I love Saturday mornings on English trains.
In addition to the ladies going shopping, old couples sitting quietly, families sometimes bickering, and pods of teenagers going who knows where, there are always groups of 20- to 40something men, with beers, talking football.
Listening to little snippets here and there, I realize that I — a Fulham supporter headed for Bolton — am sharing a train with QPR fans, Stoke fans, Manchester City fans, and probably many others. The main line from Birmingham to Manchester is like a shared stream of many different rivers.
You hear “Fancy our chances today?” and “Where do you reckon Mourinho will wind up next?” and “What was he thinking, playing them kids in that game?”
It feels festive and communal, and it reminds me of driving to Ole Miss games with my dad when I was a kid, when you’d size up every car on the highway for flags, pompons or hats in the back window. Maybe they’re Tennessee fans headed to Oxford for our game, or Memphis fans going to Starkville to see them play State, or they’re maroon and white Bulldogs fans, and we trade sneers.
It’s one of the things I love about watching English soccer, this kind of old-fashioned, in-person watching, with games happening all over the place, fans mixing before and after on the road, and everybody loving the experience — but, being English, never feeling too good about their team’s chances.
The path of the fan’s day is optimism on the train, despair and joy mixed in the stands, then either resignation or relief back on the train.