Turn it up, bring the noise at the County Ground
Have you noticed the lack of noise and atmosphere in the County Ground this season? This didn’t escape Gavin Brown, who asks that now we can be proud of our league position can we also be even louder in our support..?
First, the excuses. Like all the best arguments, this one was formed on scant evidence. Saturday’s visit to the County Ground for the visit of Chesterfield was my first home game of the season. I’m hoping trips to, among others, Oakwell, London Road and Bedfont & Feltham serve as some mitigation but, even so, it’s a poor return on my part.
However, just as an errant grandson notices the changes in a grandparent more than the loyal one who visits every week, I wonder if absence gives me a decent perspective.
On Saturday, I watched as probably the best team to represent Swindon Town in 20 years calmly maintained their place at the top of the table. In doing so, keeping decent opposition at arm’s length and scoring three good goals (the first was very good, the third actually quite special) into the bargain. All to the indifferent sound of…well, not much really.
Now forgive me. Your level of support and passion for your team cannot be measured by the volume at which you sing their praises. Secondly, being used to away ends where the concentrated efforts of five or six hundred people always sound more impressive than the spaced out attempts of 7,000, I was bound to notice a drop off.
Yet this was something else. We’re top of the league! Even the frustration borne out of a forlorn fight against relegation registers a few decibels, so surely a hugely impressive, composed and, above all, improbable march towards promotion deserves more than the odd polite ripple of applause.
Now the County Ground has never been the Bombonera, I know that – even if we did give it a good go in the ticker-taped Ossie days. The best efforts of the old Shrivvy Road, the laudable but geographically challenged Swindon Ultras and the earnest of Loud and Proud brigade eventually sank in the sea of indifference. Through it all the Town End has provided an island of isolated noise but even they were subdued against Chesterfield. What were they taught to do with Joey Beauchamp on a piece of string? For once, inexplicably, no one seemed willing to tell us.
Yet we are capable of rousing ourselves. The mad Italian inspired the kind of fervent, unquestioning vocal support his old hero Mussolini would have been proud of. Paolo Di Canio’s arms waved frantically and his teams, playing with similar purpose, were roared on by an expectant crowd. They weren’t a patch on the current side though, so why then the silence?
Eighteen months of education under Cooper and Williams has brought a gradual demise to the cries of ‘get it forward Town!‘. But perhaps the patient approach, occasionally lacking in excitement, doesn’t inspire the average season-ticket holder to burst into song.
Maybe a disjointed sequence of three home games since the end of November, on top of a season of stubborn opposition bent on keeping the score down, has similarly dampened the spirits – the free-scoring side who stormed through Barnsley, Peterborough and Coventry seeming like strangers to the folks back home.
Or maybe it’s simply that the style of play, while brilliant and sometimes thrilling, encourages a kind of quiet sense of pride and joy rather than outright passion.
Whatever the reason for the peace and quiet it’s time to sing up.
Saturday’s visit led to an improbable post-match chat with a well-known Swindon player about rising damp and dodgy pointing followed by a slightly more predictable conversation with his dad about the atmosphere that afternoon. In short, he thought it was crap, and not a patch on the support his boy receives away from home. If he thinks that, isn’t it likely his son thinks the same? The regularity with which many Town players use Twitter to acknowledge the efforts of travelling supporters suggests they do.
Singing is not for everyone and this isn’t a rallying cry for more mindless banal chanting (although it would be preferable to hearing a crackly rendition of ‘Glad All Over’ spit out of the Tannoy) but we need to do more acknowledge the exploits of a great team.
These are halcyon days at Swindon Town with an extraordinarily talented and attractive squad hinting at things we didn’t imagine were possible last summer. Perhaps we are taking them for granted or just stunned into a happy silence. Either way, we need to snap out of it because they won’t be with us forever. Dare I say it, can we be loud and proud again?
Gavin Brown is the Metro’s Assistant Sports Editor and Columnist
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Header image courtesy of http://www.redarmyloudnproud.org.uk