.

(Later found out this was Harvey Bridger.)

Folkestone Invicta v Ramsgate
Saturday 26 June 2021
Score: 4-0 I think. (Nope, 4-2)