|Confessions of a Statto - Why We Bother|
Written by ITFC_Forever on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 23:09
Hello, my name is ITFC_Forever, I am a bit (a lot) of a statto and have never written a blog before.
Regular viewers of the forum will know that my signature at the bottom of my posts is my all-time record of competitive first team games I've seen, stretching back to 26th February 1983 when I saw my first game, a 3-0 home win against Luton, Brazil, Wark and Putney the scorers.
I've got a pretty good memory for stats and games I've seen - they were a pretty rare treat when I was primary school age and therefore easily remembered, through to going more regularly when I was at high school and it was easier to remember the games I missed, to away games when a similar process was repeated.
In the mid-90s I backtracked through combinations of last programmes of the season and The Men Who Made The Town to write out the definitive list of competitive first team games I have attended, the ITFC players who have scored, the opposition I have seen and the grounds I have visited.
Since then, I have meticulously kept the record up-to-date on sheets of A4 lined paper, until such time I bit the bullet and put it all on a spreadsheet.
So, the current tally (in the time-honoured format of the league table) reads: Played (Seen) 914, Won 410, Drawn 220, Lost 284, Goals for 1,382 and Goals against 1,126. That would give an average of 1.586 league points per game, and over the course of a 46-game season, 72.97 points, which would possibly (or possibly not) sneak us in to a play-off place.
My records are of course skewed by cup matches, which either pitch against lower-division teams (which we often lose to anyway) and/or sees us put out a weaker team than usual. So statistically our tally of 69 points for the 2015/16 season was only slightly worse than what I have seen over the years, and that’s with me starting to close in on my thousandth game.
Add in reserve, youth and games I’ve seen as a neutral (and there was a fair few of them as I’d often watch my bro-in-law at League Two/Conference level if we didn’t have a game or I’d gone, in fact, I developed a worrying affection for Cambridge United in the late 00s), I reckon I’ve seen over 1,000 games.
The stats for individual players/clubs are naturally skewed by number of games I saw during various stages of my life, bearing in mind my first season ticket was in the late 80s and I started going to away games in at the start of the 90s (0-5 away to Port Vale on 1st Jan 1990 was my first away game, it rained all day and I had previously tried to go to Hull a few weeks earlier, but we found out it was rained off when we got to Grantham).
I was at uni in the mid-90s, and went as often as I could to away games that were within striking distance of Staffordshire, before returning and going to 85 per cent games of a season from around 1997 through to 2005, by which time I had got married and we then started a family. I kept the season ticket and family etc commitments mean I get to around half-a-dozen away games a season now.
So, with my game attending history positioned, the top scorer I have seen is Pablo Couñago with 52 goals, a commanding nine goals ahead of David Johnson (mk 2) with 43, then come Darren Bent and Daryl Murphy both on 42, Chris Kiwomya and James Scowcroft (41), Tommy Miller (36), Alex Mathie (35), Matt Holland (34) and a three-way tie for 10th between Mick Stockwell, John Wark and Jason Dozzell. Own Goals is 14th with 26, and the next-best current player (after Murphy) is David McGoldrick (22).
I have seen us play 94 different opponents. Norwich City unsurprisingly top the list (33 games) as we have generally been in the same division as them for much of the time I have been going and I’ve only missed a couple of games at Carrow Road at the start of the 1990s, in 2003 we left it too late to get a ticket and in autumn 2010 when I was so peed off with life under Roy Keane, I couldn’t bring myself to go. Just as well, Fatty Holt destroyed us, Delaney was sent off and we lost 1-4.
Following on from the Budgies, it is also no surprise that the rest of the top five are made up with perennial Championship teams as we have been in this sodding league for so long – Watford (29), Derby (25), Sheffield United (23) and Leicester, Nottingham Forest, Charlton and Birmingham (22) tie for fifth.
In terms of grounds visited, I have been to 73 of the current 92 clubs, although I need to revisit some as they have since moved ground (Oxford United, Man City, Morecambe, MK Dons and Barnet).
It gets nail-biting at the end of each season as I start to look at who might get relegated from League Two into the Conference in case the tally reduces, but I got away with it this year as Dagenham & Redbridge went down at the expense of Grimsby to maintain parity.
Again, thanks to the bro-in-law’s career for helping build up the number of League Two clubs, and also a good number of Conference sides which gives me a steady stream of ready-made replacements should I lose one at the end of each season.
In terms of the grounds (clubs) I have visited, for reasons I have already mentioned, other than Portman Road, Norwich (15) top the table for most visits to another ground, followed by Liverpool (nine – mate at Uni was a fan and I went to a few games on the Kop with him as well as most of our visits there in the 90s/early 2000s), Stoke (nine – thanks Staffs Uni), Watford (seven – nice easy trip), Port Vale (seven – thanks again Staffs Uni and also 1st Jan 1990), Crystal Palace (seven) and Birmingham (seven).
