Wednesday, 7 December 2011

It's time to bin Bashley

For the past 13 years or so, a small village on the edge of the New Forest seems to have represented the benchmark for being a 'true' Cheltenham Town fan.
In the Paddock, whenever we had a 'big' game and a slightly larger than average crowd, a chant would go up... 'If you all went to Bashley, clap your hands' and those amongst us who termed themselves the long-standing fans would all applaud.
It was meant to show the newer element of the support, the 'bandwagon jumpers' if you like, that they were ... well, I'm not really sure what it was meant to do.
Was it meant to show they were intruders? That they were inferior to us 'hardcore' fans, just because we had been to a small ground in Hampshire and they haven't?
I suspect that if you counted up the number of people who claim they went to Bashley, it would number about the same as who claimed they didn't make it through the queues at Rushden, or those who were at the last Sex Pistols gig.
I went there once. It's a pretty non-descript place, hardly deserving to be held up as a pantheon of greatness.
When I went, I took my ex-wife, so she can claim to have been to Bashley as well.
It was one of about three CTFC games she has watched, our win at St Alban's City in the FA Cup was another. She hates football, but she can applaud the song, as she did go to Bashley...
And therein lies the message. So what if you went to Bashley? Or so what if you were one of the 'Exmouth 18' (I was the 19th...). Does that make you more of a fan than someone who has caught the bug since then?
Of course it doesn't.
There has been a bit of 'us and them' down the years, especially when the C&G End was built, and the major singing gravitated there from the Paddock.
I admit I used to complain vociferously (still do sometimes) that they sang the wrong words, and sang the songs too fast - I still think the Wymans do now on occasions, and get a bit grumpy when they sing about Hereford, but I applaud them for doing what I was doing 30-odd years ago - getting behind the team.
The cup draw with Spurs was greeted with universal delight by CTFC fans, but it didn't take long for the moans and groans to start.
It was the usual one. The one we had before the Trophy final at Wembley, the Millennium Stadium play-offs, the Cup game with Newcastle, even League games with Nottingham Forest and Leeds in League One.
Here come the part-timers. The bandwagon-jumpers. The once-a-season brigade. They will get the tickets and the regulars will miss out... etc etc etc
The club have today announced the priority scheme for White Hart Lane, and I think it is very fair and should make sure the regular 2500-3000 who watch home games, and, most importantly, the core 200 or so who regularly go away, will get first dibs.
Season ticket holders, VPs, Travel Club members, shareholders, Junior Robins, Trust members and club membership scheme subscribers - the people who regularly invest their money in the club - are first in the queue, and that should catch most of the regulars.
But the thing I am most pleased about is the next stipulation that people must have a stub from the Southend game on Saturday.
This will increase the crowd for arguably our biggest game of the season so far, and bring in extra revenue as it is a premium game.
As adult tickets for Spurs are £20, it means a 'floater' will, in effect, have to pay around £38-£40 to get their day out in London, and I applaud the club for doing that - making them 'work' for their ticket.
There was criticism in the past for previous priority schemes which almost made it too easy for the band-wagon jumpers. Not this time. They have to jump through a little hoop first.
We have 5000 tickets for White Hart Lane, and I hope we sell them all, and I hope those people who come along for the first time ever, or the first time in a while, have a great day, even if they don't know their Marlon Packs from their Russell Penns.
Add to that the money they will spend on coach tickets, scarves, shirts, flags, and the more people come, the more money we get from the tie, and the more money Mark Yates could get for squad strengthening and Paul Baker will get for the continuing stability of the club. Surely that's what we all want?
I hope that some of those who come on Saturday and then in early January catch the bug the rest of us have had for years and stick with us on our big adventure.
It's time to bin Bashley, and welcome a new wave of fans with open arms.