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FA Cup 3rd Round, 11/12/99
Birmingham City
Lost the plot
By Farzana Chaudry

We have sunk to new depths of despondency, despair and desperation. All of us in one shape, form or size have quite simply lost the plot.

Saturday, 1.45pm. I stared at my crisp twenty pound note. Still suffering badly from Wimbledon hangover, and enduring for the first time this season the early nervous tremors of a loss in faith. I quickly decided the only way to overcome this was with a holy pilgrimage to the Vicarage land. Even after all these years the hairs on the back of my neck still stand up at the sight of the pitch.

Rookery end, all unreserved seating. I wonder what it's like in the upper holy echelons of season ticketdomland. So I bravely ventured up, left to the goal, about two thirds up... BIG MISTAKE.

Mr and Mrs Anorak practically knocked me off my seat, trying to get to their know, the ones that bear their names carved in gold. They felt the need to say loudly, "Thank God we've got our seats, and no one's in them".

Two rows behind me a bawdy faced elderly woman literally had all the clothing she had been wearing spread across several seats around her. "Absolute disgrace, I've been sitting here for the past twelve years, I'm not letting anyone sit in my seat, or my brother-in-law's seat, or his sister's seat...." I do hope she's in bed with flu this morning.

AAAGGGHHHH. How petty, what a bunch of contemptible freeze dried donkey-droppings you are! You are the same people who believe the parking space outside your house is reserved for you, the same people who leave sarcastic notes on cars parked outside your homes, or even worse leave nails if you spot the same offending vehicle more than once. I've been paying road-tax for the past nine years. This year I can count on one hand the number of times I've managed to park directly outside my home.

Grow-up loovies, there is space and room for everyone in Vicarage Road.

Five ways to recognize the holier than thou Season Ticket holder:

1. Smug grin, upright rigid strut. Stares with disdain at anyone he doesn't instantly recognize.
2. Sports a vintage football shirt, the more frayed, snagged and ill-fitting the better.
3. Sports a vintage stripy scarf, again the more faded the better. After all he was a Watford fan when dinosaurs ruled the Earth!
4. Proudly displays his bulging season ticket wallet at the turnstiles. Any excuse to get it out!
5. Always arrives at least twenty minutes after KO, and spends the next twenty minutes telling all and sundry about his mammoth hike down from Abergeveny.

All this and it wasn't even yet 2.30pm. I felt less intimidated being surrounded by Chelsea!

The lads sitting behind me chanted "Penalties, penalties, Wembley, Wembley". As Holland's name was read out, isolated sporadic bursts of jeering and cheering broke out. GT, I now know exactly where you were coming from! Let's stoke up the Birmingham engines for them. I mean we've come along in leaping strides and bounds since Wembley.

Stand up if you're Premiership...what a surprise hardly anyone stood up... we're not even Nationwide at the moment.

The confetti moment was greeted with wide eyed disbelief. Not only had the players forgotten how to play and enjoy themselves, but some of our fans had as well.

All through the match all I could hear was distant and near chitter-chatter, brought dad this, brought nana this. No one around me was watching the match, no one seemed to care any more.

Real atmosphere is created by the fans who don't necessarily come to every match, but to those they can afford. They come because they want to be there, they come to watch, to take part and to share in the grief and even occasionally in the joy.

On the pitch it was even worse. The match doesn't warrant much more than a sentence: we were a bunglingly pitiful collection of embarrassing septic crap.

This is the week when Muhammad Ali was crowned the greatest sportsman of the century. A man who was sent to prison for his beliefs, a man who was cast into exile, lost his career, his reputation, his friends. But above all someone who fought back, and took success in his sport to new subliminal heights. A man who even with his body stricken with Parkinson's Disease still has the dignity, courage and pride to face everyone.

Then you have a bunch of footballers, who are still sulking because they haven't won a match since September. And a group of fans unable to share their stand with others.

Greatness is in the mind and in the heart.

Success never comes to those who wallow in self-pity.