Hello everyone, I hope that you’re keeping safe and well in these unusual times. Go on, admit it, you were expecting the word after ‘these’ to be ‘unprecedented’ weren’t you. We’ve all got so used to using words like ‘lockdown’ and ‘unprecedented’ over the last month or so that I think most of us wake up thinking at least one of them.
I wrote that first paragraph this morning and my work day has meant that I’ve come back to finish this at about 8.30pm. As I looked at the sheet before me, I was made aware of just how much I miss football. Not just the games, although of course those are really what it’s all about for most people who love football. I miss the Club, the people that make it what it is, whether they’re players for the men’s team, or staff from different levels of the club I see on my visits as chaplain. I’ve spoken to a lot of them over the last few weeks, but there’s something different, something about this new season we find ourselves in ‘off’. When I reflect on what it is, I think it’s that something feels like it’s been stolen away from us. I’m a good complainer, a moaner of high calibre, but now if you offered me a Tuesday night trip to Carlisle (as I know many of you made earlier in the season) I’d, metaphorically speaking, bite your hand off. I think I was guilty of a little bit of coasting before Covid-19. I was a little guilty of taking football for granted. It would always be there. The club would always be there. And what of the rest of my life? Sure, I talk about God in every column I write for the match programme. It’s in the contract, see, but by the same token I wonder if I was labouring under a false sense of something approaching invincibility. Naturally I don’t think I’m hugely strong or anything like that. You just have to take one look at me to realise how silly an idea that would be. But when I heard about the difficulties faced by others, I always had a sense that similar things wouldn’t happen to me.
It’s silly really. None of us are invincible. I know that, but it’s still something of a shock when illness or even death, comes close to me or my household. It’s happened to me more than a few times in my life and somehow I’m still surprised each time it does. Each time it does it shakes me, causes me to stop and think ‘what’s this all about?’ At other times, I’ve doubted my faith, got angry with God, questioned, ranted and raved, treating God almost like when some of our (least) favourite referees visit the PTS. At the end of it all, when eventually my rage calms down, I’ve heard, or felt, God say “I’ve loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). And then life has carried on. Still with the pain, the scars, the tears and all that they have brought to my life, but somehow or other, I’ve known that I am not alone, that God has not left me. It doesn’t necessarily make it all ok, not by any means at all, but it gives me enough to carry on for that day and then I wake the next day with enough for that day. And so on. We are loved. We are loved with an everlasting love, even more powerful than many of us have for the Cobblers. If that’s even remotely true, then part of our response could be to recognise the importance of taking care of both each other and ourselves.
As I come towards a conclusion, there are a few things I want to say as clearly as I can to all members of the Cobblers family. One is this: if you are alone, or you feel alone, or if it all feels too much, please do reach out and ask for help. To ask for help is one of the strongest things any of us can ever do. I am more than happy to be in contact with any fans who need a confidential chat if that would help.
Second, even though we aren’t playing any games at the moment, the Cobblers are still here, the Cobblers family is as strong and as vital as ever. Look after each other.
Third, and finally: just think of that wonderful first Saturday afternoon that we’re all going to have together, whenever it may be. Of course, we could lose 1-0 to a scruffy, bobbling effort. To tell you the truth, at the moment I don’t think I’d even care too much about that.
Until then, Up the Cobblers!