by Mike Forrest
Relegation; a mass murderer of hope, happiness and all positive emotion, its sadistic obligation fulfilled by the compulsory demotion of three unfortunate clubs. It claims three victims but leaves scars on so many more.
This year Wigan, Aston Villa, QPR, Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves are the sacrifices being offered to the relegation Gods. The Gods have already got their first taste of sorrow and despair by punishing Wolves for boardroom incompetence and banishing them to the Championship. Now they need two more clubs to quell their satiable avidity for torment. With several games to play, it is still a mystery as to whom the other two clubs that will be the sacrificial slaughter are but I can tell you now, the Gods are being bombarded by five clubs and hundreds and thousands of fans prayers to spare their club.
Perhaps the most evil aspect of relegation is the hope it gives the effected clubs. When embroiled in strife there is always a glimmer of hope, of redemption. However just as the glimmer of optimism appears to be bursting into several rays of hope it is quickly and cruelly covered up and everything is black again. Take Blackburn for instance; brilliant results at Old Trafford and Anfield including a resounding fighting spirit gave their fans false hope that they would pull away from the danger zone. Unfortuantly for them, form declined, spirit waned and look at how they are now teethering on the brink. Similarly, a fan might think that results are going for them, such as QPR’s amazing home form, giving them a sense of confidence but it can change in the blink of an eye and despair returns. I have found that when in a relegation battle, it is the hope that kills you.
With relegation it is the fans and the day to day employees such as the ticket office workers who suffer most. Through relegation fans are told that their club is not good enough to be in that league which is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s like being told that your child isn’t good enough, that’s how close a bond football fans have with their clubs. For employees, relegation more often than not means redundancy. Ironically it is the ones who went about achieveing relegation, the players and management, that get off lightly. Players and management leave or take a small pay cut but the fans stay and bare the brunt of the suffering.
Fans who have accepted that their fate lies in the murky depths of down below in the Championship start to become nostalgic. They delude themselves into thinking that relegation will mean that armchair/tourist supporters will abandon ship and the club will be back in the hands of proper fans or that they cannot wait for “proper” away days against the likes of Scunthorpe or Southend. Whilst fans believe these untruths, it is wholly understandable as it is a way of diluting the severity of the pain caused by relegation.
Relegation does not leave a superficial wound, it can in many cases leave a wound so pronounced and deep that it takes years to repair the chasm of destruction, Charlton and Southampton are prime examples. Pundits talk about relegation as if it is some trivial spot of entertainment but it is more detrimental than they will ever know. A Blackburn fan called into BBC’s 606 and broke down crying. My sympathies go out to that fan. His once respectable community club has had its heart and soul destroyed at boardroom level and the impending relegation will be the icing on the top of an abominable cake.
As a Fulham fan I have been through the horrowing and callous relegation battle experience, thus I can empathise with every single fan whose club is perilously close to being sucked into the Championship. Whilst rivalry dictates that I want QPR to be relegated, I still can only offer this article as a recognition of the struggle and angst that they and the other five are going through and as an offerance of my sympathies. For the clubs that are lucky enough to survive reflection will be key and to ensure that this never happens again is an neccessity, for the two that are relegated I can only offer you good will and the best of luck. You’ll need it.