The View from the Bar 

  Good evening one and all. It’s strange writing these notes, I must say. After all this time you’d think I’d have lots to write about, but I’m really not sure where to start (or what to write, come to that). The last VFTB I wrote was for the Bashley game just before Christmas – the last time the 1st Team walked out for a competitive fixture at Westwood and a game which got abandoned due to a massive hailstorm as we trailed 0-1. I was only reminded of the abandonment when I went to look up the details. Normally events like this live long in the memory, but recollections of this one faded quickly, set against probably the strangest and, in many cases traumatic, eighteen months that any of us will have endured in our lifetimes. Memory prompted, the ref calling time prematurely on that game seemed like just another, almost inevitable, moment as local football struggled gamely to navigate the bizarre, challenging landscape presented to us in light of the Covid pandemic.

  Over the months that followed, at times it seemed like normality would never return. Weeks passed without a game to look forward to, attend, or reflect on – to celebrate or commiserate. So much of what defines us was missing, and our club was part of that. For many, a very big part of that.

  A couple of weeks ago, as a long-term Cowes supporter, I was asked to fill in a brief questionnaire for the Moneyfields programme ahead of our trip to Portsea Island (a trip I didn’t make, as it goes – it’s nearly eighteen months since I last set foot on the mainland, and that was hot-footing it back from Denmark when they locked down the country a couple of weeks before the UK took similar action). One of the questions I was asked was ‘What are your aspirations for the season?’ and the answer I gave was as follows:

“Wessex Premier survival, and hopefully a resurgence in local football generally – I think the last couple of years have taught us a lot about the value of local community and active involvement in the things that benefit us and those around us. I really hope we don’t forget that.”

  The 2019-20 season didn’t get finished, and the circumstances shocked us all, I think. The 20-21 season was never likely to get finished, and so it proved – that abandoned fixture against Bashley being the last time we took the field in that campaign. The 21-22 season is now upon us, and I think that, by hook or by crook, it will get finished, but the landscape has changed dramatically in the last couple of years and we’re going to have to get used to short-notice postponements, unavailability’s and the like. The people that work so hard to arrange, facilitate (and play, let’s not forget), local football have worked even harder than normal in recent months and will continue to do so, because this is absolutely the glue that binds us all together.

  Football is back. To many minds, normality is returning. But there are plenty of folk still struggling. There are a good few who won’t be coming to matches for the foreseeable, because of the elevated risk. I know they’ll be following remotely, though, and I’d like them to know that they’ll be missed, and their support – albeit from a distance – still means the world to the club. And there’ll be a good few here tonight who are a bit uneasy, perhaps concerned about the risk, maybe just getting used to being amongst a crowd again. And I ask you to be as considerate as you can. Football is back, but normal life, for many (or most), is not. But look around you – this is your place, and these are your people. Appreciate that and we’ll be alright. I was so proud of the way everyone rose to the challenge of putting on games at the start of last season, and the spirit amongst everyone here. Let that continue, and let’s build on it, too.

  So, welcome back – it’ll be so good to see you all. And more than ever, win, lose or draw, enjoy the game.