I am never especially quick when it comes to technology, but it came to my notice about half a decade ago that I could watch top-class soccer for free. Rather than pay for Sky, or BT Sport, to see live games, there were websites that streamed a huge number of live soccer matches from around Britain and Europe, for free. This has made a difference to each Saturday afternoon. Wherever and whenever West Ham play, I can watch on my PC. And a few other teams, every now and again, to add diversity.
Going through the rigmarole of attending games in person has long lost its savour. Factors that were once taken as necessary parts of the ritual – the travel, the waiting, the cost and the weather – are now mainly unacceptable trials. I just cannot be arsed, although there are exceptions. In April, Al Campbell and I went to watch Billericay Town play on a beautifully sunlit evening. A totally relaxed adventure, at a new venue for both of us.
Today the Hammers play Watford. I’ve just looked at the team sheets. Watford look very big and physical, but we have won four on the trot. Both teams adjacent in the league table, with 24 points each. A Hammers win would take us to 6th place in the table.
I will be looking in on either VIP Box or First Row Sports. These sites run on advertising revenue, so the trick is to get rid of the adverts that cover the screen. After that, the service is so good that it is often possible to receive 90 minutes of uninterrupted coverage.
Superstitions have been built into the ritual. A cup of coffee for each half, but never to be fully consumed before the 45 minutes and added time are up. And as much of a bar as possible on people entering the room while I watch, as this will clearly upset the Hammers’ rhythm and concentration. You see the logic. I know you do.
I’m as aware as anybody that football is the great distraction, full of stupidly overpaid, and often gracelessly argumentative prima donnas. But it is also a window for great athleticism, teamwork, bravery, skill and even balletics. It is my ritual of 50 plus years, and I’m sticking to it.
0-2. Watford too strong. But an exciting game.