Tuktuk Day 86

92 HAIKU – Andy Powell

Yesterday we talked about the “power” of Facebook. Today it is Twitter I saw a random post with the number 92 in it. 92 is one of those significant numbers like Lucky 7 or 666 and I clicked. It led me to a chat with Andy Powell the author of “Doing the 92 Haiku.” He says, “92 has always been the magic number in football. 92 tabs of pressed cardboard being moved religiously up and down league ladders every Sunday morning. 92 tribes praying for the magical rising intonation of their score line on TV or radio, a mere semitone making or breaking an entire week. 92 sets of turnstiles beeping and clacking their mechanical permission for eager supporters to congregate again.”

So what is the book? He says, “Doing the 92 Haiku is one man’s quest to take the essence of all 92 English and Welsh professional football league grounds and distil each into just 17 syllables – all in strict 5-7-5 formation.

Every stadium is unique. From the architecture to the artefacts, each club’s story of highs and lows manifests in the place it calls home.

What started as a semi-drunken thought on the way into Southampton’s St Mary’s ground one fateful Friday evening became an obsession. Why else would you travel half the length of the country to witness Grimsby Town defeated in front of just 703 fans?

There’s just one small caveat: stadia are subjective. Please be aware that your footballing cathedral might be my soccer slum. And vice versa.”

Me, I started a blog, this blog back in 2010 when I set out to cycle to all the 92 clubs and Andy decided to go another road and write about it. He also decided to describe each of the 92 grounds in just 17 words. Impressive.

He continues, “You never forget the assault on your senses the first time you walk into a ground. The chatter and chants. The Bovril and beer. The green and the grey, of pitch and terrace, and the club colours you’ve worn since a baby.

If, like me, it was love at first sight, you quickly become comfortable in your newfound footballing cathedral, familiarising yourself with the lucky turnstile, the best view, the spot where your number 9 takes in the goal-scoring adulation.

And then, seemingly without warning, a second ground will hove into view. Maybe an away day, a pre-season friendly or a game grabbed on a weekend out of town. A new clunk, dissonant songs, a stand that cantilevers and rakes like an unfamiliar mathematical formula. On that concourse, you have something to compare. And your formative confirmation bias dictates that it can’t match the beatified patch of grass you call home.

Years later, you’ll make a fatal error. You will count how many grounds you’ve been to. Too late sucker, you’re on your way to an obsession, a membership you can’t tear up, an anger every time a league two part-timer moves into a new out-of-town identikit stadium and knocks one off your 92 total. I was in my 30s (grounds) and 40s (age) when I made this stupid mistake. Already travelling to most away games with my lifelong team, I started groundhopping as a neutral, poring over fixture lists whenever my game moved for TV and freed up a Saturday, and don’t get my wife started on how we were only taking holidays during international breaks.

Then one Friday night, I walked towards Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium several beers into an away day, and a thought formed. Would it be possible to distill the character of all 92 grounds into just 17 syllables at a time – in strict 5-7-5 formation? Curse you ale. I emerged from the underpass that reveals the St Mary’s symmetry. Six syllables. Dammit. Symmetry Mary. Five. We’re on.

That night, we lost, our manager got sacked and there were no trains home. Oh well, all the more material to work with. This introduction probably contains as many syllables as the rest of the book to come.

There’s just one disclaimer. Please remember, these are my own personal reflections. Sometimes of just one trip to your stadium, sometimes of many joyous victories, or that bogey ground that’s nothing but a painful chore. An infinite number of fans at infinite keyboards would generate an infinite number of haiku – all from the same 92 sources.”

…. and he repeats the warning

Stadia are subjective. Your cathedral might be my soccer slum. And vice versa.

You can learn more and order the book here

So, what is your favourite stadium? Remember, of course, that all answers other than Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium are incorrect!

The Majestic Priestfield Stadium – see more on Papilios Creative

Please remember that the purpose of this 90 day challenge is to raise funds for the club and an equal amount for Prostate Cancer. As always, I HOPE you are all enjoying the tour of the UK and that you will consider a donation to support FC Deportivo Galicia and/or Prostate Cancer UK If everybody chipped in £1 I would easily hit my target of £10,000 and life would be easier in West London whilst the charity continued their great work. A HEARTFELT thanks, if you can.


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