It is perhaps my favourite place in the world. From the second I cross that roundabout, I stick my face to the window. I desperately scan for any sign of red and white, usually spotting the first one or two on the corner of
chips in hand; or maybe at the tram stop, constantly looking at his watch.
There’s so much time, it’s the only thing most people will actually be early
for, but we still worry we’re going to miss something. If they see me, we’ll
exchange a smirk and a nod. Although we've probably never met each other, it
feels like we’re family, because we know that in an hour we’re going to be
brought together to enjoy the thing we love more than anything in the whole
world. Even though it’s only a small nod or smile, and I may only see their
face for a split second, the passion we exchange lights up the city. Our half
of the city.
The tunnels are my favourite part of the walk to the Lane. Streams and streams of red and white walk through the same tunnel, and students who happen to be passing at the same time shy away, sometimes sighing and tutting. They don’t understand, and they probably never will. The crowd expands as we get nearer. Groups of boys and girls ducking from ginnels, cobbled roads, chippies and boozers. Always on time, never late.
When I push through the turnstile, an old familiar feeling washes over me. Belonging. It’s similar to pulling up to the platform at your home train station, or touching down on the runway at your local airport. You just feel… home. And it’s ridiculous, because it’s all metal structures and cold plastic chairs; but it just feels like home. Maybe it’s the emotions that make it so homely; the sense of extreme love and loss.
In the past six months, there has been no hope. No hope, just despair. Defeat after defeat, excuses after excuses, and continuous heartache. But not yesterday. Yesterday, a miracle happened. I look opposite me at the streams of white. My accent, my home, and some even my friends. It could easily have been me, had I gone with head over heart. Because that’s what everyone says, isn't it: ‘You should always support your local club!’
In those ninety minutes, there was a glimmer of hope. A light at the end of the tunnel. It may not count for anything in the long run, but yesterday it was all that mattered, and that decision that I made all those years ago never seemed so right. I had never been so glad that I chose The Lane.