Any urban sprawl looks infinitely less appealing in the winter.  Dank greys overhead, wet browns underfoot, bare trees sending cracks across the sky.  It seems hard to imagine a place that could trump Luton, though.  As intermittent snow swirled on the winter wind, I regularly checked the sky for the thud thud thud of army helicopters airlifting survivors to safety.

Maybe it’s nicer in summer?

From a strictly architectural perspective, Kenilworth Road is one of the strangest stadiums I’ve yet to see.  I don’t know in what order things were built, but the plot of land seems too small for a stadium so they simply made the best of it.

One side is simply a row of executive boxes that back onto a dank, narrow, litter strewn alley.  Even the houses immediately outside can be seen from inside the stadium.  The turnstiles for the Oak Stand are built into a row of terraced houses meaning you must pass through a passage that eventually overlooks a string of back gardens.  The rickety looking Main Stand runs two-thirds the length of the pitch, with the David Preece Stand bolted on at the end at a slightly askew angle.  The Kenilworth Road Stand is the only one of any normality; a large seated offering of normal dimensions.

There was a café on Kenilworth Road itself, but upon entering it became apparent it was more caff than café.  Coffee wasn’t even on the menu, if you can believe it.  The nearby Dunstable Road was bereft of any familiar chains (barring a KFC), let alone a coffee shop.

And still the snow swirled.  Still the helicopters didn’t come.

I was fully aware that any coffee from a truck or hut would be dire, but dire was my need, so I paid £2 for some brown water from a metal vat.  I was unfamiliar with the taste and am in no rush to be reacquainted.

If you have any understanding of football fans, it soon becomes apparent that the pitch-side corporate boxes are a bad idea.  At least at one end.  Inevitably, they meet the away fans in the Oak Stand, and that’s where the fun begins.

On this particular day, a shaven headed man with his two young sons was sitting in the seats outside his allocated box.  During an even, if uneventful, first half, this father took it upon himself to lean over the railings and pour black ire out of his frowning face toward the linesman a matter of inches below.

Then he did it again.  And again.

Naturally the away fans picked up on it and started abusing him and, I kid you not, pointing out his failings as a father.  If only I’d brought dad with me.  He was at home instead, polishing his sword collection.

Come the second half, Crawley went one up thanks to James Collins.  Naturally, instead of supporting their team, or even watching the game, a section of fans decided to engage the angry man in the box.  Sadly, he was only too happy to respond.  At its ferocious peak, the rapier retorts went back and forth:

Shut up, you c*nts!, he’d shout.

Piss off, you c*nt!, replied twenty Crawley fans.

Fuck off, mugs!

You’ve got your kids with you, you c*nt!

Shut up, you c*nts!

Your kids are embarrassed, mate!

Shut up, pricks!

No, you shut up!

No, you shut up!

With such hostility pouring down on one reddening man from so many imagined enemies, it was glaringly obvious that Luton would score.  And they did.  Twice.  The angry man in the box was delighted.  Clench jawed in furious glee, he thrust his two middle fingers into the air between him and his foes.  Then he slackened his knees and mimed masturbating a penis the length and girth of a giant salami in a butchers window before cupping his testicles through his jeans.  His increasingly bemused sons looked at their father, then at each other, as if to say I wonder how old we’ll be when we talk about this with mum?

Cue another round of shut up / No, you shut up.

And still the snow swirled.  Still the helicopters didn’t come.

The rest of the game bled out in a whimpering mess of idiotic men trying to get the last word in.  This strain of masculinity, descended from a distant, lionised loudmouth, is out on its feet.  The reality is, the competition has won.  Each subsequent generation has been marginalised by televisions, radios, and computers.  No one is interested anymore.  So they’ve become louder, more aggressive, and sadder.

And still the snow swirled.  Still the helicopters didn’t come.

Crawley fans underlined the muddled afternoon by singing Luton’s a shithole, I want to go home, back to back with don’t take me home, please don’t take me home.

And that’s it in a nutshell.  They don’t know what they want, they just want to be heard.

The angry man in the box continued to cup his testicles as his side ran out 2-1 victors.

And still the snow swirled.  Still the helicopters didn’t come.

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