Issue The long close season

As told by Jason Mckeown

Okay I admit it, I’m jealous. Two days after watching Burnley gain promotion to the Premier League on the tele I’m beginning to crack. I’m just relieved I didn’t watch Gillingham beat Shrewsbury or Scunthorpe beat Millwall the two days before it as well, or I’d be more glum than Kevin Blackwell upon discovering the referee of his next game.

I know it’s all our own fault and that there are too many what ifs and if onlys for a sane person to contemplate, but it could, and should, have been us. I’m not referring to Burnley taking a place in the Premier League – we’ve been there, done it, be nice to do again someday but no rush. I’m talking about Burnley enjoying a slice of glory, a day out at Wembley, a chance for regular players to become all-time club heroes.

Having lived in the Skipton and Craven area for almost 20 years of my life, the ramifications of Burnley’s glory are more obtrusive. Round our way there’s always being more Leeds and Burnley fans than City, the days of walking to the bus stop in my claret and amber shirt on route to Valley Parade and been mercilessly ridiculed by Burnley fans in the pub opposite are still easily recalled. It means their celebrations don’t begin and end with the TV remote like they can with other clubs, my face feels well and truly rubbed in it.

I quickly hopped over the Lancashire border on Saturday and it seemed every other car had a Burnley flag flapping in the wind. For the last week I’ve overheard numerous conversations between non-football fans about watching the big game. I’ve been bored by people who’ve not been to Turf Moor in years bragging about how great the Clarets are. Too many friend’s Facebook status have read “looking forward to going to Wembley”. At least the open top bus is unlikely to go through Skipton.

And I’ve got no problem with it really, but it just reminds you what you’re missing out on. Round our way a few years back, folk were making the same amount of fuss about Bradford City going up, but since beating Liverpool to stay in the Premier League there’s been no opportunity to get drunk in celebration of City’s achievements, to rush out and buy the commemorative video/DVD, to elevate well-liked players into heroes.

One day our turn will come again, but every close season I think that and it’s always someone else’s players dancing with a trophy a year later. Wembley looked good on the TV on Monday and the Burnley fans looked liked they were having fun. On more than one occasion at work yesterday I caught myself day dreaming of us being there. Of Sky interviewing goal scoring hero Peter Thorne who calls it “one of the best moments of my career”; of Graeme Lee climbing the royal box steps and lifting the trophy; of Stuart McCall having another go at trying to stay on top of a car.

It’s stupid to waste such energy, but I only have myself to blame. I hate the prospect of the close season and of three months without meaningful City games. I’m usually ready for a break from it by the last game and this season was no different; but after all the Premiership, Champions League and FA Cup issues are sorted there’s nothing on and so the weeks before the first pre-season friendly feel bleak.

So I try to soak up as much football while it’s on as I can, this year being a little better than most with the Premier League finishing later. But each team enjoying their slice of success and each set of fans going crazy in celebration only reminds you of what might have been with City and how much ending the next season in glory would mean, given the pain endured during the previous one. Then suddenly you’re looking forward to next season, and it’s still weeks and weeks away.

I’m not a complete freak, at least I don’t think I am. During the season I can be guilty of neglecting friends and it’s nice to have full weekends to make up for that with. The weather is usually better and there’s always other sports to try. Formula One might be good this year, I really should go and try Keighley Cougars at least once…oh, when is the first pre-season friendly?

When there’s no European Championship or World Cup to block up the gap, I find myself setting City-related leisure tasks to make the weeks go by a little quicker. Read every edition of City Gent I own in order, or go through an especially memorable season’s collection of matchday programmes. This year I’m attempting to watch every City video and DVD I own, covering some 15 years of action, in chronological order – sad I know. But I’m enjoying recalling the contributions of some of our less celebrated heroes – Shaun Murray, no one ever talks about him anymore, what a great little player. And if you’ve never heard of Keith Coates, get yourself to the Upfront store right now.

All of which beats waiting for City transfer news, which is largely unrewarding and frustrating. You want to be greeted by news of an exciting signing when you load up the Telegraph & Argus website in the morning, not yet another interview about an underperforming player hoping to do better next season. The message boards used to be a great source of rumours, these days it’s full of unrealistic tales of Championship players apparently considering dropping down the ladder or non-league hot shots Stuart would be stupid to overlook.

Of course I should be grateful, because we get nine months of the year filled with going to watch City and at least we can feel stress-free for those three months it’s not with us. It’s just I don’t think I’ll be able to fully enjoy a summer again until I’ve ended the previous season with something to celebrate.

For now Burnley fans, please stay out of my way. I’m starting to forget how you feel.