As well as all this, I also keep a note of the various records. The biggest win I’ve seen was against Avenir Beggen (8-1 in the UEFA Cup in 2002), followed by three 6-0s (vs Swindon – which is also the biggest away win, Barnsley and Nottingham Forest). Heaviest defeats are the infamous 0-9 (Manchester United – my all-time record there is P4, L4, F0, A18!), 0-7 (Chelsea) and 0-6 (Liverpool, also the biggest home defeat).
The most I’ve seen in a season is the 44 games from 1999/00, boosted of course by the brilliant three extra games added on at the end of the season.
That season also has the best win percentage (57.50 per cent), which to achieve that in a season when I saw the most games shows how consistent we were that season, although 2007/08 has the fewest defeats in the season (14.30 per cent), helped by decent home form and me not going to so many away games by then thanks to kids coming along.
On the contrary, the worst season I’ve seen was the awful 1994/95 (18 per cent win average, 68% defeat average and an average of 2.4 goals conceded per game – all records), 'helped' by the fact I was at uni so my home game count was low and we were crap.
The 29 games I saw in the season just ended weren’t all that great in terms of stats either, especially when you consider we only missed the play-offs by one place. A win rate of 34.48 per cent isn’t great, we drew the same percentage as well and lost 31 per cent of the games I saw, which is also pretty average considering our final position.
A more damning stat though was the goals scored this season, a paltry 31, which is well-down on the usual high 30s/low 40s for an average mid-table Championship season when I’ve seen a similar number of games and even worse than the turgid 2009/10 when I saw 33 goals in one fewer game.
Coming to the end of this collection of figures, it looks pretty middle-of-the-road. A bloke in his early 40s who has been to a load of football games.
But it’s not about numbers on a spreadsheet and if last season was any better or worse than others. It’s about the journey along the way, the places I’ve been, the adventures I’ve had with whoever I can persuade to accompany me (there’s a core two or three, plus a wide range of random people I’ve come across along the way).
Memories aren’t just of the game (although clearly they are a part of it – Jermaine Wright’s volley at Rotherham on Easter Saturday 2004 is the best goal I’ve seen us score), but "Do you remember when so-and-so did that at such-and-such away in that pub with wallpaper hanging off the wall?'. Memories of Helsingborg, Milan and Liberec, and all manner of places I would never have been to otherwise.
Having been to all these games, I know full well the time, effort and expense that has gone in to it – the number of Saturday evening functions I’ve not been to because I’ve been to an away game at some place a four-hour drive away, the number of times my missus has got the hump because we haven’t been to something because there’s football and the way you plan the year around the football fixture list.
Nick Hornby was right in Fever Pitch, football fans don’t view time as the traditional Gregorian calendar, with January at the start of the year and December at the end, but as a nine (or 10) month year starting in August and ending in May with the summer hinterland in the middle.
And then there’s the crap that goes with it. Losing to Wrexham in the FA Cup. Getting hammered 0-9 at Man Utd and getting threatened before and after the game by the same sodding bloke. Getting soaked in an away end with no roof at Bristol Rovers. Getting herded like sheep at Norwich.
Driving home from Exeter after a midweek away game and nearly crashing in to the central reservation as you’ve fallen asleep (thanks father-in-law for not falling asleep and grabbing the wheel, or I shudder to think what might have happened). Tedious performances when nothing happens which make your eyes bleed and Adam f***ing Proudlock and Nigel Reo-Coker.
But then, every now and again, THOSE moments come along. Moments which spark an emotion of joy, excitement and ecstasy which nothing else comes close to. Gavin Johnson at Anfield. Dozzell at home to Blackburn, Neil Thompson at Southend, the final whistle at the Manor Ground. All from the 1991/92 season.
And there’s plenty of more…..Wark (2, 1pen), Kiwomya and Dozzell vs Leeds, Kiwomya and Thommo at Norwich, Frank Yallop vs Man U, Mason (2) and Sedgley also vs Man U, Tanner at Anfield, Stewart four years later at the same place, Mathie (3) and Petta (2) vs Norwich, Charlton away in April 2000, then the incredible play-off games a few weeks later (Reuser…. PREMIERSHIP!).
And on they go (I’d be here all night if I allowed myself) – through Pablo at home to Coventry in the 97th minute when it looked like we had chucked another three points away, via the Bent and Darren Ambrose come-back with 10 men against The Blunts and on to Richard Chaplow away at Watford 13 months ago.
And that’s why, like a hopeless old drunk who can’t say no, I (and the rest of us who 'get' it) keep coming back for more.
If you’ve read this far, well done – this started off as a bit of a look at a record I started keeping as a bored teenage one summer and the rest just flowed as the games I looked at provoked the memory juices.
There’s a family of people at games. I don’t know many of their names and am only on nodding terms with a few of them, but they’re there every week and have been as long as I can remember.
Those of a certain vintage can remember more games than I and there are those who have been to more games. People like Kempy (RIP) and the guy up my road (RIP also) who started taking me to games until I was old enough to go on my own – they could tell even more stories than I.
Anyway, thanks for reading. And thanks to my Mum buying me the home kit for Christmas in 1982 and starting me off…
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