By Martin Keighley
My life and lifestyle has always been strongly linked with the ups and downs of Bradford City.
City fans understand and celebrate success more than most because, on the whole, they have tasted large slices of disappointment more often than most. It’s not like supporting Manchester United or Liverpool. For a start you can afford to go to most games so the suffering and rare moments of elation are truly hands-on.
On 30 October, 2012 – the evening Wigan were defeated on penalties – my relationship with Bradford City would change and I was to become unbearable for 117 days. During this time I became a Twitter addict about all things #bcafc, I checked the City website and the message boards four times a day and my only conversation topic was Bradford City. As the days wore on I gradually became an emotional wreck, an addict desperate for another score.
On that cold Tuesday night in Wigan I got home at 1am, shattered, exhausted and utterly euphoric. I felt fantastic. The dose of drama that was the extra time and penalties at Wigan left me wanting more. I was physically ill with sore hands and no voice, but it was the psychological after-effects that were to become the biggest worry. My wife was extremely tolerant and my non-football friends would often nod with that “oh he’s off talking Bradford City again” sort of look. But I was totally oblivious.
I was well and truly hooked and like any junkie I was desperate for another big fix. But the next one was big, really big. Watching the Arsenal team bus arrive a Valley Parade to the chants of “you’re only here for the Bradford” to watching the full TV coverage when I got home lasted almost eleven hours. I was now insufferable, and it was going to get worse, much worse.
After the Villa home game I would unconsciously watch the TV coverage over and over again in some kind of ritual preparation for the second leg. Meanwhile the league form resembled the normality of the last ten years, providing a little hope interspersed with large doses of averageness. My social life fell apart, my skin became pale and the only people who understood were my fellow junkies.
Villa away was my first overdose. This time my Bradford City hit lasted around fifteen straight hours, but during the aftermath I was impossible. I’d never sung “que sera sera” before, and now I couldn’t get the tune out of my head. I was in danger of total social withdrawal.
For the next thirty three days I was restless, almost sleepless, and my health continued to deteriorate. I started to have weird dreams and my hallucinations became worse. All sense of normality and logic seemed to dissolve away as I imagined Gary Jones lifting the cup. I really needed help but just didn’t know it.
Was Wembley to be the answer? A massive shot of hope, expectation and above all, pride, was to be quickly followed by the cold turkey of football realism. There was of course one last finale as the last twenty five minutes of singing and flag waving once again ripped my emotions to shreds. I was finally beaten. It was all over.
I knew I was clean the next morning as I awoke from my first proper sleep in weeks, ate sensibly, and found I could make non-football conversation without effort. I looked forward to the normality of a midweek evening Division Two match. My 117 days of agony was over.